Outdoor Fitness Fundraisers

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Outdoor Fitness Fundraisers

Holistically, this project provides insights surrounding both the fitness levels and the charitable habits of its residents on a state-by-state basis in the United States. An extensive project spreadsheet has been created as a partner to the research. The spreadsheet is designed to be sorted in multiple ways in order to better evaluate locations as to their viability in planning outdoor fitness fundraising activities.

Though not specifically reviewed within the scope of this project, an ancillary resource which provides data on cities, rather than states, has been included. It is assumed that this data will be additionally helpful in planning locations within each state as there are included metrics for example which provide the proximity of park space within these areas.

To assess the popular fitness activities in each state, data from Instagram searches within each state has been provided. Climatological averages have been included for temperature and annual precipitation.

The project spreadsheet is designed to be evaluated based on the needs for individual fundraising efforts. As there are far too many scenarios to evaluate, examples of the best cities and times for potential events have been provided based on the data, but the project spreadsheet should assist in assessing scenarios that are not covered in this report.

For example, Hawaii, Massachusetts, California, and Vermont have the lowest obesity rates in the country and each rank well on the healthiest states and well-being lists. These would likely be good states in which people who already are interested in fitness could be targeted. Crossfit and Yoga are popular activities in these states and the summer months likely provide the most advantageous weather conditions for an outdoor event.

Alternatively, if a strength training challenge is being considered then the top 5 states to consider might be California, Florida, New York, Texas, and Illinois based on the prevalence of Instagram mentions.

A yoga event might be incredibly popular in California, Florida, New York, Texas, and New Jersey but because of the differences in the climates, it might be wise to schedule these at different times in each state. However, scheduling in these states could be impacted by the fact that all rank near the bottom in terms of percentages of residents who volunteer or give time to charity.


Initially guided by research done by Exercise.com (and noted in the early findings), additional and/or more current data has been collected to better outline the fitness habits within each state. These findings can be seen holistically in the attached (customized and sortable) spreadsheet.

Notes on Data Collection

  • Column E contains the adult obesity rate in each state (minus New Jersey) as of the end of 2019.
  • Column F contains the total number of gyms per state based on data updated in August 2020 from Exercise.com (Note their methodology surrounding this data is based on the number of locations of the 14 largest gym chains in the US).
  • Column G is the state population in 2020 according to World Population Review using US Census data.
  • The percentage data for each state as it relates to physical inactivity has been provided in column H. This data was collected from the annual report for America’s Health Rankings and was in part sourced from CDC Behavior Surveillance.
  • The state’s ranking (overall) in America’s Health Rankings is provided in column I.
  • The ranking for each state on the Sharecare Wellness Index is provided in column K. This index (in partnership with Gallup among others) is based on survey data. “Over the past 10 years, Sharecare has measured the concept of well-being, including individual risk factors and perceptions spanning five interrelated health domains: physical, financial, community, social, and purpose.”
  • Columns L-Z provide the number of times (per million) that each hashtag was seen in fitness-related posts on Instagram. The full methodology surrounding this data from Rave Reviews is explained as follows: “To create these maps, we extracted location data for over 2.3 million Instagram posts tagged with hashtags relating to fitness, nutrition and body positivity. We narrowed this down to 296,661 posts by removing any posts that were made outside of the US. We then cleaned up the data and organized it by state and city to help us create the interactive you see today. The data gathering was done between February 26th and March 18th 2020.”

