Beyond Business as Usual: Retool Your Peer-to-Peer Events for the Digital World
Much has been written over the past year-and-a-half about moving in-person, peer-to-peer fundraising events to online events. Of course, this tactic was a necessity due to global pandemic concerns and restrictions on public gatherings.
Many nonprofits had to make their traditional in-person run, walk or ride events virtual in short order while some had a bit more time to adapt. It wasn’t easy, and some organizations saw lackluster results. But many organizations saw bright spots in this turbulent time, including:
- higher overall fundraising
- increased net revenue
- the ability to test new tools and strategies for online participant and donor engagement
The Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Events of the Future
Something that has become apparent in my observations and my own experience is that people’s perspectives have changed during this time. They’re generally more comfortable with the technical aspects of attending events online than they used to be. They also recognize the convenience of attending an event online versus needing to carve out time to commute or travel to an onsite event, or even skipping the event entirely due to schedule conflicts or health concerns. Yet, many are starting to tire of impersonal webinars and lack of face-to-face in-person engagement.
What this tells me is that even as in-person events begin to make a tentative comeback, virtual and hybrid (in-person/online) events are likely to stick around. But to make them successful, it’s important to embrace new tools and approaches that make virtual events exciting and engaging.
Retooling Your Peer-to-Peer Event Experience for the Digital Era
A key approach to engaging with peer-to-peer event participants and donors online is to bring some of the fun of the in-person experience to the online experience. Here are three key tools on the market today that can help:
- Fitness Apps. Integrate fitness apps like Fitbit, MapMyFitness, or Strava into your peer-to-peer platform to help participants share how they are training for the event.
- User-Generated Content (UGC). Use user-generated content to allow your participants to share their thoughts and ideas. Social media content aggregators, such as Curator, Juicer, Taggbox and Tintup, help you organize and display your participants’ social media feeds. They also offer simple-to-use widgets to drop onto your campaign websites. In addition, platforms such as Gather Voices and KindKatch make it easy for participants and donors to share their stories via video and picture messages.
- Livestream Fundraising. Campaigns such as Extra Life from Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals have had huge success using the livestream app, Twitch, to take UGC to new levels by having gamers livestream their gaming while collecting donations along the way. And this type of fundraising isn’t just for gamers. Artists and other talent (such as musicians and chefs) can be doing their thing, and viewers can donate without interrupting their viewing.
These are just some of the tools to help your entire organization provide a better online event experience. Some nonprofits are using a whole host of tools to enrich their virtual event experience.
Here’s a case in point: I had the pleasure of co-presenting a session with folks from Stater Bros. Charities at the 2021 Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference earlier this year. In the session, they shared that when they moved their in-person Believe Walk to a virtual event in 2020, they invested time and resources in more than 10 different platforms to enhance the overall digital experience, including:
- peer-to-peer platform to manage the overall event
- a new email marketing tool to incorporate a fresh new look to their email campaigns
- fitness app for participant activity tracking and a 5K challenge
- graphic design platform used to create social media graphics and other visual content
- tool to handle contests and challenges
- virtual event bag tool for goodie bags
- tools to livestream day-of activities
While many of these tools worked well for them, some didn’t. But, they emphasized that it’s important to seek out new tools and resources, find new approaches, learn what works and what doesn’t, and adapt as you go. With this approach, their event was a success, including:
- expanded fundraising reach to more people
- overall increased fundraising
- net revenue increase due to reduced event expenses
While you might have looked at the past 18 months as simply a time to move to virtual events until you could get back to traditional in-person events, I propose that it’s time to think differently. It’s time to embrace the future of peer-to-peer fundraising by investing in tools that can enable you to provide great virtual experiences (even in tandem with in-person events) that bring life to your events for those who otherwise might not attend in person.
Mark founded Cathexis Partners in 2008 to help nonprofit organizations get the most from their existing technology tools, implement new technology to address gaps and find the best overall approach to using technology to support their missions. He previously served as director of IT consulting at a fundraising event production company focused on nonprofits.
Mark also serves on the editorial advisory board for NonProfit PRO, where he contributes monthly to his blog, “Nonprofit Tech Matters.”