Miles for refugees

Miles for refugees


At least 70.8 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 25.9 million refugees, according to UNHCR. Miles for Refugees is a virtual fundraising event organised by The British Red Cross, which runs in September. When people register they have the choice of six distances, each related to a journey a refugee may have to take to reach safety. Participants can collect their miles by running, swimming, cycling or walking and have a fundraising target of £150.


Miles for Refugees fits under two strategic aims for British Red Cross (BRC):

  1. Launching and scaling new Mass Participation Events (MPEs): these types of events are a proven way to attract a new audience to a charities cause, and raise significant funds. 
  2. Creating cause-led fundraising products: BRC is in the process of moving towards cause-led fundraising, with Miles for Refugees leading the way. 

Prior to the launch of Miles, BRC had no fundraising offerings designed around their growing refugee services work.

Technical details & Operations

Miles for Refugees launched in 2017, is coming from an idea which had been successfully tested by the Community Fundraising team of the British Red Cross (BRC). The Fundraising Innovation team then collaborated and invested in the product to scale up. 

The idea is simple: when participants register to the Miles for Refugees platform, a dedicated fundraising page is set up for them. Then, participants have to ask their supporters to sponsor them to reach their £150 target.

Throughout, Facebook and Instagram ads have been the primary driver of registrations, followed by a strong word-of mouth (roughly 30% of registrations).

Deployment & Impact


2017 : 150 participants, £35k 

2018 : 720 participants, £145k

2019 : 2,182 registrants, 1,589 participants, £426,599, 73% remittance, £219 per fundraiser, CPA £77

2020 : 7,425 registrants, 5,940 participants, £2.1m, 80% remittance, £223 per fundraiser, CPA £71

The audience is mainly composed of urban women between 18 and 55 years old, single household or group of family/friends living apart and doing it virtually and work colleagues interested in team physical challenges.

In 2019 for the first time, the British Red Cross worked with Strava a service for tracking exercise which incorporates social network features. In 2020, this led to over 100,000 Strava participants taking part in the challenge. Roughly 1% of these fundraised. 

Supporter Experience

Much of the growth of Miles is down the supporter experience. The email journey, following insight, incorporates stories told directly from refugees. And work was done in 2020 to explicitly link the money being raised to our refugee work. A successful live-stream Q&A was run for participants, featuring Alex Fraser, Director of Refugee Support & Restoring Family Links. 


Alongside the Strava link that helped gamify the exercise side of Miles, work has been put in to use fundraising-linked badges and rewards to incentivise. Following some successful A/B testing in 2019, 2020’s incentives were rolled out to all participants and considerably increased donation amounts.