March 18, 2011

'Thon' Fund-Raising Events Stem Losses

Twenty of the top 30 fund-raising races, walks, and other endurance events increased donations last year, a big change from 2009 when 20 such events lost money, according to the Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council's fifth annual study.

Over all, the 30 fund-raising events produced $1.65-billion in revenue in 2010. That was an increase of 1.6 percent, or $25.9-million, from the year before.

In 2009 the events cumulatively suffered an 8.5-percent decrease, according to the council, a membership organization for nonprofits, suppliers, and other groups involved in putting on the events. "The industry really took a beating during the economic downturn," says David Hessekiel, the council's president.

Two major factors played a role in last year's positive results. The economy became more stable so more people participated in events, and organizations cut out events that were ineffective or didn't generate much money, says Mr. Hessekiel.

"There was an increase of a quarter of a million people at the same time that events were reduced by close to 1,000 events" held locally, he says.

How efficient were these events at raising money for charity? Mr. Hessekiel says the council doesn't have data on the total costs of these events, saying they are difficult to gather.

The top five fund-raising events in 2010 by revenue were:

  1. Relay for Life (American Cancer Society), which generated $416.5-million, a 0.1-percent decrease from 2009
  2. Race for the Cure (Susan G. Komen for the Cure), which generated $121.9-million, a 1.3-percent increase from 2009
  3. March for Babies (March of Dimes), which generated $102.3-million, a 2.3-percent increase from 2009
  4. Team in Training (Leukemia & Lymphoma Society), which generated $97-million, a 2-percent decrease from 2009
  5. Start! Heart Walk (American Heart Association), which generated $90.3-million, a 0.2-percent decrease from 2009