Revenue For Big Events Starting To Slow

Some of the largest, most established fundraising events continued to wane in 2014 as smaller events fueled growth among the top 30 peer-to-peer programs.

Gross revenue for the 30 largest peer-to-peer fundraising programs was down almost 2.5 percent in 2014 to $1.622 billion, driven by a 12-percent drop in revenue for American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Relay For Life and Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s 3-Day walk series, which dipped 38 percent.

The Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum released its annual Peer-to-Peer Fundraising 30 — a ranking of the 30 largest peer-to-peer fundraising programs in the United States — during its annual conference in Orlando, Fla. Fourteen of the 30 largest programs, including 11 in the top 20, reported declining revenue. The top five programs accounted for about $721 million of the overall $1.62 billion in gross revenue.

“Whatever activity they focus on, nonprofits trying to grow their peer-to-peer fundraising programs must invest in attracting, training and motivating staff and volunteers, leveraging storytelling and smart marketing to communicate effectively, and giving participants the tools, coaching and support they need to fundraising,” said David Hessekiel, president of the Rye, N.Y.-based Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum, which has been conducting the study since 2007.

Relay For Life still was the largest event by far, grossing $335 million but down  $45 million, from $380 million in 2013 and $407.5 million in 2012. ACS’ other event, Making Strides for Cancer, declined 4.6 percent to $63.1 million. Atlanta, Ga.-based ACS has been in the midst of an organization-wide restructuring in recent years.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure seems to still be dealing with the 2012 fallout from its failed relationship with Planned Parenthood. Gross revenue dropped to $26 million, from $42 million in 2013 and $57.5 million in 2012. Last year was the first that the Dallas, Texas-based headquarters held seven walks around the country as part of its 3-Day Series, compared with 14 walks in previous years.

Komen’s Race for the Cure series, driven primarily by its 120 or so affiliates, dropped from second to fourth overall, down 11 percent to $95.2 million, from $106 million in 2013, and as high as $126.8 million in 2012. Avon Foundation for Women’s Avon Walk for Breast Cancer was flat, with approximately $40 million in revenue each of the past two years, after generating $47 million in 2012.

American Heart Association’s (AHA) Heart Walk grew by almost 5 percent, to $110.8 million, moving up to second overall among the top 30. AHA’s Jump Rope/Hoops for Heart had the biggest jump among large, established events, up almost 32 percent to $71.22 million.

The ALS Association experienced a positive bump from last year’s viral “Ice Bucket Challenge,” which generated nearly $120 million. “Ice Bucket Challenge” figures weren’t included in the survey because it tracks events sponsored by an organization and the challenge was more of an effort by supporters. Still the organization’s Walk to Defeat ALS saw a boost in participation of 33 percent, as well as gross revenue, which rose 36 percent from $23.5 million to $32 million.

The largest increases among the top 30 events were generally found among smaller and newer peer-to-peer programs, built around regional cycling events or individualized activities, like growing mustaches or shaving heads versus traditional walks.

For example, Movember grew by 9.5 percent, to $23 million while St. Baldrick’s Foundation head shaving events grew 16 percent to $38 million. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s Cycle for Survival saw the biggest increase, almost 43 percent, from $14 million to $20 million, while American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness community walks jumped by nearly a third, to $12.5 million.  NPT