If you are a person of a certain age, you may recall being lined up in rows in your elementary-school cafeteria and being instructed to jump rope as fast as your light-up Keds could carry you.
It was for people’s hearts, you were told.
Jump Rope for Heart, as it was known, is now called Kids Heart Challenge, put on by the American Heart Association. And there’s evidence that the heyday of it and other charity fundraising events is in the past.
According to data from the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum, the organization that tracks walkathon-style events, revenue for the 30 biggest such events is down 6.7 percent overall since 2016, and participation is down 14 percent. The forum’s president, David Hessekiel, says this latest decline follows a years-long slump. The “high-water mark” for these types of events was around 2007. After that, the economic recession put a dent in charitable giving in general, and the popularity of fundraising events never fully recovered. (When asked about this downward trend, Mindy Roewe Lyman, the vice president of field campaigns for the American Heart Association, said, “Any declines we’ve seen are leveling off.”)
The few events that have bucked this trend are, among other qualities, linked to diseases that are growing in prevalence. The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s grew by 8 percent in the past year, potentially because Alzheimer’s is affecting more families.
But elsewhere, the toll has been steep: The American Cancer Society became so reliant on charity walks such as Relay for Life that the organization has suffered severe revenue losses lately. “Our declines were much more pronounced than some other organizations,” a spokesperson for the organization recently told The New York Times. “We have been reengineering and diversifying our revenue portfolio.” This diversification has included fundraising partnerships with controversial organizations such as Herbalife International, the maker of supplements, sparking the resignation of a top official earlier this month.