Since 2013, the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum has surveyed Canadian nonprofits that manage peer-to-peer campaigns to provide an annual ranking of the 30 largest programs. The survey has become an important benchmarking tool for charities and a measure of industry trends.
Peer-to-peer fundraising revenues at Canadian nonprofits took a massive hit in 2020 due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the annual survey of top campaigns by the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum.
Fundraising revenues for the 30 largest Canadian programs dropped 43.5 percent, or $103 million, to $133.5 million.
This decline represented the largest single-year drop in the survey’s history. It also marked the first time that revenues for the top 30 programs failed to top $200 million. In 2019, the top 30 programs collectively raised more than $236.5 million.
“COVID-19 created a perfect storm for Canadian peer-to-peer programs, especially those that rely on in-person events,” said Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum President David Hessekiel. “Nonprofits across Canada were forced to scrap long-planned events and move quickly to stand up and stage virtual replacements.”
Peer-to-peer fundraising is the practice of having a nonprofit’s supporters take part in an activity such as a walk, bike ride, or video gaming challenge and reach out to their friends, family members, colleagues and followers for donations.
Changes at the top
The latest P2P Thirty survey shows the severity of the pandemic on peer-to-peer programs across Canada.
Only four of the 30 campaigns that appear in this year’s rankings reported increased revenues in 2020. The other 26 programs reported declines — and for many, the drop was steep.
The shock waves to the industry caused by COVID-19 created a major shakeup at the top of the P2P Thirty rankings, as Movember Canada now holds the title of Canada’s largest peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.
Movember moved into the top spot after posting an extraordinary increase in revenues, despite the pandemic. Its campaign raised more than $24.1 million in 2020, up 21.1 percent from $19.9 million in 2019.
The campaign — which centers on men growing mustaches and beards to help raise money for men’s causes, including prostate and testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention — has seen its fundraising totals increase significantly since 2017, when it raised $15.5 million.
Todd Minerson, Movember’s country director for Canada, said the organization leaned heavily into men’s mental health in the face of COVID-19 — serving as a source of information and support and listening to supporters. It also launched a do-it-yourself platform called Mo Your Own Way, which provided fundraisers with new ways to create their own fundraising challenges.
“Any of the success from our Movember Campaign is entirely due to the dedication, creativity and commitment of our Mo community,” Minerson said. “Almost 68,000 Canadians registered to Grow, Move or Mo Your Own Way to raise funds and awareness for men’s health. We asked our Mo community to step up, and they did, big time.”
Movember replaces the Ride to Conquer Cancer program as the top program in the survey. The ride had topped the list each year since 2014, when its fundraising revenues topped $42 million.
However, it was among the programs most negatively impacted by the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Its revenues totaled $9.1 million in 2020, down nearly 76.7 percent from the previous year. In turn, it dropped to No. 5 on this year’s list.
While traditional peer-to-peer programs struggled across the board, a small number of programs experienced significant growth in 2020.
In addition to Movember, SickKids Foundation’s Great Cycle Challenge more than doubled its revenues from $4.5 million in 2019 to nearly $9.5 million — making it North America’s fastest-growing program in 2020. The Great Cycle Challenge’s revenue increase — which was driven by the fact that the already virtual campaign added more than 29,600 new participants — helped it vault from No. 16 in 2019 to No. 3 on the list in 2020.
Blue Sea Philanthropy’s Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) was another big mover, jumping from No. 12 in 2019 to No. 6 in 2020 on the back of a 7.2 percent revenue increase. CNOY — held annually in February — had the benefit of taking place prior to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A second Blue Sea program, Ride for Refuge, also outpaced many of its large program peers. The ride’s revenues dropped by just 13.1 percent to $2.2 million.
Brian Carney, Blue Sea’s Chief Executive Officer, said the Ride outpaced many of its peers, in part, because it made an early decision to transition to a virtual campaign.
“What worked before COVID has worked during COVID — relationships, personal asks, and tying your compelling mission to every aspect of your recruitment process,” Carney said. “Nothing, not even a pandemic, need ever get between you and your supporters.”
New survey results: Physical, virtual or hybrid next spring?
As the fall peer-to-peer fundraising season winds down, organizations are beginning to take steps to map out their spring 2021 plans in the face of a deadly pandemic that is showing no signs of easing up.
A new survey of nearly 100 Canadian and U.S. nonprofits by the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum finds that more than half of groups that manage spring campaigns have already decided what form they will take.
Not surprisingly, most of the organizations that have made decisions are opting to avoid in person gatherings.
Nearly half reported that they are planning to hold virtual campaigns.
Another one in four said they planned to host hybrid programs, which combine elements of in-person and virtual events.
And some, such as Junior Achievement, say they are giving local chapters the opportunity to make decisions based on circumstances in their communities or are moving their spring campaigns to a later date, with the hope that they can safely host in-person events in the summer or fall.
Of the 48 percent that have not yet decided, half expect to commit by the end of this year while the rest planned to wait until 2021.
The takeaway is clear: in spite of uncertainty about pandemic restrictions in 2021, nonprofits want to make programming decisions early enough to filed strong programs than they were able to produce this year.
“This spring, the coronavirus forced almost every organization to scrap their long-planned events and create virtualized campaigns on the fly,” said David Hessekiel, president of the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum. “It’s clear based on this latest research that most groups are taking active steps to avoid facing the same fate in 2021. Rather than waiting, they’re making decisions now so they can begin communicating with their supporters and get a jump start on fundraising.”
Top 10 List: Canadian Programs by Total Gross Revenue in 2020
1. Movember Canada– Movember Canada – $24.1 million (+13.7%)
2. The Terry Fox Run– The Terry Fox Foundation – $13.5 million (-35.8%)
3. Great Cycle Challenge– SickKids Foundation – $9.5 million (+109.5%)
4. CIBC Run for the Cure– Canadian Cancer Society – $9.4 million (-43.7%)
5. The Ride to Conquer Cancer– Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation and three other Canadian cancer centers – $9.1 million (-77.7%)
6. Coldest Night of the Year– Blue Sea Philanthropy – $6.3 million (+7.2%)
7. World Partnership Walk– Aga Khan Foundation – $5.2 million (-32.4%)
8. Light the Night– Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada — $5.1 million (-22.3%)
9. IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s– Alzheimer Society of Canada – $5.0 million (-19.2%)
10. Relay for Life– Canadian Cancer Society – $5.0 million (-78.4%)