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Recruiting runners for YMCA: How a little budget can go a long way

Filling your London Marathon places is a great way for a charity to raise major funds. But how do you recruit runners cost-effectively? Enter 11 London’s fleet-footed Social Media Labs approach. Using social media as a recruitment tool, we helped Team YMCA double its Marathon sponsorship in 2019.

Image: One of our top performing posts on social

YMCA approached us to help recruit runners for London Marathon 2019. Given a limited time-frame and budget, we recommended focusing on social media, aiming to recruit as many online sign-ups as possible so that YMCA could convert them into confirmed runners.


The campaign opened a fortnight after the main Marathon ballot closed, to target serious runners on the lookout for charities to run with. It was structured in two parts: firstly, enhancing YMCA’s JustGiving pages, and secondly, running recruitment ads via Facebook.


Using our unique Social Media Lab format – an iterative testing approach in a live campaign setting - we created a collection of Facebook ads targeting a range of running audiences over a 2 week period, and whittled them down to the two most responsive ads in the final push.


Responders who clicked ‘sign up’ were directed to a landing page and pop-up mini application, and YMCA then converted applicants into confirmed runners over the phone.

Our initial target was to recruit 16 runners; in fact, we helped YMCA fill 49 Marathon places. As we write, a day after the race, these runners have already raised over £99,000, with more expected to come in – doubling last year’s total of £49,997. YMCA also gained valuable learnings for next year, including which age-group to target and which creative approach to take.


Eve Chadha of YMCA said, “2019 has been a great result. 11 London’s support and expertise this year was invaluable in helping YMCA to communicate our London Marathon places to a much broader audience, which we had not been able to reach before.”


YMCA is the largest and oldest youth charity in the world. To find out more about them and their work, please visit their website.


If you’re interested in using social media for lead generation, why not let 11 London’s Social Media Labs help you find your perfect audience and proposition? Contact Matthew Hunt at 11 London and discover an approach that really goes the distance.