Peer-to-Peer Data Point War: Participant Versus Fundraiser Average
At Turnkey, we place a premium on analyzing every campaign to provide our clients with the best estimate possible of their ROI. While reviewing the reports, occasionally someone asks why we report average fundraising of all peer-to-peer participants rather than reporting only the average of peer-to-peer fundraisers. (We define a participant as anyone that attends an event hosted by a nonprofit, and a fundraiser as any participant that raises more than $0.)
I put this question to Ryan Grosenick, Turnkey’s aspiring astrophysicist turned program analyst. Here is what Ryan told me:
For an example of analyzing and reporting participant and fundraiser averages, let’s first look at the calculations including all participants. Say that there are 10,000 participants registered for an event, and the event collectively raised $1 million. We can calculate that the average fundraising per participant is $100. We can then extrapolate that if 2,000 more participants had shown up, they would have raised $200,000 more (2,000 X $100).
Now, let’s look at the same calculations with only fundraisers taken into consideration. If only 1,000 participants fundraised from the original 10,000 participants, we only had 1,000 fundraisers. The total raised for the event was $1,000,000, so each fundraiser would be calculated as raising $1,000 each. That’s a big difference from taking the entire participant population into account ($100 versus $1,000 fundraising average per participant).
Using our sample data above, we are calculating that for every 10 participants there is one fundraiser. Therefore, if we acquire an additional 2,000 participants, this will result in 200 more fundraisers, and subsequently, $200,000 more raised (using only fundraising averages). Sounds great, and the net result is the same as calculating the average fundraising per participant; but can we rely on having approximately the same participant-to-fundraiser ratio each time? Can we reliably say that 1/10 of the participants will fundraise each time? No. There is more uncertainty considering just fundraisers, rather than taking the entire population of participants into account when analyzing the data.
Generally speaking, generality leads to better predictability (which is why physical laws apply to everything). That, and I don’t usually want to overload anybody with more than one average, because that would confuse people very quickly (i.e. which average are we talking about again? Why are there two averages?). Also, technically speaking, the information is already there. Granted, you have to do a bit of work to get to it, but it is worth it because you get real information you can use.
The other reason some organizations report “fundraiser average” is because the number is simply higher than the “participant average.” It just looks better, but is somewhat misleading. Part of our job is to activate participants to fundraise. If we don’t report fundraising average (and the median) of all participants, we are a bit coy.
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.