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.
Katrina VanHuss and Otis Fulton have written a book, Dollar Dash, on the psychology of peer-to-peer fundraising. Click here to download the first chapter, courtesy of NonProfit PRO!
Katrina VanHuss is the CEO of Turnkey, a U.S.-based strategy and execution firm for nonprofit fundraising campaigns. Katrina has been instilling passion in volunteer fundraisers since 1989 when she founded the company. Turnkey’s clients include most of the top thirty U.S. peer-to-peer campaigns — Susan G. Komen, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the ALS Association, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, as well as some international organizations, like UNICEF.
Otis Fulton is a psychologist who joined Turnkey in 2013 as its consumer behavior expert. He works with clients to apply psychological principles to fundraising. He is a much-sought-after copywriter for nonprofit messaging. He has written campaigns for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, The March of Dimes, the USO and dozens of other organizations.
Now as a married couple, Katrina and Otis almost never stop talking about fundraising, volunteerism, and human decision-making – much to the chagrin of most dinner companions.
Katrina and Otis present regularly at clients’ national conferences, as well as at BBCon, NonProfit Pro P2P, Peer to Peer Forum, and others. They write a weekly column for NonProfit PRO and are the co-authors of the 2017 book, "Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising." They live in Richmond, Virginia, USA.