Online Peer-to-Peer Event Fundraising is NOT About Technology
Spring fundraising event season is upon us once again. Many of you have been setting up event registrations and getting peer-to-peer fundraising pages set up for your supporters. A few may even have used some mobile apps in place for your event fundraising. With all this, it’s important to remember that the people and how you engage with them — not the technology — determine the success of your event.
Regardless of what technology you make available, it’s important to recognize how difficult fundraising is for some volunteers. It’s easy to lose sight of this simple fact as fundraising professionals. Going out and soliciting donations is a hard task that is not natural for many volunteers. This is where you, as a professional fundraiser, can help! Recognize that your volunteer fundraisers may be first-timers, nervous, daunted and/or reluctant. If you empower your fundraisers with technology, it allows them to have much more efficient access to more people online and raise more. However, the way that you work with these volunteer fundraisers has a dramatic impact on their performance and your event’s results.
Segment them — all fundraisers are not equal
It’s important to divide your volunteer fundraisers into different segments or groups and have a plan for each group during both the recruitment and fundraising processes. For example, as supporters register for your event you may segment them as 1) team captains, 2) VIPs (board members, major donors, local celebs, etc.) and 3) general participants. You should have a different communication plan for targeted messages specific to each group, mode of communication and even who delivers the message. For example, you may invite all team captains to a kickoff meeting or lunch, or you may contact each by phone. At the same time, the general supporters may only be contacted via e-mail, or you may host a virtual meeting (conference call or webinar).
There are many ways to do such segmentations — there isn’t necessarily a "right way." The important thing is that you identify segments that are relevant to your situation and have a plan for communicating with each segment.
Incentivize them — activate, stretch and reward fundraisers
Many organizations that have events already use some sort of incentive system. Incentives are often basic "swag," such as water bottles, T-shirts, hats, etc. Or they can be aspirational, such as sports tickets, experiences, a weekend at a ski resort, etc. There are also "recognition" incentives, such as starting at the front of the run, special access at the event, etc.
As with the segment groups above, you should have a strategy for how you use different levels of incentives for different groups of fundraisers based on where they are with their fundraising efforts. For example: How do you motivate apprehensive fundraisers to get started vs. helping those fundraisers who are cranking right along to reach for new heights vs. recognizing your "rock star" fundraisers? One event manager I recently spoke with explained how the organization raised $10,000 in 48 hours from people who were inactive fundraisers (hadn’t even raised $1!) by offering a free event water bottle to anyone who got three donations in 48 hours. Breaking fundraising down into fundamental steps like this is a great tactic for helping people understand how to get started.
For fundraisers who are doing well and are raising money, often it only takes a friendly reminder that if they raise only $100 more, they will be eligible for a higher-level incentive. Helping them strive for the "next level" is a tried-and-true method of using effective incentives.
Coach them — help fundraisers reach their potential
The online tools you use help make your fundraisers’ jobs easier, but most volunteer fundraisers need your help and coaching. Don’t depend on the technology tools to do all the work. You can help each of your participants feel like, and actually be, better fundraisers. Here are a few examples:
- Break it down for them. Get inactive fundraisers started by asking them to "send out 10 e-mails." Many inactive fundraisers find the idea of raising money daunting. Taking that first step is key. Generally, once they send out those first e-mails and start receiving donations, they actually understand how their fundraising efforts are contributing to the success of the special event.
- Plan your schedule accordingly so you can work closely with all of your team captains. Plan regular check-ins to find out the number of team members that have been recruited, the number of active fundraisers they have and the total amounts raised. Touching base helps team captains remain focused and feel accountable for success. Regular check-ins help motivate and keep team captains engaged, which ultimately leads to better fundraising results as they in turn are able to motivate their teams.
- Work closely with fundraisers who are already raising donations and doing well. Per the point above, you can often get your team captains to help with this. Acknowledging fundraisers when they achieve their goals (and getting them to raise their goals!) or reach a milestone ($500 , $1,000, etc.) goes a long way to ensuring their efforts are recognized and maintaining their momentum and commitment to the cause.
- Show examples of other fundraisers. This helps volunteer fundraisers see how other people are doing things and also provides inspiration. A great way to do this is by sharing examples in e-mails, newsletters or in person at an orientation. This approach also has the added benefit of recognizing the rock star fundraisers while helping the new fundraisers get on board.
When to analyze the data
A final thought as you head into event season, analyze your results against your plan on a regular basis as you lead up to the event. Too often, organizers tend to set goals before the event and then evaluate how it did after the event. If you track results pre-event, you have the opportunity to adjust if you need to before the event is finished.
None of the things mentioned here are particularly difficult, but they do require planning and discipline. The best event fundraisers know to focus intensely on the areas above. Most of all it’s the recognition that the more things change with technology it’s still the "non-technology" fundamentals of fundraising, such as coaching and relationship building, that win the day! Keep these important tips in mind with fundraising event season coming up, and good luck!