London Marathon Events enabled charities to raise more than £50 million in 2020
London Marathon Events (LME) created a range of virtual events during the Covid-19 pandemic which enabled charities to raise more than £50 million in 2020 during one of the most challenging years in the history of the third sector.
LME was only able to deliver The Vitality Big Half on Sunday 1 March as originally planned before the pandemic hit and it had to postpone or cancel the rest of its 2020 event calendar including the Virgin Money London Marathon, the largest annual one-day fundraising event in the world. As all events across the UK were cancelled, charities lost an estimated £10 billion in revenue at a time when their services were desperately needed.
LME, along with fellow Mass Participation Sports Organisers (MSO), worked together to help save the UK’s charities by creating and delivering The 2.6 Challenge in just 22 days which encouraged people to take on a challenge based on the numbers two and six and donate or raise money for the charity of their choice.
The 2.6 Challenge began on Sunday 26 April 2020, the date when the Virgin Money London Marathon should have taken place and raised £11.2 million for nearly 4,000 charities in what is believed to be the world’s biggest ever collaborative fundraising campaign.
After months of uncertainty, the Virgin Money London Marathon took place on Sunday 4 October, with the elite races taking place on a closed-loop biosecure course in St James’s Park and an incredible world record 37,966 runners across the UK and round the world running the 26.2 miles on the course of their choice, anytime between 00:00 and 23:59:59 BST. The participants raised an amazing £36.3 million.
RideLondon, the world’s greatest festival of cycling, was also re-imagined as a virtual event with riders raising more than £3 million for the charity of their choice on 15 to 16 August.
A further £1.2 million was raised by runners in The Vitality Big Half on Sunday 1 March and the virtual Vitality London 10,000 during the May half-term week.
Hugh Brasher, Event Director at London Marathon Events, said: “Our charity partners are so important to us and we are very proud that we have enabled charities to raise more than £50 million in 2020, during these very challenging times. These funds have helped charities to continue to provide the critical services which are desperately needed by vulnerable members of society.
“We would like to thank every single participant who took part in one of our virtual events and fundraised for the charity of their choice. Your desire to do something good at a time of such uncertainty and loss has been a huge inspiration to us all.
“We all hope that we will see the return of the events we love later this year. We are working hard with our colleagues in the mass participation sports industry to bring back events and parkrun safely and we believe that the recent Reunion 5K at Kempton Park, which was part of the government’s Events Research Programme, was a major step towards that. Exercise and mass participation events across the UK are so important for the mental and physical health of the nation in addition to the millions raised for charities.”
Jo Barnett, Executive Director at Virgin Money Giving said: “While we’ve been hugely disappointed to see the delay or cancellation of so many mass participation events over the last 15 months, the commitment and innovation shown by London Marathon Events, combined with the determination and hard work of charities and fundraisers, means that supporters have continued to undertake all sorts of virtual challenges in aid of the causes that are so important to them. Since the start of the pandemic Virgin Money Giving has supported a more diverse range of events than we have ever seen in our 12 years. By tackling the challenge head on and pivoting with speed and dexterity LME, the charity sector and fundraisers have been nothing short of inspirational.”
Claire Rowney, Executive Director of Fundraising, Marketing and Innovation at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “It’s been so inspiring to see the incredible efforts of the public taking part in the innovative fundraising challenges set by London Marathon Events in the past year. These activities have provided a crucial lifeline to many charities, like Macmillan, which have been so acutely impacted by Covid-19.
“Right now, we are facing a devastating loss of income due to the pandemic, and the vital funds raised by participants and supporters of these events will help us continue to do whatever it takes to be there for everyone from day one of their cancer diagnosis and provide the vital support so many rely on.”
Poppy Bostock, Events Fundraising Manager at MIND, said: “Virtual events like The 2.6 Challenge and the first ever virtual London Marathon allowed Mind to raise much needed unrestricted income at a time when the majority of our third-party event portfolio was cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic. They also allowed us to reach a wider audience of supporters with people who may not have got a place in the physical London Marathon able to take part virtually. The events felt very inclusive and we look forward to being involved in them in the future.”
Julia Sobik, Head of Sporting Events at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “In 2020 London Marathon Events were able to provide the sector with an element of stability by pivoting the Virgin Money London Marathon into a virtual event. We were able to give our supporters an event day experience (albeit a bit differently) worthy of their amazing fundraising and training, and at the same time recruit new supporters into the charity who would have otherwise never taken part in the marathon, a hybrid model which moving forward provides great opportunities for charities and we are excited about.
“We were able to still generate an incredible amount of fundraising through LME events last year, well ahead of what we projected when the pandemic hit. Beyond the marathon, LME, along with other key players in the mass participation industry, worked hard to develop The 2.6 Challenge which both raised awareness for the loss of charitable income with no events, but also provided the opportunity for charities of all sizes to try and recoup some of these losses.”
Fiona Chilton, Head of Mass Participation Fundraising at Marie Curie, said: “The virtual events hosted by London Marathon Events in 2020 played a vital role in ensuring Marie Curie Nurses were able to keep caring for dying people. When most of our fundraising activities had to stop due to the pandemic, these events provided much needed income. We were thrilled with the response to The 2.6 Challenge in April. Hundreds of supporters came together, took on their own challenge and raised over £200,000.
“While we missed the Virgin Money London Marathon and Ride London, the virtual alternatives provided the opportunity for supporters to challenge themselves and raise funds. The money raised by these challenges allowed Marie Curie to support more people in their own home and protect the NHS. It funded our frontline hospice care and helped us expand our free support line at a time when the country needed us more than ever.”
The 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon on Sunday 3 October is set to be the world’s biggest marathon, with 50,000 taking part in the mass event and a further 50,000 taking on the 26.2 miles between 00:00 and 23:59:59 BST on the course of their choice, anywhere in the world, in the virtual event.