Canadian P2P Programs Step Up Investments After 2015’s Decline

P2PCanada_30_4cTwenty of Canada’s 30 largest peer-to-peer fundraising programs posted revenue declines in 2015 — a trend that is prompting many Canadian charities to rethink their approaches and experiment with innovative new programs.

Fundraising revenue at these 30 bellwether programs totaled $254.1 million in 2015, according to the Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada Top Thirty Benchmarking Survey sponsored by Plenty.

A Big Drop - P2P Canada Top 30That figure is down 8.6 percent from 2014 — a significant drop that is somewhat offset by growing totals at a number of newer and smaller programs.

But rather than pulling back in the face of these declines, a number of Canada’s biggest charities say they are stepping up their investments in peer-to-peer fundraising.

“2015 was a wake-up call for many nonprofits,” said David Hessekiel, president of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada. “Many organizations are seriously examining their peer-to-peer initiatives, investing in new concepts and overhauling existing programs.”

Some of these new or revamped efforts include:

  • JDRF Canada this spring has rebranded and reformatted its popular spinning event as JDRF REvolution Ride — a move that it hopes will help it reverse a trend that saw its revenues decline by more than 19 percent in 2015.
  • The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada has expanded its popular Ride for Heart in Toronto to include a 5k and 10k run and a 5k walk. The move is an effort to get more people to participate in the event — since it has reached its capacity for bikers.
  • The Canadian Cancer Society, which has seen revenues decline steadily for its longstanding Relay for Life walk, has invested heavily in encouraging supporters to play host to their own do-it-yourself fundraising efforts. Its Cancer Fighters program — which provides supporters an online platform to raise money for the organization by taking part in their own activities — has become a significant source of revenue for its chapters. Its Ontario chapter, for example, reports that it is raising about $3 million annually through do-it-yourself fundraising programs.
  • Parkinson Canada is testing a new program called Life Lists Challenge, which aims to engage younger peer-to-peer fundraisers. Participants agree to take part in a structured adventure challenge such as bungee jumping or sky diving and collect pledges from friends for completing the challenge.
  • Supporters of the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation are being encouraged to shave their heads as part of a unique P2P event called #NoHairSelfie.

Challenging Conditions

gains-losses-p2p-canada-top-30 (v2)These examples show that Canadian charities aren’t sitting still in the face of the challenges that face their P2P programs — namely the poor economy and a growing number of competing programs.

Among the 12 largest programs, only the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Jump Rope for Heart campaign posted an increase in 2015.

Canada’s largest-grossing peer-to-peer fundraising program was the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, a series of four cycling events that raised $40.1 million to support cancer research in 2015.

It topped the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, which raised $34 million from more than 100,000 participants in 331 locations. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s CIBC Run for the Cure was third, raising $21.5 million.

But while these programs are Canada’s largest, each actually saw its revenues decline significantly in 2015 — a common trait among the top 30. Revenues were down 5.4 percent for the Ride to Conquer Cancer, 19.4 percent for Relay for Life, and 12.2 percent for CIBC Run for the Cure.

Signs of Hope

walks-still-rule-p2p-canada-top-30 (v2)Despite the tough conditions, 10 of Canada’s 30 largest programs thrived in 2015 — posting revenue gains even in the face of a challenging economy.

The fastest-growing program in the top 30 was the Coldest Night of the Year, a winter walk series organized by Blue Sea Philanthropy in 80 communities that raised $3.3 million in 2015, an increase of 32.4 percent. It marked the second year in a row that Coldest Night has been Canada’s fastest-growing program.

Coldest Night also offers signs of encouragement for Canada’s P2P fundraising fortunes in 2016. Organizers of its February event say that it generated more than $3.85 million in donations — or roughly 17 percent more than the amount raised in 2015.

A number of other programs posted significant growth in 2015. SickKids Foundation’s Canaccord Genuity Great Camp Adventure Walk raised $2.3 million, an increase of 21.5 percent. Another Blue Sea Philanthropy program — Ride for Refuge — posted an 11.1 percent increase, to $2 million.

