Nearly 42 million Americans are considered runners/joggers today, and approximately 18 million of those are between the ages of 18 and 34 years-old. Millennials (born 1980-2000) now account for more than a quarter of the nation’s population, which speaks to their profound ability to change the norms of the workplace, philanthropy, culture, technology, recreation and societal behavior—including the sport of running.

Millennials in general are noted for having an affinity for “doing good,” as research has shown through the Millennial Impact Project. This study also sought to understand if or how philanthropy has an influence on runners’ attitudes and behaviors toward running events. The 2015 Millennial Impact Report specifically showed that 84 percent of Millennials surveyed made a charitable contribution in 2014. Our research team was curious to understand whether fitness-conscious Millennials have the same philanthropic desires as other Millennials.

The Millennial Running Study analyzed Millennial runners who participate in competitive running events (such as 5Ks, half-marathons, etc.). This study did not analyze Millennial participants in noncompetitive, exclusively charity-driven events such as Relay for Life, Walk to End Alzheimer’s, etc.

So how do Millennial runners who participate in competitive running events compare to the Millennial generation as a whole?

Nearly all Millennial respondents have participated in a running event that supported a cause or charity—but the cause wasn’t the primary reason they participated.

Only 34 percent of Millennial runners cited that they participated in a running event that supported a cause or charity because they were interested in the cause, whereas 58 percent were primarily interested in the event itself.

When Millennial runners participate in running events that support a cause or charity, their primary method of giving is through their entry fee. A smaller percentage fundraise on behalf of the cause in addition to their registration fee.

Among the Millennial runners who have participated in an event that supported a cause or charity during the past 12 months, nearly all reported they supported the cause or charity through their entry fee. Only about one-fifth of respondents donated by participating in competitions that asked friends, family and others to sponsor them or their mileage as a part of their event participation, and even fewer donated by participating in events that required them to fundraise a specific amount of donations as a condition of their event entry.

What does this mean for causes and charities?

Millennial runners are interested in supporting cause work they are passionate about through running events. However, it should be noted that philanthropy wasn’t the primary reason for participating in events for these Millennial runners. Likewise, the event is not their primary way to support a cause or charity.

However, there’s potential here.

The majority of Millennial runners in the Millennial Running Study indicated that they had participated in an event that supported a cause or charity, with most of that group responding they participated in such an event during the past 12 months. Also, of the Millennial runners surveyed, the majority plan to continue participating in running events that support a cause or charity in the next 1-2 years.

Volunteering presents another opportunity for causes & charities to engage Millennial runners.

These Millennial runners volunteered for three predominant reasons:

  1. Being passionate about the cause the event supported
  2. Receiving an incentive (e.g., t-shirt, gift, name recognition or free or reduced entry fee)
  3. Being encouraged by a friend to volunteer

In fact, among the Millennial runners who have ever volunteered for a running event, a large majority reported being more likely to volunteer if a friend or family member also volunteered for the event, and just under three-fourths of respondents are more likely to volunteer for an event in which a friend or family member is a participant.

Events that support causes or charities still need to put the primary focus on the running and experience of the event instead of on the cause itself. However, utilizing your volunteers’ individual skill sets or expertise gives Millennial runners an opportunity to donate something very important to your cause or charity: their time.


Derrick Feldmann is the founder and producer of MCON, the nation’s premier conference on Millennials and causes. He leads research for The Millennial Impact Project and serves as president of Achieve, a research and creative agency for causes.

Get nonprofit articles, best practice advice, fundraising ideas and invaluable industry reports and webinars delivered for free!