Revealed: Success Strategies of the 5 Fastest-Growing P2P Programs

“Viva la difference” could be the catch phrase uniting the five fastest-growing, major peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns of 2018.

While previous versions of our P2P Fundraising Thirty survey were dominated by cycling events or walks, the 2018 edition spotlights the growing diversity and strength of our field.

This year’s top five includes a video gaming series, an endurance campaign, a traditional walk program, an indoor cycling program and a dance marathon.

That’s some serious variety — and it speaks to the evolution of P2P.

Today, nonprofits have a multitude of options for building successful  programs — and they can build campaigns to appeal to specific audiences.

That was certainly the trend among the programs that saw the largest percentage increase in revenue growth in 2018. This year’s top 5 includes:

Extra Life

Organization: Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
Program Type: Video gaming
2018 Revenues: $13.5 million
Increase: 24.2%

Extra Life — the fast-growing video game-based fundraising campaign — surged onto the Top 30 list for the first time in its short history by targeting young adult millennials and Gen Xers. Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals was one of the pioneers in identifying video gaming as an area of opportunity for P2P, but it hasn’t been resting on its early success. Each year, the organization takes steps to improve the online and mobile user experience for participants to try to stay relevant and fresh, says Elyse Meardon, vice president of revenue.

The efforts have paid off tremendously. Revenues for the campaign have more than doubled since 2014, when Extra Life raised $6.1 million, and it’s showing now signs of slowing down.

St. Jude Heroes

Organization: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Program Type: Endurance
2018 Revenues: $21.6 million
Increase: 22.8%

Don’t tell St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that endurance programs are fading. The organization’s signature P2P program — St. Jude Heroes — has been around for 20 years and is still growing.

Revenues for the program increased nearly 23 percent in 2018, the result in a huge jump in the number of events (up more than 220 percent to 186). The campaign attracted more than 40,000 participants in 2018 and is the second-largest endurance program in the U.S.

Out of Darkness Community Walks

Organization: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Program Type: Walk series
2018 Revenues: $22.6 million
Increase: 17.1 percent

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of Darkness Community Walks series has been one of the P2P fundraising world’s biggest success stories over the past five years. Since 2014, annual revenues have increased by more than $10 million for the walk series, which included 425 events across the U.S. in 2018 and featured 316,000 walkers.

The walk series has been marching up the top 30 list, peaking at No. 20 in 2018.

Cycle for Survival

Organization: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Program type: Indoor cycling
2018 Revenues: $39 million
Increase: 14.7 percent

Courtesy of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

For Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Cycle for Survival Series, organizers have been doubling down on building relationships with companies.

In 2018, a record 950 corporate teams participated in Cycle for Survival events — and JPMorgan Chase even hosted its own signature, stand-alone event for its employees, according to Katie Klein, director of fundraising events at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Even better, Cycle for Survival has already been able to report a revenue increase again in 2019. As one of the first P2P campaigns on the year, Cycle for Survival has already wrapped up its event season for 2019 with record revenues of $42 million — an increase of close to 8 percent over 2018.

You can learn more about Cycle for Survival’s success in our recent profile of the campaign.

Dance Marathon

Organization: Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
Program type: Dance marathon
2018 Revenues: $43.5 million
Increase: 11.7%

Dance Marathon has been one of the nation’s fastest growing P2P campaigns.

For Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals — which sports two of the five fastest risers in 2018 — growth has come through targeting younger audiences.

At Dance Marathon, which raises money on college campuses and at high schools, the organization is not only relentlessly tweaking its online and mobile user experience to stay current, Meardon says it also invests heavily in training its young participants on how to fundraise.