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Events Fundraising Backpedaled During 2012

By Mark Hrywna - March 14, 2013

One-third less revenue from Susan G. Komen For The Cure’s 3-Day for the Cure events — almost $27 million — dragged down aggregate totals for the nation’s 30 largest event fundraising programs last year. The annual Run Walk Ride 30 reported gross revenue of $1.676 billion for 2012, down 1.3 percent or about $22.1 million from the $1.698 billion reported for 2011.

Nearly half (14) of the 30 programs reported decreases. Only one charity besides Komen reported a drop in the double digits: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training was down 11.55 percent, or $10.1 million, grossing $77.4 million. If Komen’s 3-Day figures are not included in the overall total, the other 29 programs show a nearly flat 0.3 percent revenue increase of $4.8 million.

The Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council (RWRFC) unveiled results of the 2012 survey of the 30 largest event programs this morning during its annual conference in Atlanta, Ga.

Komen’s 3-Day for the Cure, which began in 2003 and is comprised of 14 events in different cities, grossed $57.5 million from 18,100 participants last year, compared to $84.4 million in 2011 – a drop of 32 percent, or nearly $27 million. The smaller Race for the Cure events sponsored by Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s 129 local affiliates grossed $126.8 million, which was down 3.4 percent from $131.3 million the previous year.

The impact on the Race for the Cure series is not reflected in the survey because local affiliates report results on an April 1 to March 30 fiscal year. A recent The NonProfit Times report noted a 5-percent decline in Race for the Cure revenues for the 2011-12 fiscal year and Komen officials anticipated a similar drop-off for 3-Day revenues. Affiliates reported drops in attendance or registrations last year ranging from 10 to 50 percent after a public flap in early 2012 regarding funding to Planned Parenthood.

Last year’s Run Walk Ride 30 reported an overall gross revenue increase of 2.46 percent compared to 2010, and participants forecast an overly optimistic 10.3 percent increase for 2012. The Komen 3-Day Race declined 5.4 percent to $84.4 million in 2011 and the Race for the Cure saw a 7.7-percent increase compared to 2010.

Komen’s losses last year might have been American Cancer Society’s (ACS) gain. The ACS Making Strides Against Breast Cancer saw the largest spike in absolute dollars, jumping by $7 million, or 12 percent, to $68 million. That increase might reflect breast cancer fundraisers shifting from Komen to the ACS event because of the funding controversy involving Planned Parenthood, according to RWRFC President David Hessekiel.

The largest overall fundraising program was ACS’ Relay for Life, which grossed $407.5 million from 3.4 million participants in 5,180 events. Revenue was still off about 1.8 percent from the $415 million in 2011.

Sixteen of the programs in the Run Walk Ride 30 Survey reported revenue increases, led by Pelotonia, which jumped 29 percent last year. It grossed $16.8 million, an increase of $3.7 million compared to the $13.1 million reported for 2011. The Ohio cycling event to support cancer research is the youngest event within the top 30, founded in 2009, and this year ranked at No. 22.

“Double-digit growth by programs in the middle and lower reaches of the Run Walk Ride 30 Survey show that there is substantial room for growth in this field,” said Hessekiel. Other programs reporting at least 10-percent increases in gross revenues were:

  • American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) Step Out: Walk to End Diabetes (17.6 percent $24.1 million, No. 19)
  • ADA’s Tour de Cure (15.2 percent $26.5 million, No. 18)
  • Rodman Ride for Kids (10.7 percent, $10 million, No. 27)
  • Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimers (10.2 percent, $51.82 million, No. 12)
  • LLS’ Light the Night Walk (10 percent, $55 million, No. 11)

The 30th program on this year’s survey was Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America’s Team Challenge, grossing $9.85 million — a nearly 10-percent jump from the 30th ranked program last year (Rodman Ride, $9 million).

Overall participation in these fundraising programs was up 2.4 percent, or about 280,000, to 11.9 million. The number of events in the top 30 decreased by 1.3 percent, by 472 to 35,950. “By culling underperforming events from their schedules, nonprofits are focusing on maximizing their return on investment on the events that remain,” said Hessekiel.

The American Heart Association’s (AHA) Jump Rope for Heart is the largest program by sheer number of events, with 23,899.  AHA, however, declined to participate in the survey this year and RWRFC estimated the revenue and number of events based on figures reported by the other 28 top programs while 2011 AHA participant totals were used.

The Run Walk Ride 30 is based on survey responses from the professionals who manage major athletic event fundraising programs. Programs vary from casual walks that don’t require participants to fundraising to endurance and multi-day programs in which people commit to raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. A summary is available at


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