Blackbaud Study: Peer-to-Peer Fundraising — Still Standing
Remember that Elton John song, I’m Still Standing? If you’re a fundraising professional in 2021, that might as well be your theme song. 2020 threw the sink and all the dirty dishes at our organizations, but we’re still here. A look back at the Year That Shall Not Be Named reveals some vital information that will inform how we move ahead.
That’s why a new report, the 2020 Blackbaud Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Study is a must-read. As usual, the team that compiled the report presents the data in a useful, easy-to-interpret fashion. As the report says, “Using data to drive P2P strategy is easier when you have these numbers to benchmark your organization against.”
As we wrote a year ago at the beginning of the pandemic, it is easy to attribute the lack of participation in virtual events to a lack of enthusiasm on the part of supporters, but that’s only part of the story. A driving factor for live events has always been their ability to foster a sense of community. Organizations that had invested time and resources in building a virtual community prior to the pandemic fared better than those who had not.
Building a virtual community from scratch is difficult; in many ways, as much so as acquiring new supporters for traditional, live events. So those organizations without a virtual community to call on were understandably behind the eight ball and never caught up. The uncertainty factor — live, virtual, hybrid — injected an additional barrier to participation. Blackbaud’s analysis of 2020 peer-to-peer fundraising bears this out.
Takeaways from the Blackbaud Study
- Previously, in-person events that continue to be offered as virtual-only will likely continue to see decreases as participants may not be motivated to register for this type of event for two consecutive years.
- New and creative virtual-only campaigns will help to chip away at the loss of in-person events but will not replace all that was lost from in-person campaigns, especially as campaign competition increases.
- The average number of online gifts and online donation average was up in 2020. In a normal year, increases such as those seen in these critical fundraising indicators would be fantastic news. But given the steep decline in casual participants who raise less, these increases were to be expected. It’s just math. It’s unlikely another round of virtual-only events would show these fundraising stats. When these stats drop, it usually means we’re acquiring new fundraisers.
- Returning participants to an event were incredibly important, which was seen in an average 147% increase in returning participants’ average fundraising. That said, the overall percentage of 2019 participants returning in 2020 was only 14%, and the average team size declined by a third.
- Given the number of participants lost in 2020, a renewed focus, and additional time, effort, and budget must be given to lapsed participants from 2019 and beyond. With that, organizations must give them a compelling reason to return. As we enter the second spring of the pandemic, offering the same virtual options of 2020 will not be enough to encourage a widespread return to events.
- Nonprofits transitioned quickly from DIY to DAI — Do Anything Imaginable. Organizations will take the lessons learned to coordinate meaningful connection points in the years to come.
- Facebook Fundraisers engaged more people, up 60% from 2019. At the same time, the average amount raised by each declined 16%. Organizations need to analyze their trends on this platform to see how they can best position this channel going forward.
Recommendations Going Forward
- Plan hybrid campaigns, including *SAFE* reimagined in-person options and *EXPANDED* virtual options. As discussed in the report, this focus area is even more critical for cycle and challenge events.
- Widely publicize specific plans for the hybrid event. If you take a “wait-and-see” approach, participants will as well.
- Put special emphasis on 2019 participants by painting a clear picture of why they should be excited to return.
- Create a new virtual-only peer-to-peer campaign.
The Bottom Line
Fostering “community” is a key component of peer-to-peer fundraising. The way nonprofits deliver a sense of community to their supporters will be different going forward. There will certainly be a return to local, in-person events, potentially as an element of an overarching experience. But the ability to deliver a sense of community virtually will change the way nonprofits conceptualize “events” going forward. We may see “communities” instead of “events” being the construct that fundraising is built around.
Download the full 2020 Blackbaud Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Study today. As Shakespeare said, “past is prologue,” so reading it will give you a much better perspective on what’s needed to reignite your peer-to-peer fundraising engine.
Otis Fulton, Ph.D., spent most of his career in the education industry, working at the psychometric research and development firm MetaMetrics Inc., Pearson Education and others. Since 2013, he has focused on the nonprofit sector, applying psychology to fundraising and donor behavior at Turnkey. He is the co-author of the 2017 book, ”Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising,” and the 2023 book, "Social Fundraising: Mining the New Peer-to-Peer Landscape," and is a frequent speaker at national nonprofit conferences. With Katrina VanHuss, he co-authors a blog at NonProfit PRO, “Peeling the Onion,” on the intersection of psychology and philanthropy.
Otis is a much sought-after copywriter for nonprofit fundraising messages. He has written campaigns for UNICEF, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen, the USO and dozens of other organizations. He has a Ph.D. in social psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia, where he also played on UVA’s first ACC champion basketball team.
Katrina VanHuss has helped national nonprofits raise funds and friends since 1989 when she founded Turnkey. Her client’s successes and her dedication to research have made her a sought-after speaker, presenting at national conferences for Blackbaud, Peer to Peer Professional Forum, Nonprofit PRO, The Need Help Foundation and her clients’ national meetings. The firm’s work is underpinned by the study and application of behavioral economics and social psychology. Turnkey provides project engagements, coaching, counsel and staffing to nonprofits seeking to improve revenue or create new revenue. Her work extends into organizational alignment efforts and executive coaching.
Katrina regularly shares her wit and business experiences on her and Otis Fulton's NonProfit PRO blog “Peeling the Onion.” She and Otis are also co-authors of the books, "Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising" and "Social Fundraising: Mining the New Peer-to-Peer Landscape." When not writing or researching, Katrina likes to make things — furniture from reclaimed wood, new gardens, food with no recipe. Katrina’s favorite Saturday is spent cleaning out the garage, mowing the grass, making something new, all while listening to loud music by now-deceased black women, throwing in a few sets on the weight bench off and on, then collapsing on the couch with her husband Otis to gang-watch new Netflix series whilst drinking sauvignon blanc.
Katrina grew up on a Virginia beef cattle and tobacco farm with her three brothers. She is accordingly skilled in hand to hand combat and witty repartee — skills gained at the expense of her brothers. Katrina’s claim to fame is having made it to the “American Gladiator” Richmond competition as a finalist in her late 20s, progressing in the competition until a strangely large blonde woman knocked her off a pedestal with an oversized pain-inducing Q-tip. Katrina’s mantra for life is “Be nice. Do good. Embrace embarrassment.” Clearly she’s got No. 3 down.