South Africa’s favourite mass-participation events are back, and fundraisers are seizing the day to support their favourite charities. Who doesn’t love a good fund-race?
But has fundraising recovered from a bruising bout with COVID-19? During the last two years, the need for charitable relief spiked to untold heights, events went virtual (at best) to salvage matters, corporate and household budgets were limited to covering the bare necessities, and in-person fundraising was very much a no-no.
And just as importantly, will fundraising in 2022 fall back on the old pre-2020 ways, or has the growth of online fundraising during the pandemic changed philanthropy forever?
Events return at last
Mass participation events, many of which had to be cancelled during the pandemic, are now back in a big way – and, as before the pandemic, participants are using them to fundraise for their favourite charities. Over the Easter weekend, runners in the Totalsports Two Oceans Half Marathon and Two Oceans Ultra Marathon raised over R400 000 for dozens of SA charities. A few weeks earlier, participants in the 2022 Absa Cape Epic cycle race raised more than R360 000.
Overseas as well, runners, riders, swimmers and skiers are flocking back to events after an enforced absence. The 126th Boston Marathon held in April welcomed back a full field of competitors for the first time since 2019. More than 2 100 fundraisers collectively raised $35.2 million, rivalling the amounts raised before COVID-19.
Back to in-person-only events
With event fundraising back in full swing, it would be easy to think that the charity sector has just gone back to its pre-pandemic normal – but happily that is not the case, says Jannie Smith, Regional Manager: Sub-Saharan Africa at online fundraising platform GivenGain. Online fundraising came into its own over the last two years as charity professionals, fundraisers and donors worked to keep the giving going at a time of extreme need, and the lessons they learned have changed philanthropy forever.
“It’s brilliant to see in-person events making such a strong comeback,” says Smith. “Races like the Totalsports Two Oceans Marathon inspire so many people to fundraise and donate to charity, and we can’t wait to help more great South African events enable participant fundraising.”
Growth in virtual-first events
But while traditional in-person events are now getting back to full in-person capacity, GivenGain has also seen the growth of virtual-first events, many of which have a fundraising element, as their organisers try to broaden their appeal to the next generation of participants.
“Charities have also been setting up their own virtual and online events during the pandemic to maintain an income stream,” Jannie says.
The case for coexistence
During the COVID-19 pandemic, fundraisers and charities turned to online fundraising to meet increased need. By the summer of 2020, activity on GivenGain had climbed by more than 60% year-on-year. The platform’s own Let the Kindness Continue initiative, which brought together charities affected by the coronavirus crisis, reached fundraisers and donors in 97 countries and raised over R6.7 million – despite the cancellation of almost all in-person events.
The good news is that, while many charities and fundraisers are again embracing in-person events, many others are still enjoying the advantages of virtual. In May 2022, the South African Guide Dogs Association for the Blind called on supporters to walk 100 000 steps in a week, track their progress online and ask family and friends to sponsor them. Their event has raised over R125 000, with individual fundraisers, teams and donors from eight countries taking part.
Meanwhile, outdoor supply store and event organiser Gone Outdoor Supply Co has rebranded its regular Gone2Gone trail run into a virtual fundraising event, Gone4Good. Participants have the whole of July to run the 21km trail in Constantia, Cape Town on their own schedule, with the goal of raising 1 000 000 for grassroots environmental charities.
Fundraising for everyone
In other great developments for online fundraising, GivenGain has integrated fundraising with online gaming, opening up yet another mass participation virtual channel.
GivenGain has been at the forefront of enabling the growth of South Africa’s #GameForGood movement, providing tools that allow gamers to raise funds for their favourite charities while streaming their gameplay to an online audience viewing or playing and donating from home. In this way, journalist and streamer Grant Hinds raised over R41,000 for homelessness charity New Hope SA during his birthday fundraiser last year. This year he’s looking to repeat the feat with another birthday live stream in support of the work of the South African Guide Dogs Association for the Blind.
But it’s not just about gaming. GivenGain’s #GivingFromHome contest early in the pandemic called on people around the world to share how they were supporting their favourite charities during lockdown. The responses showed that fundraisers could use any activity they were passionate about to raise money, from home workouts to drawing to sharing videos of their dogs.
“With each new trial, humanity becomes more aware of the need to be involved in the welfare of our neighbours,” says Jannie Smith. “Now that big events are back, charities are celebrating the return of traditional fundraising, but they’re also more aware than ever of the power of virtual. People now have more opportunities than ever to make a difference, and that can only be a good thing.”