Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: It's Not About Who You Know; It's About Who They Know
"In my view, all fundraising is peer-to-peer."
He also said that peer-to-peer fundraising isn't something new or fancy, even if the term itself has become the buzzword in the fundraising sector in recent years.
"Think about 400, 500 years ago — how'd you get news? You got it from the town crier," he said. "You heard things from other people, leaned over the fence and talked to your neighbor. Peer-to-peer has been incredibly accelerated by technology, but it's not a new thing — it's a human thing."
However, Shuck said there is a new way in which nonprofit organizations must interact with peer-to-peer donors these days. Sadly, few do. That's because so many fundraisers relay on traditional fundraising practices, in which the organization has a direct relationship with the donor. The donor has been cultivated for years by a major-gifts officer, board member or fundraiser, and eventually a conversation takes place directly with that donor. "We think the world needs changing. Will you help us achieve that change?" The donor says yes, gives a gift and that direct relationship is formed.
The big difference between peer-to-peer fundraising and traditional fundraising is that "we're not talking directly to the donor," Shuck said. Instead, the conversation goes like this: "The world needs changing, and we think you agree. Will you help us by passing along this information to your friends?" Then that person goes out and makes the ask for you. Shuck calls this deputizing the supporter.
From there, hopefully their friends say yes and give gifts to your organization. This is great. The critical mistake, however, is that the organization then goes back to that donor with whom it does not have a relationship and acts like it does.
"These people don't have a relationship with you, yet all our stewardship models are built around using a traditional framework," Shuck said. "So as peer-to-peer has grown, we still treat these people like we asked them a question, like we have a relationship with them, but we don't."
He provided the example of how many organizations take those peer-to-peer donors, who gave after being solicited from someone they know, not from the organization, and put them in the annual-giving stream — or some donor stream that these donors themselves have no idea about. This is a mistake.
"It doesn't have to be this hard to talk to people differently, to talk to them about this new dynamic, but we're not doing it yet," Shuck said.
It's really important that you talked to someone else before the peer-to-peer donor donated. That relationship is vital — the volunteer fundraiser is the person who brings in the donor, not the organization. And that redefines what someone's value is to the organization, Shuck said.
Traditionally, most models of a constituent's value are based on how much money that person gives to the organization, "but there are people who facilitate thousands and thousands of dollars but they aren't on our radars. Yet they're much more valuable than someone who gives $200 to us," Shuck said.
Ultimately, with peer-to-peer taking over people's everyday lives in just about everything they do, peer-to-peer fundraising will only become more commonplace.
And when it all boils down to it, that puts the power in the hands of the people.
"It's not about who we know," Shuck said. "It's about who they know."
That is what peer-to-peer fundraising is all about.
(Speaking of peer-to-peer, FundRaising Success is hosting its first conference on peer-to-peer fundraising Oct 21 in Washington, D.C. You can check out the agenda for the event here, and register here. (If you work for a nonprofit, use the code MB100 for a $100 discount.)