Dangers and Opportunities for Infants in the Wild West of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
Peer-to-peer fundraising relies on healthy extended social networks, similar to a family tree or social media network. Everyone is connected by branches to a larger whole.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to successful peer-to-peer fundraising. It is still in its infancy in terms of strategy, but is not something that can be ignored. It is already in widespread use and requires attention. Infants don’t do well unsupervised.
Dangers, as well as opportunities, exist in peer-to-peer fundraising that correspond with its infancy. As referenced in the "2018 Peer-To-Peer Fundraising Study," a significant number of institutions are not familiar with the logistics of peer-to-peer fundraising, and a higher percentage have not developed peer-to-peer strategic plans.
Currently and frequently, potential benefactors are put on the spot to support a cause they did not plan to support. Social media asks are often poorly thought out.
Unleashing peer-to-peer has incredible potential for impact, both constructive and destructive. It is still very much the Wild West, with minimal central control of brand usage. With limited control comes considerable danger. We allocate time, effort and money to create and preserve the integrity of company and personal brands. We carefully plan to be consistent, accurate and effective in messaging.
Opportunities for misinformation are plentiful. Don’t play fast and loose and half-heartedly, or you risk watering down your organizational mission and brand. We all want clarity and consistency in messaging.
Create a peer-to-peer strategy that works within your overall strategic fundraising plan. Some basics:
- Identify persons of high influence connected to the organization.
- Investigate technology and platforms, and the costs.
- Focus on creating ease for donors and influencers.
- Donor acknowledgment and retention. No excuses. Take complete accountability.
Here are five goals to work toward:
1. Educate Your Leadership Team
Train your team. Attend conferences. Make it a priority. Make sure your leadership staff is up to speed and on the same page. Don’t ramp up a program without educated, sufficiently thought-out analysis and buy-in.
2. Brainstorm With Your Team
Hold brainstorming sessions regularly. Unlock the conversation and listen. Create time and space for your team to identify relationships, connections, skills, points of leverage and intersections of shared interests.
3. Collaborate to Make Sure Everyone Wins
Construct strategies where everyone walks away a winner. Who says everyone can’t win? They can. Get creative.
4. Have Fun
This is a must. Make the whole process fun. Repetitive asks are brutal, and this practice is prevalent if not the default. Get to know what makes your teammates tick and incorporate that knowledge into your strategic planning. You want your people to be excited about your events and projects. They are your kickstarters. No kick. No start.
5. Nurture Your Network
You want your connections to be healthy and to grow. Offer your network the nourishment it needs to thrive. Make your peers feel good. The number one rule of fundraising applies: deliver a positive, rewarding experience. As you develop your peer-to-peer plan, ensure inclusion of supporter recognition in creative ways.
If you aren’t ready for a fleshed-out peer-to-peer program, that’s OK. It’s better to prepare well than deploy prematurely. Focus your time and energy on your organizational strengths to develop experiences that are rewarding to participants.
With intention and a mindset focused on delivering a carefully thought-out strategy, your peer-to-peer program will head in that direction. Look for organizations that are excelling. Most organizations are in the same boat as you. Learn from them.
Once again, you will make mistakes. It is OK. We are still in the infancy stage with limited information, limited control, an abundance of sharing technology and limitless opportunities for growth.
Although you might not be ready for implementation, developing a better understanding of peer-to-peer fundraising should be a high priority. It is never a good idea to lose focus in the Wild West.
Pete Kimbis is managing director of PKC, a boutique social good consulting firm based in North Bethesda, Maryland, that delivers technical and grant proposal writing, opportunity and solicitation analysis, legislative research, budgets, program analysis and evaluation, small business development, and acquisition support. Pete works with entrepreneurs and businesses based around innovative and inclusive missions that protect or improve lives or the environment.