Philanthropy beat: Cancer Society is ranked top fundraiser

Thousands of Minnesotans walk, run and bike for a cause each year, soliciting donations from friends and family for their efforts. Which charities benefit most?

A new report found that the American Cancer Society ranked high above the rest. Volunteers for its Relay for Life pulled in $380 million in 2013, three times as much as other top fundraisers.

Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure came in second, bringing in $106 million, roughly the same as the third-place event, American Heart Association’s Heart Walk.

Others among the leading fundraisers were the Juvenile Diabetes Association, the March of Dimes and the National MS Society.

The top 30 “peer-to-peer” fundraisers in 2013, compiled by Cause Marketing Forum of New York, showed that older nonprofits and those funding serious medical conditions held some of the most lucrative events.

“Runs, walks and rides are still the 800-pound gorillas of peer-to-peer fundraising,” said David Hessekiel, president of Cause Marketing Forum. “But there’s a tremendous amount of action in all sorts of other types of events. This year’s top 30 include programs in which people shave their heads, grow mustaches, swim … dance and jump rope.”

The list had some surprises. A group called Pelotonia, which raises money for cancer research in Ohio, raised $19 million during its biking event. Bowl for Kids Sake, lead by Big Brothers Big Sisters, scored $21 million. Dancers at the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon whipped up $12 million.

Meanwhile, Relay for Life drew more than 4 million participants nationally and 35,000 in Minnesota, said Todd Peterson, community engagement director at the American Cancer Society in Minnesota. He attributes its popularity to the sheer scope of individuals affected by cancer and the many relay options available. For example, there are 127 relays events in Minnesota this year. Said Peterson: “It’s been a real grass-roots effort.”

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511

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