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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Critical mass: what’s the future for our biggest fundraisers?

This opinion piece is over 5 years old

John Tasker says the mass fundraising market is still healthy – but disruption and innovation are essential

At Massive we’ve been publishing our survey of the UK’s 25 biggest charity mass participation fundraising events for five years. Mostly we’ve told a story of increasing income and participation, but this year we reported significant falls for the market leaders.

As a result, some are asking if this marks the start of a downturn in fundraising from mass participation events, and whether the public is losing its appetite. I would suggest neither – and that once you look beyond the headline figures, there is a more encouraging and optimistic story.

While other events have risen up and down the table, CRUK’s Race for Life and Macmillan’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning have remained in first and second place respectively for five years – at their peak accounting for more than 55% of income from the top 25.

John Tasker

Particularly interesting are innovations around how to deliver established event concepts in new and exciting ways and here Scotland leads the way

John Tasker

So, when income falls by 20% for Race and £2m for Coffee Morning, these have a significant effect on total figures - but outside of these there is strong growth, with the remaining 23 events growing the amount raised by more than 13%.

Both Race and Coffee Morning are more than 20 years old and have delivered for years, but the audience is not endless.

Similarly, the market does not stand still, where once a 5km run was unique now they are ubiquitous. CRUK has recognised this and has diversified, but the need for reinvention does not go away.

Whether the much smaller fall for Coffee Morning is the early signs of decline is still to be seen.

Whatever the reasons for the dip in the market leaders’ performance, it gives encouragement to those hoping to take their place. Charity events are no different to other markets, so disruption will come.

This year we saw more new events entering the top 25. Particularly interesting are innovations around how to deliver established event concepts in new and exciting ways and here Scotland leads the way.

This includes new models of partnership like that pioneered by Kiltwalk and The Hunter Foundation, revamping and broadening the scope of an excellent proposition that was in danger of going into terminal decline.

Similarly, Social Bite’s approach to the firmly established sleep out concept demonstrates the power of new thinking to cut through the clutter.

So, are we really seeing the decline of mass participation events? I would suggest the opposite.

Technology, markets and social norms change but we do not. Humans are social animals. Gathering to share experiences has always been a basic human need.

If you are able to meet that need and communicate it in an engaging way, the demand will always be there.

So is it time for new ideas? I would say yes.

Whether you are looking to reinvigorate an existing campaign, stay ahead of the competition or challenge and disrupt, it is undoubtedly time for new ideas, but then I would suggest that has always been the case - and for those that want to make a difference it always will be.