Virtual fundraisers raised more this year than in 2020, report finds

08 Dec 2021 News

Virtual fundraisers raised more this year than they did in 2020, and the number of events raising £1m doubled, a new report has found. 

New research from Massive and JustGiving combined data from JustGiving and 150 virtual campaigns for The Virtual Fundraising Monitor 2021. They compared this with the same number of events and campaigns from 2020. 

The research found that almost half of the events surveyed raised £100,000 in 2021, which is double the number that reached this milestone in the previous year. The number of events raising £1m also doubled. 

Like last year, physical activities still dominated virtual events and made up 87% of the fundraisers. Running and walking challenges remained the most popular; they made up 57% of the events studied and accounted for 73% of the funds raised. 

Some 44% of the campaigns studied raised over £100,000. The median figure raised was £45,000.

Virtual fundraisers have shorter lifecycles

Less than a third of this year’s campaigns were repeated from 2020. Over half of the campaigns (54%) had not been done before this year, and seven out of the 10 most successful events surveyed were completely new. An example of a new virtual fundraiser was Dementia UK’s March Dog Walking Challenge, which raised over £2m for the charity. 

However, 2020’s top five events saw income fall by 40% on average. 

The report says: “This suggests that when it comes to virtual events people seem less committed to repeating experiences than they do for physical events, trying things out then looking for the next new experience. This echo’s our findings from other, pre-Covid, research, which showed digital mass participation campaigns often having shorter lifecycles than their physical counterparts.”

Lockdown-specific activities are virtually gone

Lockdown-specific activities like stair challenges have vanished completely, the report concluded.

Of those surveyed that ran physical events previously, 93% expected to reintroduce their physical events next year. 

However, the report found that the return of real-life events this year had not impacted on the success of virtual campaigns. The average number of people registering for virtual events in the survey has more than tripled, in fact, to an average of almost 3,000 per event.

John Tasker, partner at Massive, said: “We’re seeing more people taking part in virtual events but not seeing any significant growth in levels of fundraising, so the growth we’re seeing appears to be driven by volume as opposed to value and we’ve seen a corresponding increase in marketing spend to drive that volume.”  

Four-fifths of the campaigns surveyed are optimistic about the year ahead. Yet only 39% forecasted a growth in participants for virtual events. 71% expected to see flat or falling fundraising values and return rates. 

The report predicts that next year more charities will blend in-person and virtual events. 

Virtual events are here to stay

Sally Falvey, head of retention marketing at JustGiving, said: “The report echoes what we’ve seen on JustGiving this year – virtual events are no longer simply the understudy for physical events and have unique value in attracting new and diverse audiences to good causes.”

Clare Salter, community fundraising manager at Motor Neurone Disease Association, agreed: “Virtual events aren’t just a one off, we feel confident that a blended approach between virtual and real-life physical events will continue for the next couple of years.”

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