What we’ve learned about mass participation events in 2021

Last week we published the Massive Top 25, our latest report on mass participation fundraising events in 2021.

Not surprising, 2021 was a much more positive year than 2020 with income from the Top 25 mass participation events increasing by 60%. With the ease in Covid restrictions across the country, some physical events returned in the latter half of the year and helped boost total income.

Whilst income is still down from pre-Covid income of £143M in 2019, we are starting to see positive and steady recovery with more than £119.5M raised in 2021.

So what did we learn from the mass participation events in 2021?

In-person events are making a comeback

Despite restrictions on in-person events only being lifted in the second half of the year, meaning some events were still cancelled or postponed and others run with reduced capacity, their return had a significant impact on the Top 25.

The higher average value seen from these events meant that they accounted for more than half of the income generated by the Top 25.

With no Covid restrictions in 2022, we’re expecting next year’s list to show an even stronger return to in-person events.

However, whilst in-person events may be returning, there’s still an appetite for virtual challenges.

Facebook Challenges are on the rise

In last year’s report, only one Facebook Challenge made the Top 25. This year there are four raising a total of more than £12.5M.

Two significant successes were Maggie’s Run 50 Miles Challenge which raised £6.9M, and Dementia UK’s March Dog Walking Challenge which raised £2.2M from their event. These all demonstrate how successful Facebook fundraisers can be when delivered well, and how fast this market moves and continues to do so.

Social connection is desired

After a year of multiple lockdowns and strict rules, 2021 was the year that people craved connection. Events that enabled people to get outdoors and take part in something together did particularly well.

Walking events performed best and accounted for 40% of the total income raised. Cancer Research UK’s Walk all over Cancer virtual walking challenge moved from the number 12 spot in 2020 to the number 4 spot in 2021 – and raised £10.4M compared to £2.1M the previous year. An increase of almost 400%!

Innovation is key

Over the 9 years that we have produced The massive Top 25 report, one thing is constant – and that’s change! We see change, year on year, and charities need to innovate in order to stay relevant. This year saw 12 events fall out of last year’s list, which is the highest ever.

We’ve already seen so much change in the last year and with the cost of living crisis in 2022, charities will once again need to adapt and pivot. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that the sector is adaptable and resilient.

What does 2022 hold?

The challenges we’ve faced in the last two years are not over yet. But there are very positive signs of growth, with every event in the Top 25 this year raising over £1M – the first time ever in the history of this list.

Charities will still need to work hard to recruit new participants, retain loyal ones and maintain the value of donations.

People are still craving interaction and connection so in 2022, events that offer people a social element and the opportunity to come together for a good cause, will do well.

About us:

We’ve been producing The Massive Top 25 since 2013, to help charities benchmark their own events as well as find inspiration and insight.

As mass participation specialists, we offer a full suite of agency services focused entirely on, and optimised for, mass participation – from event design to development and delivery.

From bespoke research to campaign strategy, product innovation to project management support – we have the expertise and specialist skills to support your team at each step.

Get in touch if you need any support with developing your campaigns now, or in the future.

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