With the runaway success of the Ice Bucket Challenge and strong growth at a number of up-and-coming programs, 2014 was a strong year for peer-to-peer fundraising.
But for a number of longtime programs, the past year has been difficult, according to the Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Thirty, the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum’s annual survey of the nation’s 30 largest campaigns.
The struggles start with the nation’s largest peer-to-peer program, American Cancer Society’s massive Relay for Life, a series of events held nationwide in which teams of fundraisers take turns running or walking around a track.
Relay for Life’s fundraising total declined by 11.8 percent, or $45-million, in 2014 — a drop American Cancer Society officials say is largely the result of an organization-wide restructuring that affected its ability to properly manage the nearly 5,000 events it hosts as part of the program.
Even with that decline, Relay for Life remains the dominant player in the peer-to-peer fundraising world. To put its size in context, Relay for Life — which raised $335-million for the charity in 2014 — is still three times larger than the next-largest event, American Heart Association’s Heart Walk.
Another peer-to-peer pioneer — Susan G. Komen for the Cure — is struggling due to the loss of support by people on both sides of the abortion issue following a 2012 controversy concerning the charity’s relationship with Planned Parenthood.
Komen’s Race for the Cure series — which had long been the nation’s second-largest peer-to-peer program — dropped to No. 4 on this year’s list after posting a decline of 10.8 percent, or $11.5-million. The drop was even more pronounced for a second Komen program — Komen 3-Day — which saw a steep 38.1-percent decline, from $42-million in 2013 to $26-million in 2014. It should be noted that the 3-Day decreased from 14 to 7 events in 2014.
Two other long-running programs — Leukemia & Lymphoma Society‘s Team in Training and JDRF‘s One Walk — also posted double-digit declines.
Revenues at Team in Training dropped by more than 18.5 percent, while One Walk was down 12.4 percent.
But while some of these stalwart programs have struggled in recent years, event organizers at both the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen are confident that they will regain their form.
American Cancer Society, for instance, has completed its reorganization and expects that with a more stable structure, it can not only maintain its spot as the nation’s largest peer-to-peer fundraising program — but that it will begin to show gains.
Susan G. Komen, meanwhile, has likely weathered the worst and is working with local chapters across the country to strengthen fundraising events in 2015.