On a recent Saturday morning, I ran 13.1 miles through the streets of Savannah, Georgia, to complete the first annual Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon. I was undertrained and recovering from an injury, so I had pre-race visions of myself hobbling to the finish line, but all went well and I finished with a smile on my face as I headed to the mimosa tent.
My lifetime running goal is to complete a marathon in every state. So far I’ve been averaging one or two marathons per year (I know, I know, I need to pick up the pace – I’m not getting any younger!). Through experience I’ve found that if I don’t sprinkle a few shorter races in between the long ones, I am lured by the temptation to skip one workout, then another workout, and then another. And before I know it, I am back at square one when the time comes to train for another 26.2 miles. That’s painful.
That experience, among other things, contributed to my decision to click “Register!” On a fundamental level, I chose to participate in the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon because I live in Savannah and was specifically looking for a half marathon to run this spring.
I was there for the activity. With a field of more then 2,300 women participating in this race, the reasons for toeing that starting line varied as much as the outfits and styles of running shoe. Some of the runners were also in marathon training mode. For other runners, this race was the end goal. Many of the women wouldn’t self-identify as runners at all, and couldn’t tell you why they found themselves at the starting line. Not everyone was there mainly for the activity like I was.
They were likely there for the community. Fleet Feet Sports Savannah hosted training sessions in the months leading up to the event. Groups of women met weekly to train and prepare (because, when it comes to running, there is accountability in numbers). For some training session members, this was their first half marathon – their longest race ever – and they were running or walking in pace groups alongside their training buddies.
They were likely there for the cause. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Societywas the official charity partner for the event. Fundraising participants raised more then $43,000 for this incredible organization. Supporters held Team in Training signs along the route and, as a Team in Training alumna myself, I shouted “Go Team!” more than once to support my fellow runners who were wearing purple Team in Training shirts.
Soon, we will launch our Participant Gears e-book, within which we explain that people choose to support your event or campaign based on more than one factor. Three forces (or “gears”) – cause, community, and activity – work together to drive participation dynamics. We recently introduced the e-book in ablog post, and you can be among the first to receive it by subscribing to our blog.
While you wait, here’s what you need to know about participation:
People make decisions based on multiple dimensions. Sure, I ran the half marathon mainly because of the activity. But the community aspect of a women-only race was attractive as well. And even though I didn’tfundraise for Team in Training, the cause connection added a feel-good component to the race that I enjoyed by proxy.
Likewise, the women who participated with their training groups were surely there for more than just the community. They set a goal to train for and complete a half marathon, so whether there was a specific draw to 13.1 miles or they just wanted a challenging event, the activity drew them in as well.
And the Team in Training folks? They were certainly out there for all three gears. They fundraised, they trained in groups, and they knew a good activity when they saw one.
When I talk to clients who host peer-to-peer fundraising events, I always give them one piece of advice: before I show up to your event this year, you should already be thinking about what it is that will make me come back next year. The organizers of the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon did a lot of things right and I am already recruiting friends to participate in 2016. It was the easiest multi-dimensional choice I’ve ever made. If you’d like to join us, let me know!
Increase your participation rates by understanding why, and how, people choose to participate in P2P. Download our new e-book "The Participant Gears", which will introduce you to the three gears impacting your participation and teach you how to leverage them for increased participation in your peer-to-peer fundraising programs.