The growth of these programs shows the continued promise of peer-to-peer fundraising — especially as mobile and online fundraising technology continues to evolve.

“We’ve seen a true democratization of peer-to-peer, where your success isn’t driven by the type of event you run, but rather your ability to produce excellent experiences for volunteer fundraisers,” Hessekiel said. “You no longer have to be among the largest or most established organizations to raise money.”

Download Top 30 Summary

Top 10 list

  1. Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation ($40.1 million)
  2. Relay for Life, Canadian Cancer Society ($34 million)
  3. CIBC Run for the Cure, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation ($21.5 million)
  4. The Terry Fox Run, Terry Fox Foundation ($19.4 million)
  5. Movember Canada, Movember Canada ($16.4 million)
  6. Jump Rope for Heart, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada ($14.6 million)
  7. MS Walk, MS Society of Canada ($9.6 million)
  8. MS Bike, MS Society of Canada ($9.1 million)
  9. Big Bike, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada ($8.8 million)
  10. Shoppers Drug Mart Weekend to End Women’s Cancers, Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation ($7.5 million)

P2PCanada_30_4cTo explore the complete list of campaigns that made the first-ever Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Thirty click the link below:

2014 Canadian Top Thirty P2P Programs


The Secret Behind Canada’s Fastest Growing Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Program

cony-bv-700Most peer-to-peer fundraising event planners cross their fingers and hope for clear skies and warm temperatures when they plan their annual walks, rides, and runs.

Not so for Blue Sea Philanthropy.

The organizers of Canada’s fastest-growing peer-to-peer campaign actually go out of their way to find the worst possible weather day of the year for their event.

Frigid temperatures? Yes, please.

Blinding snow and wind? Bring it on.

Blue Sea Philanthropy is the nonprofit that organizes the fast-growing Coldest Night of the Year walk series, which, you guessed it, is held on what is statistically Canada’s coldest night.

They’re so into poor conditions that they even wait until the sun goes down for participants to start their winter fundraising treks in frosty locales like Moose Jaw, Thunder Bay, and Chilliwack.

And that’s part of the allure for an event that raises money to support the hungry, homeless, and hurting.

But while many participants take part because of the opportunity to brave the cold for charity, the timing of the event has another benefit, says Brian Carney, Blue Sea’s chief executive.

“In February, the charitable calendar is clear. The competition is light,” Carney says. “It allows us to market and fundraise at a time when our message isn’t getting drowned out. And it gives our charitable partners early money (revenue that comes early in the annual calendar).”

Blue Sea has open marketing waters with its February event — and its charity partners say they appreciate the opportunity to generate fundraising revenue early in the year, when donations are typically light.

This fact has helped fuel Coldest Night’s rapid growth. The campaign saw fundraising revenue increase by a whopping 62 percent to more than $2.5 million in 2014, making it the fastest-growing P2P program in Canada, according to a study by Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada.

That growth is expected to continue. Blue Sea expects to grow revenue for the campaign to $5 million by 2017, or twice what it raised in 2014.

Carney says there are a number of factors that have him confident that Coldest Night will continue its fast pace. Those factors include:

A Simple Concept — Participants can quickly understand the reason for the event and why it matters.

A Sympathetic Beneficiary — “We help the guy on the street. The family at threat of eviction. The fleeing spouse in need of immediate housing,” Carney says. “People get that.”

Investing in Smart Systems — Blue Sea has made sure it has a well-functioning campaign portal and a well-designed and easy-to-navigate website. And it makes sure it improves its systems each year.

A Focus on Fundraising — “There is a lot of buzz about the event, but all of that comes behind the fundraising focus,” he says. “We never forget that and we work hard to keep our partners in step with that decision, too.”

The growth of Coldest Night is the result, then, of both focusing on the basics and a creative hook that differentiates it from the plethora of other P2P walks.