Given that yesterday, 23 April, was both St George’s Day and Shakespeare’s birthday, it seems pretty appropriate to have a post from across the pond on this week’s Connection Café.
But while St George’s Day parades have been happening in some parts of England over the weekend, another significant event in the UK calendar took place on Sunday – the London Marathon, the largest individual fundraising event on the planet. Over the last 31 years this event has raised more than £500m for hundreds of charities and is now viewed on television in more than 150 countries.
Thanks to inheriting bad knees and limping my way through half marathons, I am full of admiration for the 37,500 runners who completed the gruelling 26.2 miles across London to cross the finish line on The Mall.
While it’s great to see the professional athletes coming through, the highlight for me, as I’m sure it is for many others, is to see the outrageous costumes and awe-inspiring personal challenges people take on each year. This year’s new feats entering the Guinness World Records include fastest time dressed as a dairy product, the fastest marathon on stilts and the fastest person in a two-person pantomime costume (all done in times that I couldn’t even get close to)!
But amidst the fun, there was also sadness, with the tragic death of one of the runners, Claire Squires. It is both heartening and humbling to hear of the donations that have been made to her personal fundraising page since – at last count nearly £250,000 and rising – most of the donations from complete strangers. To me, this just highlights the changing nature of fundraising today. Through the rise of online and peer-to-peer fundraising platforms, it is now so easy for anyone to donate to an individual, even if they don’t know them, simply through being inspired by their story. Hopefully this tribute fund in Claire’s name will provide some comfort to her family in the months and years ahead and make a huge difference to her chosen charity, The Samaritans.
But after a day of tragedy, joy, inspiration, challenges and triumphs, what of the other London Marathon participants?
Having taken part in many fundraising events over the year, I have often been surprised by the lack of follow-up from the charities I have raised money for, aside from the thank you on the day. After recovering from the initial exhaustion, straight after an event would have been a great time to get me to sign-up for a follow-up event, while the feelings of euphoria and achievement were still fresh in mind (and before the pain of the day after sets in!). And in the ongoing weeks and months, there would have been the perfect opportunity to start developing a relationship with me as an ongoing supporter, via social media and through email updates. After all, I’d already shown my interest in the charity’s cause by signing up to the event and raising money for them. That’s not even mentioning the potential of reaching those people in my network who had sponsored me. Letting me and my network know how the money raised from the event had been put to use would have been a great way of keeping us engaged. Instead, I have been allowed to drift away and been drawn into supporting other charities.
So, while it may be tempting to just pack up the last of the banners and T-shirts and have a well-deserved break after a busy weekend, I hope that for the charities represented on Sunday, this year’s London Marathon will be the start of some fantastic long term supporter relationships and not just a one-off event.