Why Are Millennials Running But Not Volunteering for Your Endurance Event?

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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 [1]. Millennials (born 1980-2000) now account for more than a quarter of our nation’s population,[2] 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.

Endurance events are witnessing millennial influence as event participants. In fact, the most recent release of the Millennial Running Study reveals that nearly 60 percent of female and 70 percent of male respondents indicated they were frequent/fitness runners. Likewise, 23 percent of male and 24 percent of female study respondents reported finishing half-marathons, while 22 percent of male and 24 percent of female respondents indicated they finished 5Ks during the previous 12 months—the two most popular events. Your race likely is already made up of millennials – but you would be even better suited to recruit them if it’s well-organized.

Interestingly, although millennial runners indicate they prefer endurance events with ample and engaged volunteers, the majority reported never volunteering at running events. This finding is a surprising departure from what is conventionally known about millennials and volunteerism. In fact, according to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, approximately 85 percent of millennials had volunteered in the past year. Conversely, among runners in the Millennial Running Study, only about a third of male (30%) and female (36%) respondents have ever volunteered for a running event, although nearly half (45%) of serious/competitive runners have volunteered—which is much more than frequent/fitness runners, walker/jogger/recreational runners or obstacle event participants reported having volunteered for a running event.

The Millennial Running Study further reveals that 18 percent of males volunteer for races because they receive an incentive or because they are encouraged by friends or family members who are also volunteering at the event. Among females who volunteer, the highest percentage (20%) do so because they are passionate about the cause the event is supporting.

So how can an organized running event attract millennial volunteers? First, event directors should deliberately communicate to millennial runners the importance of event volunteers. This generation of runners have articulated that they appreciate well-run and well-orchestrated events, and they have even identified that some of their best experiences have been at events teeming with engaged volunteers. Encourage participants to give back to help others have those same quality experiences (e.g., paying it forward by volunteering at an event so others may also enjoy a well-run and well-orchestrated event).

Provide opportunities for millennial runners to volunteer as a part of a group of their choosing. Also consider providing valuable incentives, such as reduced or free registration to another event you offer, as a thank you for their volunteerism.

Interested in learning more about your event participants or the behaviors of a specific group of participants? Sign up for our free Millennial Running Study webinar and learn how you can attract more millennials to your race!

[1] http://www.runningusa.org/2014-running-industry-report?returnTo=annual-reports

[2] https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-113.html

Amy Thayer

As Achieve’s Director of Research, Amy is responsible for identifying and devising appropriate methodologies and data-collection strategies for projects like the Millennial Impact Report and the Millennial Running Study.

Amy received her PhD in Human Nutrition, Foods, & Exercise from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She has also earned a MSRA in Recreation Administration for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a BS in Secondary Education from the University of Dayton. She served as the Associate Director of Research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy before coming to Achieve in 2015.

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