After two years of cancellations and postponements, it’s not surprising to learn the overall number of fundraising events grew significantly in the last year. Not only did physical events make a big comeback, but virtual events continued to increase in number, and the number of Facebook Challenges skyrocketed. However, despite a 153% year-on-year increase in the number of events, event revenue only increased by 15% overall.

In fact, mature peer-to-peer virtual events of all sizes incurred an average 32% decline in 2022, which presents a considerable challenge for the year ahead. This decline accelerated towards year end, reaching an average of 48% in the months of September to November. To make things even more difficult, many events experienced a 10-15% decline in the number of participants actively fundraising, as well as lower average amounts raised. 

For some mature peer-to-peer events, charities tried to improve the situation by offering merchandise as an incentive to register and to compete with Facebook Challenges. This has only resulted in many people registering to claim free merchandise with no intention of raising funds. 

Another significant issue possibly starting to impact event income is the cost-of-living crisis. There is evidence from several events showing less donations per participant and the average gift amount has decreased too. Is this primarily due to the economic challenges being experienced by the community? It’s too early to tell, but it should serve as an early warning sign for other channels of giving too.

What can we learn from 2022’s success stories?

Despite the decline in revenue from virtual events and potential cost-of-living impacts, a number of charities that launched Facebook Challenges or new peer-to-peer virtual events in 2022 had impressive results. Donor Republic partnered on several successful Facebook Challenges, including helping to raise over $200,000 for Smiling Mind (through the Raisely Facebook Challenge platform) for their first-ever fundraising initiative. 

 Another success story was CMRI’s pilot Skipping Challenge as part of the Jeans for Genes campaign, which saw more than $300,000 raised using the Funraisin Facebook Challenge functionality. The campaign acquisition involved an AB test offering either a free skipping rope or a free downloadable skipping training plan and progress calendar. Incredibly, the training plan and calendar delivered a better return on investment than a free skipping rope, with a final cost per acquisition for the training plan of $13 per fundraiser vs $14 per fundraiser for those that were recruited via the free skipping rope creatives.

There were two key lessons learned from the many Facebook Challenges we partnered on throughout the year. Firstly, let’s reduce the focus on merchandise to recruit participants, as it’s clearly had a negative impact on the sector. Secondly, charities need to focus on improved functionality, gamification and journey creation to help break through existing revenue barriers. Our team is currently experimenting with Messenger journeys, dollar matches and increasing SMS touchpoints to help drive higher levels of fundraising during challenges.

Where will growth be found in 2023? 

Merchandise Test if you need merchandise for acquisition. Don’t assume you will as you may be better off financially without it. 

Journeys Make your participant feel they are part of something bigger, excite them, demonstrate need and clearly show the impact their support can have. Explore new channels to engage, including SMS and Messenger.

Gamification Ensure you’ve considered what gamification should be built into the website, journey, incentives and/or tiers to drive increased fundraising. 

Facebook Challenges If you haven’t should you do one? It probably depends on your cause type and awareness of your brand as to how successful it can be. But for most it’s worth a test as the cost to entry is low. 

Physical events Increase the focus on relationship management to complement automated journeys. Participants truly value the human touch and support, and this will increase retention and fundraising. 

Success will come when we work together

Yes, there are significant challenges facing all of us in the events space. To some degree, 2023 will be the return to a new normal post Covid lockdowns. Costs are up while revenue and fundraising activations are down. Alongside that, the cost-of-living crisis may continue to impact the spending and giving power of Aussies for the remainder of 2023 and beyond. 

Despite the obstacles, I believe fundraising events can continue to be a highly successful revenue channel, as long as we work together, learn from each other along the way and keep being creative and inventive in our engagement with the community.

The team at Donor Republic will keep you updated each month on LinkedIn and look forward to helping you achieve success in the months and years ahead. 

Marcus co-founded Donor Republic in 2016 and it has since grown to be one of the most sought after fundraising creative agencies in Australia and New Zealand. Donor Republic currently supports over 84 great organisations and their fundraising, marketing and campaigning efforts. 

In May, Marcus will be presenting a session on Charity Event Trends and a masterclass on Amazing Event Stewardship (with the FIA award-winning Harry Perkins Institute for Medical Research) at Digi.Raise + EventRaise 2023