Insights/Data on Fitness Habits

According to data from America’s Health Rankings, “just over 75% of Americans report regular physical activity.” Though the CDC reports that the “percent of adults aged 18 and over who met the physical activity guidelines for aerobic physical activity is 53.3%” and the percentage of those meeting guides for “both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity is 23.2%.”
  • In an effort to get more granular than the state-by state analysis, the following cities are listed as the top 20 fittest cities according to the ACSM American Fitness Index Rankings:
    • Arlington, VA
    • Seattle, WA
    • Minneapolis, MN
    • Madison, WI
    • San Francisco, CA
    • Washington, D.C.
    • Irvine, CA
    • Denver, CO
    • Boise, ID
    • Boston, MA
    • San Diego, CA
    • St Paul, MN
    • Chicago, IL
    • Oakland, CA
    • San Jose, CA
    • Portland, OR
    • Honolulu, HI
    • Atlanta, GA
    • Lincoln, NE
    • Sacramento, CA
  • The full list of the top 100 fittest cities can be accessed here. Metrics for each city include data on things like: the percentage who exercised in the last 30 days, the percentage who walk or bike to work, the number of parks per 10,000 residents, and the percentage of the population within a 10-minute walk to a park. Each of these factors would likely be helpful in assessing a city’s feasibility for a fitness-based fundraising effort.
  • “The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) released first-of-its kind data from a new national survey of Americans with gym memberships that addresses their physical and mental state throughout the COVID-19 pandemic” in October 2020. Highlights from that survey are shown in the following infographics:
    • 1 in 3 Americans would give up sex for a year to reach their fitness goals
    • 25% would be willing to spend a week in jail in exchange for reaching their fitness goals immediately.
    • 60% of those surveyed stated that they “don’t know enough about health and fitness to start their own routine.”
    • 75% state they “a personal trainer would help them reach their fitness goals more efficiently.”
    • “Just over three-quarters of respondents reported following fitness influencers to keep them going.”
    • 35% of the respondents stated not having enough time as a deterrent to exercise.
    • 26% state they feel they are too unfit to start an exercise routine.


On November 16, 2020, Adam McCann with WalletHub released data which reviews the charitable habits of Americans on a state by state basis. Their methodology is described as follows: “In order to determine the most philanthropic states, WalletHub compared the 50 states across two key dimensions, ‘Volunteering & Service’ and ‘Charitable Giving’. We evaluated those dimensions using 19 key metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the ‘most charitable’. Finally, we determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order the states.”

The data for each state’s total score (with higher value more likely to contribute), their ‘volunteer and service’ ranking, as well as their ‘charitable giving’ ranking have been provided in the attached spreadsheet in columns B-D.
  • In addition to the data from WalletHub on a state-by-state basis, Philanthropy Roundtable states that the residents of Utah “donate, on average, 6.6% of their annual income, donation trends show. The top five list is rounded up with Mississippi (5%), Alabama (4.9%), Tennessee (4.5%), and Georgia (4.3%). At the other end of the spectrum is New Hampshire, whose families give only 1.7% of their income. Families from Maine, Vermont, and New Jersey are also at the bottom giving only 2% of their annual earnings.”
  • Data from sources like QGiv and the National Philanthropic Trust provide key insights in the whos, whats, and hows of charitable giving in the United States. When looking at these insights in conjunction with the state-by-state data provided above will help to guide planning of new fundraising opportunities.
  • In 2019, Americans gave $449.64 billion to charitable organizations — a 5.1% increase from 2018.
  • Individual donations (meaning not corporate and not from a foundation) totaled $309.66 billion, or 69% of total giving in 2019.
  • “In 2019, the majority of charitable dollars went to religion (29%), education (14%), human services (12%), grantmaking foundations (12%), and health (9%).”
  • “Historically, charitable giving rises about one-third as fast as the stock market.”
  • Americans like to volunteer their time. “Approximately 77 million Americans—30% of the adult population—volunteer their time, talents, and energy to making a difference.”
  • According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, “the top four national volunteer activities are fundraising or selling items to raise money (36%); food collection or distribution (34.2%); collecting, making or distributing clothing, crafts or other goods (26.5%); and mentoring youth (26.2%)” and the “top four types of organizations by volunteering are: religious (32%); sport, hobby, cultural or arts (25.7%); educational or youth service (19.2%); and civic, political, professional or international (6.2%).”

Demographic Insights

  • On average, men between 18 and 34 are more likely to give to charity, however “64% of all donations come from women”.
  • Approximately 60% of millennials make charitable donations each year
  • Almost 75% of young adults are willing to raise funds for an organization that they believe in.
  • “The average American supports 4.5 charities.”
  • “Individuals that earn $25,000 or less donate the largest share (16.6%) of their income to charity.”

Timing Insights

  • The last three days of the year typically see 12% of all charitable donations and the last three months of the year make up for about 35% of all giving.
  • Donors who have recurring donations (for example on a monthly basis) give more, on average, than others.
  • “Nonprofits process more donations between 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. EST than any other hour of the day.”

Did this report spark your curiosity?