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Thon Fundraising Tops $1.6 billion in 2009

Resource Center - Foundation

(March 9, 2010) Exercising for a good cause retained its popularity in 2009, but the amount raised by people running, walking or cycling in "thons" fell by 7.6 percent due to the economic downturn, according to the Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council.

The top thirty "thon" fundraising programs generated more than $1.62 billion in gross revenue for charity last year, down from $1.76 billion in 2008, the council's fourth annual "Run Walk Ride Thirty" study reports. The collective $133.9 million drop was the first overall decrease in revenue ever recorded by the company.

"Getting people to take part in fundraising runs, walks and rides was not a major problem in 2009, but many participants found it more difficult to raise as much as they had in the past," said RWRFC president David Hessekiel. "Due to the economic downturn many people had to reduce the amount they gave to friends or colleagues participating in thons," he said. Nearly 11.3 million people participated in the top thirty programs last year.

Twenty of the top thirty programs experienced lower revenue in 2009, according to the survey, a summary of which can be found on

The top five programs by total revenue in 2009 were:

  • $405.0 million (-5.8%) - Relay for Life (American Cancer Society*)
  • $120.3 million (+6.3%) - Race for the Cure (Susan G. Komen for the Cure)
  • $100.0 million (-13.0%) - March for Babies (March of Dimes)
  • $100.0 million (-6.5%) - Start! Heart Walk  (American Heart Association)
  • $98.9 million (-21.1%) - Team in Training (Leukemia & Lymphoma Society)

*RWRFC estimate. American Cancer Society did not release 2009 data for Relay for Life.

It took gross revenue of $7.2 million for The Rodman Ride for Kids to snag the 30th spot on the 2009 list, a position the Massachusetts-based bicycle ride held in 2008 with $6.3 million in revenue. "Most of the growth we saw in 2009 occurred among smaller programs that either adopted enhanced marketing and management techniques or expanded to new markets," said Hessekiel.

Projections solicited from program leaders indicate that most expect their revenue to be flat or slightly up in 2010.

The Run Walk Ride Thirty is based on survey responses from the professionals who manage major athletic event fundraising programs. If a nonprofit does not participate, the council seeks out public information to obtain key statistics. If public information is not available, the group estimates performance by applying the median gross revenue growth figure among reporting groups.

A study summary is available at

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