Thon Fundraising Continued Growth in 2011

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Thon Fundraising Continued Growth in 2011

Charity survey shows revenue for top 30 programs up 2.46% to nearly $1.7 billion
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Thon fundraising grew 2.46% in 2011 according to Run Walk Ride 30 Study #runwalkride
Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - 1:00pm

CAMPAIGN: 2011 Run Walk Ride 30 Study Results

CONTENT: Press Release

(3BL Media / theCSRfeed) Atlanta - March 7, 2012 - Exercising for a good cause continued to grow in popularity and in the sums it raises for charity in 2011, according to figures revealed at the annual conference of the Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council.    

The top thirty “thon” fundraising programs generated $1.69 billion in gross revenue for charity last year, up $40.8 million or 2.46% from 2010 levels and the second straight year of fundraising growth, the council’s sixth annual “Run Walk Ride Thirty” study reports.

Twenty-three of the top 30 programs saw their dollars raised climb in 2011.  That’s a sharp contrast to the depths of the recession in 2009 when 20 groups saw revenue shrink and contributions to the top 30 programs were down by 7.6%, (A detailed study summary is available at

Programs in the top 30 vary from casual walks that don’t require participants to fundraise to endurance and multi-day programs in which participants commit to raising hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Reflecting the country’s continuing economic challenges, the most dramatic declines were experienced by programs with high fundraising commitments.   For example, the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer series of two-day, long-distance walks reported a $10 million revenue decline and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training marathon, cycling and triathlon program was down by almost $9.5 million.

“In this recessionary environment it’s understandable that some people would be  reluctant to commit to raising large amounts of money,” said David Hessekiel, president of the Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council.   “As the economy bounces back, I expect those programs will too.”

Overall participation in “thon fundraising” programs rose by 201,000 (1.76%) to 11.6 million in 2011, the study showed. 

In a sign that nonprofits are manage their event series more tightly, the number of events in the top 30 decreased by 932 (2.5%) to 36,422 in 2011.   “By culling underperforming events from their schedules, nonprofits are focusing on maximizing their return on investment on the events that remain,” said Hessekiel

The top ten programs by total gross revenue in 2011 were:

1  $415.0 million             (-0.4%)    Relay for Life                                  American Cancer Society

2   $131.3 million            (+7.7%)   Race for the Cure                            Susan G. Komen for the Cure

3   $105.0 million            (+2.6%)   March for Babies                              March of Dimes

4   $  99.1 million            (+9.7%)   Heart Walk                                     American Heart Association

5   $  87.5 million           (-9.8%)  Team in Training                                 Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

6   $  85.7 million            (-0.4%)   Walk to Cure Diabetes                      Juvenile Diabetes Research Fndn

7   $  84.4 million            (-5.4%)  Susan G. Komen 3-Day                       Susan G. Komen for the Cure

8   $  82.4 million            (-0.8%)   Bike MS                                           National MS Society

9   $  61.4 million            (+7.0%)  Jump Rope for Heart                         American Heart Association

10 $  61.0 million            (+1.7%)  Making Strides Against Breast Cancer    American Cancer Society

“The top ten demonstrate the diversity in this field,” said Hessekiel.   “With short and long walks, a run series, a cycling event, a relay, endurance training and even a school-based jump rope program, thon fundraising offers healthy ways to help others for everyone from the couch potato to the driven athlete.” said Hessekiel.   

It took gross revenue of $9.0 million for the Rodman Ride for Kids to snag the 30th spot on the 2011 list.

Looking ahead, survey respondents forecast a median revenue growth figure of 10.3% in 2012.   “This is probably overly optimistic, but it is a good sign that the field should experience increased growth,” said Hessekiel, who noted that a year ago respondents forecast a 6% increase in 2011, more than twice the actual top 30 growth rate of 2.46%.

The Run Walk Ride Thirty is based on survey responses from the professionals who manage major athletic event fundraising programs.  

A study summary is available at .  A CD with extensive survey data is available for purchase on the group’s website and is provided at no cost to dues-paying RWRFC members.

For further information, contact the council at (914) 921-3914 or