Livestream Fundraising: Is It Really Just Peer-to-Peer Online?
Social fundraising practitioners who grew up doing walks, runs and rides can have difficulty relating to livestreaming. We sometimes don’t want to believe that these online (especially gaming) communities are real communities. But make no mistake — they are.
Relationships Inside Livestream Fundraising Efforts
There are three types of relationships in livestream fundraising that are critical to understanding why people watch streams, a prerequisite to donating.
- The relationship of a single viewer to the streamer. Often, streamers will call out individuals who donate to them. That's a one-on-one relationship.
- The relationship of the entire audience to the streamer. Sometimes, the streamer will address the audience as a singular entity (usually calling them “chat”).
- The relationship of each viewer to each other. In the community of a given streamer, people engage with one another outside of interaction with the streamer.
What Is Livestream?
If you’re unfamiliar with livestreaming, go online and engage with a livestream as a viewer for a bit. Then, open a second screen and just listen as you do other work for a few hours. Donate to a cause or contribute to the livestreamer. How was it? Fun, right?
We should tease out a few terms. “Livestream” means just that — you are online looking at and hearing what a person is doing in real time. They are streaming.
Livestream doesn’t necessarily mean gaming, gardening, dancing or anything more specific than emails are specific to a subject. It’s an avenue for someone to showcase themselves online. Subject matter is independent of the communication method or tool.
Is Livestream Just Gaming or Other Stuff?
While gamers raise an awful lot of money doing livestream gaming for nonprofits’ benefit, gaming is subject matter. As livestream became more mainstream, the word “gamers” was replaced with “content creators” as the content became more diverse and extended beyond gaming. People who are content creators and live broadcast are called “livestreamers” or “streamers.” Really popular streamers with a significant audience are “influencers.”
Who Is the Livestream Fundraiser Person?
Content creators are livestreamers, or “streamers.” All are influencers, some more successful than others. These are the people who are doing the fundraising.
Nonprofits can use livestream as a tool in different ways. The three primary uses are:
- Volunteer or paid influencers.
- Volunteer non-influencers (this is most like the old-school peer-to-peer scenario).
- Nonprofit broadcasting live events
Livestreaming is unique in giving you more sensory input than most other channels, except being in-person. You can see it. You can hear it. You can read the concurrent chat. However, what’s really unique in some livestream fundraising are the influencers who enjoy the benefits of a parasocial relationship with their audience.
The Parasocial Relationship
“Parasocial relationship” is a term that refers to an emotional connection felt by people who view media personalities as actual friends, despite not having any (or limited) interactions with them. The “relationship” grows deeper the more people watch the media personality.
This is unique to livestream fundraising, as opposed to other forms of fundraising, and drives most high-revenue fundraisers. Influencers’ parasocial relationship with their audience powers their ability to get donations.
Content Creators: Who/What Are They?
A content creator livestreams online, maybe gaming or showing you how to DIY your off-the-grid lifestyle, grow mushrooms or build a bat house. In terms of social fundraising, many have tried to equate the content creator to a team captain. This can sometimes be right, but more often, a content creator is much more like an event host or sponsor, depending on the size of their existing audience.
Influencers: Recruitment, Recognition and Retention
You recruit a content creator who has a significant audience.
“It’s a package deal — you get them, you get their audience,” Jordan Mady, manager of a content creator fundraising program for a major Canadian charity, said.
“They know the drill,” Mady added of the content creator. “Every piece of livestream is an event; it’s just that we’re fundraising for charity today.”
So, every person already knows what to do. No training is required, at least on that front. This livestreamer is a content creator with an audience — an influencer.
Livestream Donor and Fundraiser Data
In all areas of donor interaction, we as an industry are learning (the hard way) that donors will give us their data when they want us to have their data. We don’t own their data; they do. In this sense, livestream fundraising is very different from traditional peer-to-peer situations where we get donor data with the donation. The bar for us is higher in livestream. We are learning we must create situations that make the donors want to make sure we can stay in touch.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
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.
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.