As more and more companies have discovered the upside to employee volunteerism and workplace giving campaigns—namely, boosts in employee morale and overall engagement—many have incorporated traditional peer-to-peer fundraising events like walk-a-thons and 24-hour relays to get workers enthused and involved with a charitable cause. But new research shows that public sentiment on these types of events has changed, and if companies still want to get their employees involved, they have to change too.

The latest data about peer-to-peer fundraising shows that large events—the largest of which attract supporters to numerous local events held concurrently across the country and bring in tens of millions of dollars in donations—have lost favor, while participation in smaller, novel events has risen. According to David Hessekiel, president of the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum, this shift is due largely to the availability of easy and effective organizational and marketing tools that have enabled supporters to create “do it yourself” campaigns that raise funds for the same organizations, but through different means. These smaller events often capitalize on unique activities—for example, growing a beard, shaving one’s head or enduring some sort of extreme physical challenge—that catch on with the younger donor groups, at the expense of the staid, traditional campaigns.

Given that some of the larger campaigns are still logging solid growth rates—the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night Walk were standouts—there hasn’t been a broad-based turn away from P2P campaigns more generally, he said. But the younger folks who are just starting out on their philanthropic journeys are looking for something outside of the traditional walks, jogs and runs.

“Millions of people still participate in walks,” he said, “but organizations need to work harder and smarter to produce programs that will grow and prosper.”

It has put the onus on nonprofits to create and constantly revitalize their programs to retain existing participants and attract new ones.

“Experience-hungry people may flock to exciting new concepts (e.g., spinning, obstacle runs, head shaving), but the longevity of any peer-to-peer program depends on getting participants emotionally involved,” he said.

Hessekiel also noted that some program areas, by their very nature, are better suited to success in the P2P arena than others.

“It has long been the case that most health-related issues have great potential to tap the power of peer-to-peer fundraising because the personal stories of patients, their families or friends lead to highly compelling appeals. There are successful social service (CROP Hunger Walk, Chef’s Cycle) and environmental programs (Climate Ride), but they are the exception, not the rule,” he said.

For corporate giving programs, there’s a good chance your participation rates are already reflecting these changes. If your workers aren’t showing up to the fundraising walk-a-thons that have seen success in the past, don’t fret too much—it’s probably not an overall rejection of the concept. They are probably just wanting something new and different to take part in. And with all of the new campaigns out there offering everything from the Ice Bucket Challenge to hair-growing contests, it’s likely you’ll be able to find something that piques their interest.

For more information about peer-to-peer fundraising, visit