Race to the Finish Line: 10 Tips to Building a Strong Peer-to-Peer Campaign (Plus 8 ‘No-Nos’)
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a method of fundraising that has been around for a while, but the surprising fact is that many fundraisers and nonprofit professionals actually don’t know what it is.
We conducted the “2017 NonProfit PRO Peer-to-Peer Research Study” and were surprised to find out that many nonprofit organizations don’t engage in peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising—more surprisingly, a large number of people in the nonprofit space are not aware of what P2P fundraising is. Additional information on the study can be found in the sidebar (end of this article).
P2P is a type of social fundraising, where volunteers can fundraise on an organization’s behalf. P2P fundraising can come in different forms—campaigns (reaching a personal goal); events/challenges; and activities (e.g. walk/run). It’s a great way to get more people involved in your organization’s mission/cause, as well as raising more donations along the way. And while this is a great strategy to add to your organization’s revenue stream, we’re seeing a decline in dollars raised through P2P fundraising over the years.
According to the most recent “Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Thirty,” the 30 largest P2P fundraising campaigns in the U.S. reached a total of $1.53 billion in 2016. In particular, American Society’s Relay for Life, March of Dimes’ March for Babies and The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Series all saw at least a $10 million decline in revenue—each.
We believe that if done correctly, P2P fundraising campaigns can play a huge supporting role in your organization. So, we reached out to a few people in the sector and asked what strategies they recommend and which they strongly advise against.
10 Tips to Building a Strong P2P Fundraising Campaign
1. Keep your database clean and fresh. Yes, it’s time-consuming, but it yields big results and moves your organization in the right direction—forward. — Wendy Lewis, Executive Director, The Parkinson Council
2. Have a conversation with your supporters about fundraising. Most people are not natural at or enjoy asking others for money, even for charity. It’s important to have a frank conversation and see if they feel comfortable asking other people for money. If they tell you they’re uncomfortable, then see if some training will help them. Or simply ask them to help you raise awareness. Having someone raise awareness about your group and fundraiser is an excellent first step toward achieving your P2P fundraising goals. — Wayne Elsey, Founder and CEO, Elsey Enterprises
3. Send your fundraisers weekly emails. Email P2P fundraisers at least once per week with tips, tricks and strategies regarding raising money from personal networks. Share success stories, videos, photos—resources that they can share in their own fundraising campaigns to raise more money and entice more of their network to come on board. — Julia C. Campbell, MPA, Author, “Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits”
4. Make your event special. There are a million walks, a gazillion runs and hectare of bike races. Don’t forget to highlight what makes yours special. Hint: It’s not that bounce house. It’s your mission! The events that get it right strike a good balance between being fun and impactful. — Dorene Ocamb, Senior Director of Integrated Marketing, Mothers Against Drunk Driving
5. Give them a call. Pick up the phone when someone gives you a first-time gift, a large gift or if they’re returning donors after a brief lapse. — Wendy Lewis
6. Put together a swag bag. If you want to energize your supporters and champions, give them some swag. Nothing builds team spirit and motivates your fundraisers more than knowing they’re part of a team effort. Rewarding your P2P fundraisers is a great opportunity to reach out to corporate sponsors and include ways for them and your organization to create win/win promotions. — Wayne Elsey
7. Integrate social media. The reality is, people do most of their connecting via social media these days. So, it’s no surprise that this has become one of the primary ways that your participants ask friends and family to support them. You should make this easy by integrating in social media in your participant centers to make connecting with their contacts easy and seamless. — Dorene Ocamb
8. Create a private Facebook Group for your P2P fundraising captains. This way, they can share information and ideas about running a successful campaign. They can also commiserate about challenges and help each other when they get stuck. Look at this entire experience as an opportunity for the P2P fundraising captains to learn more about what it takes to reach a fundraising goal and make them feel like they are part of a community working together to accomplish something huge! — Julia C. Campbell
9. See who’s opening your emails. Tracking specific articles or issues lets you know whether a donor is still interested in what you’re doing. — Wendy Lewis
10. Be relevant. Sure, we remember to send emails about fun contests and team challenges, but do you also regularly remind participants why their efforts are so vital to your mission? When something happens in the news or in your community that relates to your issue area, let your participants know. This can light a spark and fuel a sense of urgency around fundraising. — Dorene Ocamb
