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!
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.