Canadian Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Declined in 2016, but 2017 Looks Better

P2PCanada_30_4c Fundraising revenue for Canada’s 30-largest peer-to-peer fundraising programs declined 6.2 percent in 2016, according to the Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada Top Thirty Benchmarking Survey.

Since peaking at $278.2 million in 2014, the revenues for these 30 bellwether programs have dropped by 14.8 percent in the past two years to $237.6 million.

But behind these seemingly bleak numbers are a number of trends that suggest that Canadian peer-to-peer fundraising is poised for growth.

A number of large Canadian peer-to-peer programs have been deliberately recalibrating and downsizing longstanding programs and are complementing flagship campaigns with initiatives that will help them reach a new generation of supporters.

In addition, many Canadian charities are seeing rapid growth in their peer-to-peer programs — particularly among newer and more creative program types.

Perhaps most encouraging, though, is news that a number of top programs are expecting revenue gains in 2017. While the fundraising year is still young, some large programs — including Toronto’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre’s Ride to Conquer Cancer and Blue Sea Philanthropy’s Coldest Night of the Year — are already reporting record revenues for their events in 2017.

The overall decline in Canadian P2P fundraising revenue is highly concentrated among the very largest and most established programs.

Seven of the eight largest Canadian programs saw their revenues decline in 2016 — and five of the top six programs saw their revenues decline by 11 percent or more.

Other highlights from the 2016 survey include:

    • The Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer saw its fundraising revenues drop by 13 percent in 2016, to $34.88 million. However, the campaign appears to be rebounding in 2017. The largest of the campaign’s four rides — the Toronto Ride to Conquer Cancer — is already reporting a revenue increase of 17 percent — to $20.5 million. Organizers say that the Toronto event is the largest single-event fundraiser in Canadian history.

    • The true standout among the largest programs in 2016 was the Terry Fox RunRevenues for the Run — the oldest P2P program among the top 30 — jumped by more than $4 million to nearly $23.5 million.

    • Outside of the eight-largest programs, revenues for the rest of the P2P Thirty actually increased slightly in 2016 — up 0.3 percent. And half of the programs on the list either posted increases or were brand-new programs.

    • Seven of the programs in the survey were 5 years old or younger in 2016 — spotlighting the fact that a number of new programs are seeing great success. This marks a stark difference with P2P programs in the U.S., where only one of the top 30 programs was founded after 2011.

    • SickKids Foundation’s Great Cycle Challenge — a brand-new program in 2016 — vaulted onto the list after raising nearly $1.8 million. This marks the first time that a virtual campaign has qualified for the top 30 in either the United States or Canada.

    • Blue Sea Philanthropy’s Coldest Night of the Year saw revenues increase by 27.5 percent in 2016, to $3.87 million. It was the third-straight year that Coldest Night has been Canada’s fastest-growing large program.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada conducts the survey with sponsorship support from Blackbaud.

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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.

Canada’s 30 Largest Peer-to-Peer Programs Raised $275 Million in 2014

P2P Thirty Canada

Canada’s 30 largest peer-to-peer fundraising programs brought in more than $275 million for charities in 2014, according to a first-of-its kind study released at the inaugural Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada conference.

Peer-to-peer fundraising programs engage supporters to solicit their personal contacts for contributions. These “asks” are often linked to a supporter’s participation in a rapidly expanding universe of events ranging from traditional runs, walks and rides to more unusual activities such as rappelling down skyscrapers, mustache growing and sleeping out in the cold.

Canada’s largest peer-to-peer fundraising program (in terms of gross revenue) was the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, a series of four cycling events that raised $42.4 million to support cancer research in 2014.

It narrowly edged out the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, a program that enabled nearly 130,000 participants in 400 locations to raise $42.2 million in 2014.

But while these two programs are Canada’s largest, each actually saw its revenues decline compared with 2013 — a common trait among the top 30. For 16 of the programs, revenues dropped compared with 2013 and collectively the top 30 programs posted a 6% decline in gross revenues.

That overall figure was weighed down by a significant decline of 32% (or $10.8 million) at Movember Canada, said David Hessekiel, president of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada. Remove the Movember figure and the other 29 programs declined by only 3%.

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 $2,534,761 in 2014 to help “the hungry, homeless and hurting.”

The second fastest-growing program was the Canaccord Genuity Great Camp Adventure Walk, a camp-themed event in Toronto that grew 41% to raise $1,900,000 for the SickKids Foundation.

“There is still room for growth for many traditional walk, run and ride programs, but it is notable that the two fastest-growing programs in the top 30 were novel, family oriented-events,,” said Amy Milne, cofounder of Beyond, a new Toronto-based peer-to-peer fundraising consulting firm that co-sponsored the inaugural Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada Top 30 study.

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

“In our increasingly networked society, the prospects for peer-to-peer fundraising are tremendous for nonprofits that know how to leverage technology, personal outreach and the power of their causes,” said Hessekiel, who has organized peer-to-peer fundraising conferences in the US for the last ten years.

More than 200 development professionals hungry for such training attended the first Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada conference on Tuesday, October 20. Industry statistics, guidance on peer-to-peer fundraising best practices and access to year-round virtual training is available at

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

2015 Canadian Top Thirty P2P Programs