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.

Download the Top 30 Narrative and Dataset

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


6 Tips for Improving Your E-Mail Marketing Results

15444273446_60dc17af7d_oE-mail is a great tool for motivating your supporters to raise money and become active ambassadors for your cause.

Mandy O’Neill, chief strategist and founder of Connected Nonprofit, says peer-to-peer fundraisers should use the following e-mail marketing tactics to get their participants to take action:

  1. Set an Example: Your first call-to-action should be to the individual, prompting them to “set an example” by making a self-donation. This crucial step shows that she is putting her money where her mouth is and signals to her peers that she is devoted to your cause.
  2. Engage Them Early: Participants who get their first donation within 30 days after registering for your event are much more likely to hit their fundraising goals. As a result, it’s important not to wait to send them prompts to ask their friends and family.
  3. Offer an Incentive: To generate momentum, offer a fast-start incentive— such as a specially-branded piece of gear or access to an exclusive event — for reaching certain fundraising thresholds. The key is to make sure you add a sense of urgency to the incentive, such as a deadline or by limiting the number of people who qualify.
  4. Get Them on a Team: Lone wolves don’t raise as much money as those who are part of a pack. encourage them to form or join teams to get them more engaged.
  5. Offer a Match: Donors are often motivated by matching gifts. If you’re working with sponsors, consider asking them to offer a matching gift up to a certain threshold. That match can be an especially useful as they ask their friends to contribute.
  6. Make Them Socially Accountable: Have your participants announce on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, periscope, or another social network that they are “in” and looking for support.

Want to learn more about effective P2P email strategies? Join us in Toronto Oct. 19-20 for the first-ever Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada Conference. Mandy O’Neill joins a great list of speakers who will share insights on how to improve your peer-to-peer program.