trends in mass participation events fundraising

trends in mass participation events fundraising


massive were asked to speak at the Institute of Fundraising’s Events Fundraising Conference about trends in mass participation events over the past 12 months.

This post covers what we shared and is based on our annual events market insight reports, the massive top 25 and the sports fundraising monitor.





The events market is big (and growing)
We estimate the events fundraising market in 2015 was worth more than £750m. Sports events alone grew fundraised income by 6% in the 12 months to the end of 2015. If you’re looking for bigger numbers Just Giving and Eventbrite reportedly saw a 700% increase in the number of fundraising events using their platform from 2012 to 2016.

This is good news for fundraisers. It means there is a greater opportunity and appetite for fundraising from events. However, a large increase in the number events means it can be harder to pick the best events to invest in. If you own an event, it means keeping ahead is getting harder.

Last year we saw an increase in the number of events not selling out. This raises interesting questions around how best to monetise event places in 3rd party events that don’t reach capacity.


Running is king (still)
In terms of sports activities, running dominates the market. 18 of the 25 biggest sports fundraising events are runs. They deliver 65% of the fundraised income we see from sports events. This situation does not look like changing. We have seen a faster rise in income from running events that almost every other type of sporting activity in the last 12 months.


Fundraising InnovationMud matters
Everyone knows MOB events are one of the most significant new event categories in years. Amongst the charities we spoke to, many saw income from MOB events grow faster than any other event activity in their portfolio. We ’ve seen the number of events increase and an 18% uplift in the number of people fundraising from these events. There has been an uplift in average values, putting them on a par with levels of fundraising from half marathons.

By our calculations Tough Mudder now have two events amongst the biggest 25 sports fundraising events in the UK. We also know more than 50% of Race for Life participants choose the mud run variant of the event over the traditional 5k version last year. So mud really does matter.


Not all sports are growing
Away from running, we’ve seen triathlon income slipping.  Some major triathlon events have not sold out. Guaranteed places have gone unused and the number and value of fundraisers has declined. The picture is also less rosy for cycling. Here we have seen the number of fundraisers growing by a modest amount but some charity owned events have seen falls in participation of up to 40%.

We think this decline is being driven by an oversupply of cycling events with the uplift in the number events not being matched by increases in the number of fundraising cyclists.



Overall we’re seeing a more crowded market for events with greater competition for fundraising participants. As a result, we’re seeing

The strong getting stronger
The major players are all using their profile, data and resources to strengthen their positions as the biggest and most successful. We have seen the biggest 3rd party events all grow. As have the biggest charity owned mass participation events. Race for Life and Macmillan’s Coffee Morning now account for 75% of the income of 25 biggest charity owned mass participation events (compared to 65% three years ago).

Outside the biggest events people are having to work harder to fill their events. Whilst some are increasing marketing spend, for many investing more and accepting a lower ROI isn’t an option. As a result we are seeing two approaches emerge.


Digital Fundraising EventsA focus on innovation
Creating new events and campaign formats that stand out or move into less crowded territory. This can involve taking an established event in a new direction (Race for Life Hike or Marathon), becoming more extreme, using humour (Terrence Higgins Trust’s Toss Off), using shock (London Zoo’s Streak for Tigers) or experimenting with new event formats BHF’s (My Marathon).  This approach clearly works but is not without risk.

With something new there is a higher risk of failure or that the novelty effect may mean events and campaigns have shorter shelf lives.



Slow and Steady
Building an event around the cause and a charity’s core supporters. This approach can take longer to scale but focusing on the cause reduces the risk of ideas being stolen and seems to provide more sustainable growth and higher value supporters.

The focus on cause means there is less pressure to come up with something new. Neither walking (Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walk) swimming (Tommy’s Splashathon) or a 5km run (GOSH Race for the Kids) could ever be described as untested. Yet these three events were the fastest growing charity owned mass participation events we saw in our survey last year.


So undoubtedly the market is becoming increasingly crowded. That can make things harder, but there is good evidence of an increased desire to take part in fundraising events and more opportunities than ever before.
As the market changes there are deals to be done, new partnerships to be made.

For those who are creative, who know the market and who can motivate people through their cause and the work they do, the future looks bright.