Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: The Red-Haired Stepchild Rebels
The first time I attended an Association of Fundraising Professionals meeting, I searched for the peer-to-peer fundraising sessions. There weren’t any. Each year I would go look, and there were never any sessions. Recently, a few are showing up, but they typically only involve peer-to-peer fundraising peripherally.
I tried other conferences. Nothing. I even tried the Bridge Conference (the “bridge between fundraising and direct response”). I thought, “Isn’t the volunteer fundraiser just another delivery method for direct-response outreach, similar to email and postal?” They didn’t think so, apparently.
I kept looking, asking questions and having people look at me, with “She doesn’t know peer-to-peer is the hard way to raise money” in their word bubbles.
Like with conferences, there is virtually nothing in book form about peer-to-peer fundraising. Typically, peer-to-peer is referenced obliquely in a chapter about special events, if at all. The top Google search results on Feb. 27 for “peer-to-peer fundraising book” include only PDF downloads of e-books, one of which, when clicked through, was simply a contact form.
As I read through e-books that were available, not one talked about why volunteers would fundraise or not, but they all talked about the logistics of the beast—how to set up a great online site, how to construct an event, what the donation array should look like. No one talked about what was going on inside an actual or potential fundraiser’s mind.
The red-haired stepchild in me rebelled and just wrote her own damn book, “Dollar Dash.” So there. With my co-author, Otis Fulton, we wrote about why people behave as they do. And we wrote about how peer-to-peer is the front door of an organization and about how peer-to-peer (maybe) just might save the world! Yeah! So there!
So there! (To the Form 990 that doesn’t differentiate peer-to-peer income!)
So there! (To GuideStar that doesn’t study peer-to-peer income!)
So there! (To all those conferences with no peer-to-peer sessions!)
So there! (To all those people who give us those weird looks when we say we are in peer-to-peer fundraising!)
And, so there! (To all those diseases and situations that cause the world pain. Peer-to-peer fundraising is coming after you!)
To celebrate the release of “Dollar Dash,” there is a free Kindle download of the book available Mar. 1 through Mar. 5. Fellow red-haired stepchildren: Enjoy!
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.