8 ‘No-Nos’ for P2P Fundraising
1. Monopolizing your participants. Too often you see P2P participants get siloed. They are suppressed from emails, mailings and even other event communications. That’s silly and counterproductive. Integrate them into your communications stream so you can develop a deeper relationship. This improves their likelihood of coming back year after year! — Dorene Ocamb
2. Forgetting to make “the ask.” I think the No. 1 thing that a lot of fundraisers miss (believe it or not) is actually making the ask. I don’t know what it is, but other than major gift officers, I’ve found that you have people who call themselves fundraisers who don’t make the ask—a firm ask—when the moment of truth arrives. Many fundraisers like speaking about the programs and connecting their organization to donors’ interests, but then the moment of having to ask for a specific amount of money is something they avoid doing. — Wayne Elsey
3. Assuming that your P2P fundraisers know how to raise money. They may know that a fundraising campaign means posting on Facebook and sending out an email, but they may not understand that it takes time, dedication and a lot of reminding people about the campaign to eventually meet their goal. Don’t leave them out in the cold once they start their fundraising page. — Julia C. Campbell
4. Putting people in a box. P2P can take many forms. Some people don’t want to participate in a walk, but they still might be interested in raising funds for your cause. For far too long, I’ve seen nonprofits try to push people towards their “signature” events instead of leveraging the passion and letting people do fundraising their way. It’s your job to simply provide them with the tools and technology to make fundraising for your cause easy. Let their creativity and imagination do the rest! — Dorene Ocamb
5. Relying on auto-responders to convey your gratitude. They’re great to manage volume, but donors don’t like getting the same message year after year. Personalize letters with notes and tidbits of information you know about the donor and their interest. — Wendy Lewis
6. Over-talking. Most fundraisers are excited about their cause and what they do, and the energy is great for the nonprofit sector and their organizations. But the best fundraisers understand that they have to listen and ask second- and third-level questions as they develop the relationships with their prospects and donors. The more a fundraiser listens, the more he or she learns what motivates a donor and how to get a donor to give. — Wayne Elsey
7. Occasionally communicating with fundraisers. Sometimes nonprofits don’t want to inundate P2P fundraising captains with information during their campaign. This is a mistake! These people want information to share with their networks, they need to stay inspired and motivated, they want to stay close to the cause, they need someone cheering them frequently along the way, and they crave acknowledgement for all of their hard work. Provide them with frequent updates and motivational posts and emails! — Julia C. Campbell
8. Treating everyone the same. Your communications should absolutely reflect the participant’s relationship with the organization. If they have participated before, then you should mention that. If they are a team captain, then make sure you call that out—that’s behavior you want to reward, after all. If you want people to fundraise for you, then you must treat them well. — Dorene Ocamb
Laying Out the Foundation for a Successful P2P Strategy
Now that you have these tips and “no-nos” for P2P fundraising locked up in your armoire, you can now start brainstorming about how to begin your organization’s first P2P event or improve on existing ones. P2P fundraising can seem like a daunting idea, but once you get into the rhythm of things and start learning about effective strategies—and more about how to build strong relationships with your volunteers and participants—it will almost be second-nature.
Remember that P2P fundraising is supposed to be fun, so think of these events as a way to engage your supporters, bring more people into the organization and raise more money for your cause. The trick is to find out what your audience wants and how to make your organization stand out from the rest.
In this study, you will find data about the current trends in P2P fundraising. We surveyed 563 fundraisers and professionals in the nonprofit sector to find out who is and who isn’t engaging in P2P fundraising and for those who are engaging in P2P fundraising, our aim was to learn about their highest revenue-producing event and the statistics behind it.
It’s important to learn about what strategies your constituents are incorporating into their practice, so this study provides a one-of-a-kind educational resource for anyone in the nonprofit sector. The study highlights not only analytical data, but also a number of interesting key points and take-home messages.
Check our website at the end of the month to read the full study: nonprofitpro.com. Furthermore, our research authors will be sharing their findings and giving a more in-depth review at the annual NonProfit PRO Peer-to-Peer Conference on Nov. 9 in Washington, D.C. Mark your calendars and register here: p2p.nonprofitpro.com