Charities Running And Walking To Big Revenue

Most of the largest athletic fundraising events saw their gross revenue increase last year, with a total $1.69 billion generated last year, up almost 2.5 percent over 2010. Participation also was up, almost 2 percent, to 11.6 million people.

The sixth annual Run Walk Ride 30, which tracks the nation’s largest athletic fundraising events each year, was released yesterday in conjunction with the Run Walk Ride Fundraising Conference in Atlanta. The survey is based on responses from professionals who manage major athletic event fundraising programs.

In all, more than 11.6 million people participated in 36,000 events during 2011 that raised gross revenue of $1.698 million, about $40.8 million more than the $1.657 million raised during 2010. The top four events raised at least $99 million:

  • American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Relay for Life, $415 million;
  • Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, $131.3 million;
  • March of Dimes’ March for Babies, $105 million; and,
  • American Heart Association’s Heart Walk, $99 million.

The overall number of events in the top 30 decreased by 2.5 percent – almost 1,000 in total. “By culling underperforming events from their schedules, nonprofits are focusing on maximizing their return on investment on the events that remain,” said David Hessekiel, president of the The Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council (RWRF).

Twenty-three of the nation’s top 30 events saw their fundraising increase, with the biggest increase by Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which jumped $9.4 million to a total $121.9 million from 125 events — a rise of 7.7 percent. The largest percentage increase was by the Pelotonia Ride, one event that generated $13.1 million in gross revenue, 67 percent more than the previous year.

Among the seven events that saw a drop in revenue were:

  • ACS Relay for Life, down $1.5 million to $415 million;
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training, down $9.5 million to $87 million;
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Walk to Cure Diabetes, down $350,000, to $85.6 million;
  • Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, down $4.8 million to $84.4 million;
  • National MS Society’s Bike MS, down $660,000 to $82.4 million;
  • Avon Foundation for Women’s Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, down $10 million to $45 million; and,
  • Church World Service’s CROP Hunger Walk, down almost $440,000 to $13.8 million.

Most of those events that saw a drop were multi-day programs with high fundraising commitments. “In this recessionary environment, it’s understandable that some people would be reluctant to commit to raising large amounts of money,” said Hessekiel. “As the economy bounces back, I expect those programs will too,” he said. During the depths of the recession in 2009, 20 of the top 30 programs saw revenue decline overall by 7.6 percent.

Survey respondents expect a better year in 2012, anticipating median revenue growth of 10 percent. “This is probably overly optimistic, but it is a good sign that the field should experience increased growth,” said Hessekiel, who noted that a year ago respondents forecast a 6-percent increase in 2011, more than twice the actual growth rate of 2.46 percent.

Programs in the top 30 can vary, anything from casual walks that don’t require participants to fundraise, to multi-day programs in which people commit to raising hundreds or thousands of dollars.