Pioneering Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
Today, we are surrounded by media of all kinds. We are inundated by promotions designed to educate, motivate and persuade us to engage with companies, brands, nonprofit organizations and political campaigns.
As nonprofit fundraisers, we use many of the same channels as corporate brands and political candidates to reach our intended audiences, including direct mail, telemarketing, social media, emails, and offline and online advertising. Yet, there is one, relatively new fundraising approach that is experiencing great success: peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms.
The reason is simple: Nothing is more trusted than a testimonial from a friend or loved one. One need look no further than the success of sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Trip Advisor and more for the rationale. We all look to people we know for solid advice; recommendations on worthy causes deserving our donations are no exception.
I recently had the opportunity to speak to an individual who is helping hospital and health care nonprofits pioneer the face of P2P fundraising: Brenna Holmes, vice president of digital at Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey (CCAH). She has worked with a number of institutions to implement P2P fundraising platforms. One recent effort has been a resounding success, with positive results spilling over into the organization’s traditional fundraising channels.
Why is P2P huge?
Holmes: Being asked to donate by someone you know is 300 times more effective than receiving the same solicitation from an organization. People like to give to people, and nothing humanizes the “ask” more than a personal story from someone you know. This statistic says it all: Personal emails achieve a 90 percent open rate and a 25 percent donation rate while organizational emails achieve a 17 percent open rate and an average donation rate of 0.08 percent.
What is the premise behind P2P?
Holmes: Everyone has a story to tell, and P2P platforms provide a way for people to share their stories about causes they are passionate about. Individuals like to give back, create hope and spread awareness, too. P2P does all of that—and more.
What are some of the challenges organizations face in creating P2P fundraising platforms?
Holmes: Organizations face two major challenges: designing a platform that is easy to use and demonstrating to potential fundraisers how easy P2P actually is. Most P2P fundraisers have never fundraised before, so it is important to develop simple processes, offer tools and tips that help them do their “job,” and underscore the message that P2P platforms are a simple and fun way to raise funds for a worthy cause.
As with any fundraising initiative, engaging an organization’s community of potential supporters is another key challenge. Basing the platform on specific personas is a great way to foster engagement. It allows people to raise funds to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary; establish a memorial as a tribute to a loved one; or tie fundraising to a personal challenge, say running a 5K. It also is important to remember that when supporters visit your P2P site, they might not be ready to fundraise today. To capture such organic traffic, there are a number of techniques that an organization can employ. I like using a lightbox that pops up after a certain time period if a visitor hasn’t created a fundraising page. It encourages that individual to pledge to participate at a future date that he or she specifies. In that way, the organization can follow up later using a variety of reminder emails.
What kinds of marketing techniques are you using?
Holmes: I am all about using fully integrated, omnichannel campaigns. Initially, set-up efforts focus on asset and content development, such as developing emails, homepage popups, direct-mail letters and postcards, and premiums. Thoughtful premiums help keep a cause at the top of prospective fundraisers’ minds, especially if the timing isn’t right to undertake a personal fundraising effort today.
I also like marketing approaches that encourage dialogue. So, I like to include options, like hashtags, where people can share stories and photos with the larger community of like-minded individuals. In addition to physical assets, digital signage can be useful in brick-and-mortar locations. Some other helpful techniques include coordinating P2P efforts with employee-giving campaigns and establishing limited-time matching-gift programs that create a sense of urgency.
What results are being achieved?
Holmes: P2P is a fantastic option to spark new life into philanthropic giving. In one organization, two years of P2P has increased donors by 94 percent, dollars raised by 300 percent and fundraisers year over year by 15.5 percent. Most important of all, the P2P effort did so without affecting the organization’s other fundraising efforts. In fact, individual giving and patient giving are higher than ever before.
What’s on the horizon?
Holmes: Mobile engagement is an important area, especially for stewardship. Text messages are just great with 99 percent-plus open/read rates, but the intent cannot be fundraising. Rather, it needs to provide another channel in which to engage with P2P fundraisers, coach them as they’re fundraising, and to engage and thank donors.
Facebook’s targeted ads are another great addition to the digital toolbox. They allow organizations to create custom audiences by uploading prospect email lists, house file email list, etc. In fact, any owned email list can be uploaded. It is even possible to match direct-mail files, find the listed individuals on Facebook and target them for ad receipt. Once an audience is created, Facebook also can model that audience and locate other Facebook users with profiles and characteristics similar to the organization’s best donors.
What is your best piece of advice about setting up a new peer-to-peer fundraising program?
Holmes: Build or find and use a platform that is straightforward in design and user-friendly. Complement your P2P site with videos, tips and other information that simplify the steps to fundraising and coach people through the process. Segment your audiences and employ every available channel to reach out to them. Use personalized messaging, but always retain a consistent look and feel across all your marketing efforts so that people will immediately recognize your brand. Track your results, and use this information to better hone your next iteration of techniques and channels.
Marketing is about refining and improving. Most of all, be committed to continuously building that future pipeline. Change is always on the horizon, so it is important to be prepared for what’s next.
Last but not least, never take a “build it and they will come” attitude. In P2P, effort must be expended on engaging not only potential donors but also colleagues about a great opportunity that anyone can use to share their story and give back. Spend time building internal partnerships within the organization and promoting the platform in creative ways.