To the outside world parkrun is the facilitator of free, timed, weekly 5km running events at 100+ locations around the country and 500+ around the world. These events are inspired and organised by passionate teams of volunteers who simply want to make a difference to others in their community.
But behind the scenes parkrun has grown to become a sophisticated IT platform that enables these volunteer teams to go about their business in an efficient and simple manner and has enabled us to scale our operation dramatically in recent years.
Let me explain.
parkrun uses the internet to attract new members through a free registration portal on our website. This is a simple process and members are asked for only minimal details so that it is quick and easy.
After our events are held each Saturday the results are published on the event’s website so people can see their time and position. Behind the scenes our volunteers are able to process these results, edit them if necessary, roster volunteers for upcoming weeks, appeal for more volunteers if we are short, and thank those who have volunteered recently. This is all done from a single login.
We use email to engage with our members on a weekly basis. The weekly newsletter in Australia is published every Tuesday evening, is received by proximately 3/4 of our members and is opened by an average of 40% of these… an incredibly high stat for an EDM.
After each event runners also receive their results via email with a special congratulatory note if they have run a personal best time or achieved a certain milestone (10, 50, 100 or 250 runs). Not surprisingly this email has a 100% open rate… everyone wants to know their time!
Social media is of course the biggest innovation to hit the digital world in recent years and parkrun embraced this in a big way. Every event has a unique Facebook page and the national office also has a page. Every Saturday anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000 photos get published across our social media channels with participants encouraged to like, share and tag themselves. For an organisation with no marketing budget this sort of publicity is priceless.
So next time you come along to your local parkrun keep in mind that what you see is just a small cog in the giant parkrun wheel that is turning more and more rapidly as we continue to grow past 1 million members in 11 countries and beyond.