Fundraising Revenues Down for Largest P2P Campaigns, New Survey Finds

Revenues for the nation’s largest peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns dropped by 2.8 percent in 2016, marking the fourth straight year these bellwether programs faced declines, according to a survey released today by the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum.

The Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Thirty, which surveys the 30 largest U.S. P2P campaigns, found that these campaigns raised just more than $1.53 billion in 2016, down from $1.57 billion in 2015.

Going back to 2012, the decline is even larger — with revenues down about 8 percent from the $1.71 billion raised that year.

The continued declines among the largest campaigns reflect a growing transition in the field of peer-to-peer fundraising, as online tools have helped fuel an explosion in the number of programs and has led to the creation of so-called Do-It-Yourself campaigns, in which supporters stage their own fundraising events for their favorite charities.

“Peer-to-peer fundraising continues to be an industry in flux,” said David Hessekiel, founder and president of the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum. “Each year, we see a number of novel campaigns burst onto the scene — giving supporters the chance to raise money doing everything from playing video games to engaging in extreme challenges.

“But these new options continue to put pressure on long-running, brand-name programs. And some of these long-running programs are seeing their revenues decline as a result.”

Peer-to-peer fundraising is the practice of having a nonprofit’s supporters take part in an activity such as a walk, bike ride or challenge and reach out to their friends, family members and colleagues for donations.

Some popular programs — such as American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, March of Dimes’ March for Babies, and Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure Series — saw revenues decline by more than $10 million in 2016. For Relay for Life, which remains the nation’s largest P2P program, the decline was particularly stark. Revenues dropped $29 million in 2016 to $279 million.

Still, the latest fundraising results also show that some traditional programs are continuing to fare well.

American Heart Association’s Heart Walk, which started in 1980, saw revenues increase 5 percent to $123.1 million — making it the nation’s second-largest P2P program.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night Walk, meanwhile, saw revenues vault 12 percent to $68.5 million. Its increase of more than $7.3 million gave Light the Night the largest increase in terms of dollars raised in 2016.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s Cycle for Survival event saw revenues increase by 20 percent to $30 million, giving it the largest percentage increase in the top 30.

“Once again this year, the P2P30 reminds us that in our wired, interconnected world, change is the only constant — and today’s charities must be willing to evolve, reinvent, and invest to grow,” said Jeff Shuck, CEO of Plenty, a consulting company and sponsor of the Peer-to-Peer Thirty. “And, it illustrates once again that there is no silver bullet for growth. Rather, sustained growth comes from a holistic worldview, authentic branding, cohesive strategy, and well-supported teams.”

Top 10 Programs

The top 10 American programs by total gross revenue in 2015 were:

  1. $279-million (-9.4% from 2015) Relay for Life, American Cancer Society
  2. $123.1-million (+5.2%) Heart Walk, American Heart Association
  3. $85.8-million (+8.7%) American Heart Association Youth Programs, American Heart Association
  4. $85.7-million (-10.5%) March for Babies, March of Dimes
  5. $82.4-million (+6.4%) Walk to End Alzheimers, Alzheimers Association
  6. $74.9-million (-13.4%) Komen Race for the Cure Series, Susan G. Komen for the Cure
  7. $74.9-million (-6.4%) Bike MS, National MS Society
  8. $68.5 (-2.6%) JDRF One Walk, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
  9. $68.5-million (+12%) Light The Night Walk, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  10. $66.0-million (-0.5%) Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, American Cancer Society

The Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Thirty is based on survey responses from professionals who manage major peer-to-peer fundraising programs and publicly available data. The full report and a narrative analysis of the findings are available on the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forums website.