Study: New Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Initiatives Surge, Many Established Programs Struggle
(Press release, Feb. 24, 2015) — Peer-to-peer fundraising programs are growing quickly among groups that lead events that fall outside of the traditional run, walk and ride event model. But a number of longstanding, high-profile programs are continuing to see declines, according to the peer-to-peer fundraising industry's annual roundup.
Overall, contributions to programs listed in the Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Thirty — the ranking of the 30 largest peer-to-peer fundraising programs in the U.S. — totaled $1.62 billion in 2014. That figure represents a 2.47 percent drop from 2013.
That decline was driven, in large part, by struggles at two of the dominant charities in the peer-to-peer fundraising world.
The American Cancer Society, which has been in the midst of an organization-wide restructuring, reported that its popular Relay for Life series experienced a fundraising decline of $45 million in 2014, to $335 million.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure, still dealing with the aftermath of a 2012 controversy concerning its relationship with Planned Parenthood, saw its Race for the Cure series drop from No. 2 to No. 4 on the list after posting a decline of 10.8 percent, or $11.5 million. The drop was even more pronounced for a second Komen program — the Komen 3-Day walk series which declined 38.1 percent, from $42 million in 2013 to $26 million in 2014.
Combined, the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen for the Cure saw a decline of $72.5 million in those three programs. "The American Cancer Society and Komen took some big hits in 2014, but the $519 million+ they raised from peer-to-peer fundraising last year demonstrates the tremendous support they continue to enjoy," said David Hessekiel, president of the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum, which authors the study.
The declines at some of the largest peer-to-peer programs also obscure the growth that is happening at many smaller and newer peer-to-peer programs. Many of those programs are built around regional cycling events or individualized activities such as growing mustaches or shaving heads rather than traditional walks.
While 11 of the 20 largest peer-to-peer fundraising programs reported revenue declines in 2014, most of the programs that fall outside of the top 20 reported growth last year. In fact, eight of the 10 programs ranked 21-30 on the Peer-to-Peer 30 list reported increases in 2014.
Four programs in the top 30 grew by more than 30 percent: Memorial Sloan Kettering's Cycle for Survival, an indoor stationary bike program, was up nearly 43 percent, The ALS Association's Walk to Defeat ALS was up 36.3 percent, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Out of the Darkness Walks was up 32.4 percent, and the American Heart Association's Jump Rope for Heart/Hoops for Heart youth programs were up 31.6 percent.
"Whatever the 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 fundraise," said Hessekiel, whose group has been collecting this benchmarking data since 2007.
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.