Merci. Danke. Grazie. Gracias. Arigato. There are countless ways to say “thank you,” but they don’t all have to be verbal. In fact, when it comes to peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising events, it’s often difficult to provide a verbal acknowledgement to each volunteer and supporter. So many organizations turn to the tangible “thank you”—items that represent the organization’s recognition, appreciation, acknowledgement and thanks for the individual’s support.
But how much power does a “thank you” have?
The “2016 Turnkey Benchmark Study on Peer-to-Peer Fundraiser Recognition” sheds some light on the question.
It looked at two case studies that measured trends over time. In both instances, the gifts offered weren’t large enough to be misinterpreted as financial incentive.
The first case study took a look at a retail unattractive event (see sidebar for definition of bolded terms), a large client's fundraising walk with more than 200,000 participants per year to examine how the different types of recognition earners—recognition seekers and recognition decliners—performed in the second year.
In short, Turnkey found:
- Fifty-one percent of the time, recognition seekers returned in year two; 41 percent of the time, recognition decliners returned in year two. Both are better than the event’s overall retention rate of 16 percent, and the industry standard of 30 percent.
- Thirty-six percent of the time, recognition seekers raised more money than they did in year one; 29 percent of the time, recognition decliners did.
- For retail unattractive events, the recognition-gift redemption rate was 50.51 percent of all those offered a gift.
- For retail unattractive events, the recognition seeker’s average fundraising was $1,097, compared to the recognition decliner’s average of $865.
- Participants in retail unattractive events are more mission-aligned; they will solicit donations to support the cause, rather than pay a mandatory fee to be part of the event.
The second case study looked closer at a retail attractive event, a cycling event for a client that has a program with more than 8,000 participants. Again, Turnkey looked at the performance of recognition seekers and recognition decliners.
The major findings included:
- Seventy percent of the time, recognition seekers returned in year two; 60 percent of the time, recognition decliners returned in year two. Both are better than the event’s overall retention rate of 26 percent, and the industry standard of 58 percent.
- Forty-five percent of the time, recognition seekers raised more money than they did in year one; 36 percent of the time, recognition decliners did.
- For retail attractive events, the recognition-gift redemption rate was 68.24 percent of all those offered a gift.
- For retail attractive events, the recognition seeker’s average fundraising was $929, compared to the recognition decliner’s average of $698.
- Participants in retail attractive events return at high rates, but this is due to the market relationship established by such events, not to mission alignment.
What is this market relationship? Think of it as a transaction. Participants do something for the organization (like participate in an event) because they are extrinsically motivated by money (or things that have a price). Money and similar “gifts” undermine people’s attachments to the cause by adding financial incentives (including experiences they would pay for).
In contrast, social incentives (and social relationships)—like “thank you,” or a tangible, non-financial incentive—reinforce one’s own intrinsic label and help the person identify with the cause.
For instance, those who participate in retail unattractive events like the walk in the first case study, might see themselves as fundraisers who identify with the cause, whereas those who partake in retail unattractive events like the cycling event in the second case study, might see themselves as cyclists who identify with the race.
Via the study:
“When people are offered large external rewards, they adopt the attitude that they are performing the behavior to secure the reward. When the reward is modest—or nonexistent—people adopt the congruent attitude that they are performing the action because of an internal desire.”
The study doesn’t point to one type of event as better than the other. But it does show the value of recognition seekers—and, consequently, the importance of the tangible “thank you.”
While recognition decliners are, in most instances, above industry standards, recognition seekers are the ones who are more likely to raise more, return to fundraise more often and indicate potential high retention and fundraising rates for the future.
To delve into the full study, download it here.
The study, which reflects the research of 93 programs from 33 different organizations in the U.S. from Jan. 2012 to Nov. 2015, focused on recognition applied through emails and branded gift offers for volunteers who performed high-level fundraising.