Head of Charities, Kenneth Foreman, reflects on highlights from the past year
As 2021 draws to a close I wanted to pass on my thanks to all those fundraisers we’ve worked with over the last year and reflect on some of the highlights of the past 12 months.
At the turn of the year, we were still in the midst of uncertain times. With the London Marathon moved to October and our new charity account management team settling into working with our charity partners, we made a series of important announcements.
Starting the year with exciting changes
Early in the year we announced our first review of the Charity Bond Scheme that would allow up to 1,000 new charities into the scheme from 2024. We also launched our new Charity Advertising Partnership Programme packages for the TCS London Marathon in 2022, simplifying a previously complex offering into a suite of products providing better value for charities involved. We also launched the 2021 virtual London Marathon, which would give up to 100,000 people the chance to take part this year. It was news that was welcomed by the sector and set us up for an exciting year of new challenges and event delivery.
Nevertheless, at this point in the calendar we were still in varying stages of pandemic-related restrictions and wanted to see the safe return of mass events for the wider sector. This led us to working with partners across the Mass Participation Sports Organisers group to deliver the Reunion 5K in May. One of the government’s test events, the data collected at the Reunion 5K would help us on the journey to the full return of events later in the year.
Working at the Reunion 5K was certainly an early highlight for me – seeing people together again running, with many wearing their charity vests, was amazing.
Bringing back mass participation events
The Reunion 5K was a success and helped support the theory that the risk of outdoor transmission of Covid-19 was negligible. We still had a lot of work to do ahead of October to get tens of thousands of people running the streets of London, but it certainly felt like a turning point.
We had to review all aspects of the marathon to give us a chance of delivering it as a mass event in October, so we continued to explore the use of virtual events delivering our annual Meet the Experts virtually for the first time in June.
With a host of events starting to return in the autumn, the feelgood factor was back and confidence in the event returned. I always thought we would deliver an in-person marathon, but could never have imagined that it would be the biggest and best ever.
Delivering the biggest and best London Marathon yet
Yes, there were differences in the event, lots of questions from participants, restrictions on cheer points, a new baggage system and numerous initiatives to reduce touch points. However, the 2021 event was the best marathon ever in my experience.
Having worked at the London Marathon for the last eight years (the last four of which have been in my current role at London Marathon Events) I can honestly say it went beyond my expectations. As I drove along the course at 0:600 on Marathon Day I was pleased to see that many charities had still turned up to support us, and London once again had the buzz that something special was about to happen.
After finishing some of my operational duties in the morning, I was privileged to be at the Finish Line and in our charity grandstand watching the first of the charity runners come through. I must have spent 45 minutes at one point glued to the Finish Line seeing the emotions boiling over for many as they completed the world’s biggest marathon. It was such a brilliant experience.
Fundraising going through the roof
I wasn’t alone with this emotion and the BBC coverage. The good weather and the fact that thousands of people were taking part all across the country meant the money raised went through the roof on Event Day. In fact, Virgin Money Giving reported they had their biggest-ever week in Marathon Week and the biggest-ever day for donations. Incredible.
I also want to acknowledge the team at Macmillan, who, whilst working for the Charity of the Year, had to deal with the testing conditions to raise millions for those living with a cancer diagnosis. Great job by all involved and seeing so many Macmillan vests on the day was magical.
Launching new events
Whenever I tell anyone I work for the London Marathon they always say ‘What do you do for the rest of the year?’. This makes me smile, as we were back at work the Monday after the marathon planning the launch of one of our other flagship events – RideLondon – coming back to the streets of London in 2022.
On 21 October we announced the new-look RideLondon-Essex 100 to charities and saw a fantastic demand for places. This was also seen on the launch of the general entry places, when 10,000 places sold out within 24 hours – a new record for us.
I want at this point to acknowledge the work of the charities team in Ellie, Fiona, Tom and Zad, who have all worked tirelessly to support charities over 2021. It hasn’t been easy at times, but they continue to work with our values of Inspiration, Excellence, Integrity, Together and Fun and are a credit to the organisation.
Evolving as a team and organisation
Looking ahead to 2022, you will continue to see us evolve as a team and organisation. We’ve made huge steps forward in some areas, but still have lots of work to do. We know we are not clear of Covid-19 yet, but with the TCS London Marathon now moved to October 2022 we have time on our side to work through whatever the pandemic throws at us.
As a society we’re not out of the woods, but that won’t stop us from continuing to push on and put on great events that give you and your supporters the opportunity to take on a challenge and raise money for good causes.
Here’s to an exciting 2022 and wishing you and all your families an enjoyable festive period and the very best for the year ahead.