Events Fundraising Down, But Recovering Slightly

Nonprofits in the “Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Thirty” raised more than $1.39 billion in 2018, down 2.7 percent or about $38.8 million compared to 2017, a year when gross revenue dropped by 6.7 percent. It’s been a decade since the top 30 peaked at its high-water mark of $1.76 million raised.

“The forecast for peer-to-peer fundraising has been steadily improving — and we are hearing from many of our members that they’re expecting to see strong results in 2019,” Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum President David Hessekiel said via a press release announcing the results at its annual conference this week in New Orleans, La. “As Relay For Life stabilizes after a planned downsizing, and as other programs continue to grow, we’re hopeful that we’ll see positive numbers for the top 30 when we conduct next year’s benchmark study,” he said.

The 2018 Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Thirty is produced by the Rye, N.Y.-based Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum (P2P) and sponsored by Austin, Texas-based Charity Dynamics.

The largest event continues to be the American Cancer Society (ACS) Relay for Life, grossing $184.8 million. That event also continues to see the largest declines, down $45.2 million, almost 20 percent. Relay for Life events had grossed twice that revenue as recently as 2013, some $380 million.

Still, the campaign exceeded internal expectations, according to the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum statement, as ACS focused on reducing the size and hosting fewer, more profitable events. The number of events was slashed by 30 percent, from 3,570 to 2,516.

Revenue per Relay For Life event increased by 12 percent and the number of participants per event increased by 12 percent, according to Maria Clark, senior vice president of volunteer events at ACS. Its Making Strides Against Breast Cancer saw an increase of 2.4 percent to $63.5 million.

The P2P release noted that the remaining 29 programs in the top 30 posted a collective increase of almost $6.4 million during 2018, or about 0.5 percent. Of the 30 campaigns, 14 reported increases, ranging from 2.4 percent to 24 percent. Among the 16 campaigns that reported declines, the waning ranged from 1.2 percent to 19.7 percent.

Peer-to-peer fundraising historically had been dominated by large national charities that host events in multiple cities but that’s changing. The growth of social media and do-it-yourself fundraising has seen the rise in recent years of other nontraditional walking or running events during the past decade, such as St. Baldrick’s Foundation (No. 16, $31.8 million, down 5.3 percent), Pelotonia (No. 17, $27.4 million, up 4.5 percent) and Movember (No. 26, $15.8 million, down 16 percent).

This new list includes the first appearance of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ Extra Life campaign in the top 30. The 10-year-old video-game focused campaign increased revenue by 24 percent — the largest percentage increase in the top 30 — or $2.6 million, to $13.5 million.

“Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals is among a new wave of nonprofits that are tailoring programs that speak to younger, more diverse audiences,” Hessekiel said. “These organizations are showing that you can succeed in peer-to-peer using a number of different campaigns,” he said.

Another fast-growing campaign was St. Jude Heroes, which grew by 22.8 percent to $25.5 million, up from 24th in 2017 to 21st last year.

Avon 39: The Walk to End Breast Cancer was the only campaign to fall out of the top 30. Started in 2003, it was discontinued after raising $34 million in 2017. At its peak, the walk raised $55 million in 2010.

The youngest event among the top 10 was The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk, which began in 1999, one of only two campaigns among the top 10 that began after 1993.

Alzheimer’s Association garnered the 2018 P2P Fundraising Organization of the Year. The Chicago, Ill.-based charity’s signature campaign, The Walk to End Alzheimer’s, reported the largest increase in dollars raised, $7.9 million, up 8.8 percent from 2017 to a total $96.9 million last year.