I’m writing to you today to talk about a change we’re making here at parkrun. It’s an exciting change to the way we fund ourselves that will ensure the parkrun we’ve all grown to know and love will be able to continue to thrive in the long-term future.
And I’m telling you first of all because you are part of the family – our volunteers and supporters – and we want to be absolutely clear to you that this will not affect parkrun’s principles or promises, or how it’s enjoyed every week by thousands.
Why the need for change?
For ten years I’ve worked hard to protect the things we all love about parkrun. My promise is that parkrun will always be free and welcoming to all participants. That promise holds as true today as it ever has.
However, we cannot be naive as to think that parkrun can continue growing as it is without significant income. You, our volunteers and supporters, are the cornerstones of parkrun. But the fact is, running 500+ runs across ten countries every week does require resources on top to keep everything running smoothly, and to maintain the format we have come to expect. Staff, support for our events, permissions, IT… they all cost money.
What’s more, as we grow, the resource requirements and constraints placed on us grow, too.
- As a not for profit company, every penny we make is put back into parkrun and goes towards delivering our events in some way or another. However, just like any other commercial company, we do have to balance our books. And the bigger parkrun gets, the harder that becomes.
- Up to now we have engaged with commercial organisations to ensure that we had sufficient resources to keep the company going – to fuel the IT engine, supply the club T-shirts and grow the number of runs. Wherever possible we’ve called these companies sponsors, and we have offered them certain rights in return for the cash they provided. While some countries have been quite successful finding sponsors, in others it has been very difficult. This has meant that we have not been successful establishing a firm financial standing in every country.
- What’s more, as we grow, commercial partners have tended to view us differently, too. Whereas in the early days it was all about supporting a grass-roots movement, increasingly companies see the opportunity to realise their commercial objectives through our association. In some cases this has gone against our ethics and principles, and we have thus become more difficult for companies to do business with.
Taking all these things and many other issues into consideration, I have decided that parkrun must follow a new path to secure the financial resources we need for our long-term future.
A new online store
So the upshot of all of this is that parkrun will soon be opening an online store, providing a range of parkrun branded items available for people to buy. There have been considerable requests for parkrun branded items in the past and I’m hoping that our products will be enjoyed and valued by the global parkrun community.
While this is a commercial opportunity for parkrun, every penny earned in our shop will go back into parkrun – providing much needed income to each of the parkrun countries, which in turn will compliment our ability to support the local communities. I anticipate this will further reduce the reliance on commercial partners and help to secure our financial future.
A trusted partner
This initiative is being brought to you by parkrun group and it is my objective to ensure that every parkrunner no matter where you live has the same opportunity to buy the official parkrun merchandise.
With that in mind, as well as our online shop, we have also chosen an online partner who we believe can service every one of our countries. And we are delighted to say that this partner is Wiggle, already a giant in the online retail industry. Many of you will have used Wiggle before and will have experienced the excellent service they provide.
While Wiggle is not a parkrun sponsor, we are working in partnership with them at a global level to ensure we have our own range of bespoke parkrun branded goods available for sale in every region possible. Our goal is to provide good quality items but at prices that families can afford. We do not want anyone in the parkrun family to feel left out.
Wheels are in motion, but it will take some time for our store to be fully stocked. It takes about nine months to go from conception to filling the shelves, so everyone’s patience is appreciated!
However, fairly soon we will be offering the first of our items for sale – a range of technical running kit from adidas, a 10th anniversary t-shirt and two books. One of these books is a history of the first ten years of parkrun, which hundreds of parkrunners have contributed to. The other is a 10th anniversary coffee-table photo-book, for which many of you have submitted photographs.
We will be making these items available on a pre-order system so we can get the stock levels correct. Initially we will only offer a limited stock as it seems sensible not to take too many risks. We hope to develop a fuller range of goods will be available for sale from spring 2015, and I hope to develop the range further once we better understand your needs.
Club shirts staying the same
One important principle that we have included in all our retail plans is that we will always protect the parkrun club shirts. These shirts symbolise the dedication, persistence, effort, joy and significant achievement of our dedicated parkrunners. Many of you have told us that these are amongst your most valued possessions. For these reasons we will be careful to protect the design and uniqueness of the parkrun clubs and associated t-shirts and what they stand for.
Finally, thank you
This is a massive step for us, and one we do not take lightly or underestimate. The significance of entering the retail market is huge for parkrun and parkrunners. If we get it right then the opportunity to keep parkrun exactly as you want it is there. We are relying on you, our faithful parkrunners, to understand the reasons why we are doing this and to support us.
As I said before, Wiggle has agreed to pass on all the net profit from retail sales and we will reinvest this into the sustenance and growth of parkrun. In particular, the proceeds from the 10th anniversary photo book, which I expect to be available for Christmas and should make a great gift, will all go to the expansion of the junior parkrun series. This is a significant investment from Wiggle and I am very grateful to them.
Thank you for your support and happy parkrunning