Five reasons why the case for a second London marathon has never been greater

Five reasons why the case for a second London marathon has never been greater

This nfpSynergy blog gives five reasons why the case for a second London marathon is worth considering.
Joe Saxton​

Over ten years ago at nfpSynergy we published a report looking at upcoming trends in fundraising events. We predicted it had a bright future. We also suggested that there was a strong argument to have a second London marathon to raise even more money for good causes. While the London Marathon weren’t that pleased with our idea, the truth is that the case for a second London marathon is even greater than it was over a decade ago. Here are five reasons why.

The London Marathon is very successful and very full

The London Marathon is incredibly successful both as a sporting event and as a fundraiser. It undoubtedly rivals Red Nose Day, the Poppy Appeal and Children in Need as one of the great fundraising events in the UK. Nobody wants to change that fundraising success one iota. However, the London Marathon is full. It’s oversubscribed many times over. If a profit-making company or a major charity ran the London Marathon, they would have expanded their franchise and started a second marathon in London. And this is essentially my point – the potential to raise more money for good causes by starting a second marathon in London is enormous. It’s because the organisers of the Marathon see it first and foremost as a sports event that they are happy with the status quo.

Signature running and endurance events remain very popular

While fundraising events in general have possibly become saturated, the big-brand high-status sports events still have enormous appeal.  The Great North Run, the London Marathon, Race for Life, the Moonwalk, and the like continue to be very popular. In recent years we have seen ‘endurance-inflation’. When I was a child, walking a few miles was enough to be a good fundraiser. Now the bar is much higher. Fundraising events need to be longer, harder, tougher, more high-profile, and better branded than a generation or two ago. This explains the rise of tri-athlons and tough-mudder events. And it’s why any marathon is very popular. Started in 2008 in the wake of our original report, the Royal Parks Half-Marathon now has over 15,000 runners. So imagine what a full marathon could achieve!

GDPR has made databased forms of fundraising harder than ever

GDPR, and other regulations, has made it harder to persuade donors to keep in touch with a charity and to recruit new donors. Many donors are delighted by that and many charities are seeing the impact on their fundraising income. Fundraising events are less affected by these changes because it is the runner or eventer who does the raising of money by asking their friends and family to support their fundraising event. The charity doesn’t need to worry about GDPR in the same way. They just need to have amazing events in which people want to take part. So as forms of fundraising dependent on a database decline (telephone fundraising, direct mail, cold mail, direct debits, etc), then events which can raise money are needed to replace that lost income.

Millennials thrive on fundraising which mixes giving and living

The under 35s are unlikely to give money to charities in the way their parents do, even if they are keener on causes and activism. Events which combine the way millennials will live their lives with giving are at the nexus of the new fundraising. This is partly why we have seen the rise of events which combining giving and living – like Movember, Dryoctober, the Ice Bucket challenge, the Memory Walk and the like. Millennials love events which they can publicise on their social media outlets (instagrammable to use one epithet) and publicise the causes they care about. Events like marathons are perfect for this – albeit for the more fitness inclined. 

Smaller charities struggle to find fundraising methods that don’t have very high costs

One of the great advantages of the iconic fundraising events, like the Great North Run and the London Marathon, is the difference they can make for small charities. So while Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, or the Poppy Appeal, raises money for one charity only, the London Marathon raises money for all sizes and shapes of charity. I call these types of event polycausal (as opposed to monocausal) and they are in all too short a supply. The reason polycausal events are particularly important for small (and medium-size) charities is that small charities don’t have the resources to organise large events for themselves (unlike the big charities). And small and medium charities are having a particularly tough time in recent years with tougher and tougher commissioning rules, government austerity and GDPR applying to all charities large and small. So a second London marathon would allow small charities to get access to another polycausal fundraising event that they could use to great effect.

I don’t expect the organisers of the London Marathon to be the least bit interested in this idea. Indeed, last time we raised the idea they sent us a letter threatening legal action. But the charity sector should be – because we need to work out ways in which we can have new streams of fundraising income which can replace those being lost. And a second marathon in London would contribute towards doing just that.

Submitted by Philip Anthony (not verified) on 23 Jan 2020


Rather than a 2nd London marathon perhaps link London up with other marathons and runs - pushing excess runners or 2nd timers to Birmingham , Manchester - easy reach of London , raises awareness of life beyond the capital , mini weekend boost to those cities

Submitted by david burland (not verified) on 23 Jan 2020


Hi Joe. I can see where you are coming from, but I think it would be very hard to replicate the atmosphere and prestige of the London Marathon - and thus the funds raised - by simply having another. And I fear some of what it makes it great (having run, watched live and on TV!) might be lost by having two events. However, assuming it was logistically possible, could they extend it somewhat by staggering the start more and so allowing more runners to be involved on the day? I expect this has probably been considered before and not been possible. As you say the basic issue is that it is primarily seen as a running event by the organisers not a fundraiser - though their reaction to your original proposal seems a touch over-sensitive not to say over the top! Please keep up the thought provoking ideas!

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