The Single Most Important P2P Fundraising Tool
I have two teenage sons, both in superb physical condition. As their mother, I feel empowered to set them to mowing grass, painting, sealing the driveway and other character-building tasks whenever I see them in repose.
Likewise, it’s fun to put the bright young minds at Turnkey to work in similar fashion. A frequent object of my "what do you think" spotlight is Julian May. He suffers from the ability to write, which makes him a target. I asked him, "In your mind what’s the most important thing right now in peer-to-peer fundraising?"
He looked down at me from his 6-foot-8 height, and said, deadpan, "That’s kind of broad."
I said, "Yeah, but I’m on deadline, buddy. Get a move on."
A chagrined lip purse answered me, and a well-written email shortly followed. Per Julian, the most important thing in peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising today is the advent of marketing automation:
Every day at work, we turn data points into effective communications. We develop strategies for reaching zero-dollar fundraisers and participants in the earliest days of their fundraising efforts, and pushing team captains to their full potentials. In pursuit of creating more effective programs that put our strategies effectively to work, we always are chasing down the latest tech and looking to leverage every data point we can get our hands on.
When we talk about the success of email messaging campaigns, what are the first two data points that spring to mind? Opens and clicks. These two benchmarks have become the core of how we measure success, as they should be since they are the primal forces of email marketing. If the target opened the message then we have them on the hook, if they click then we have reeled them in. So if these data points are so very crucial and core to our idea of a great campaign, why aren’t we leveraging them during the course of campaigns? Enter marketing automation.
I get excited about technologies that allow us to build more robust strategies and operate more effective programs, so excuse me if I gush. Automated email marketing allows us to rapidly respond to email recipient action on the most basic levels, opens and clicks. With these tools we can immediately identify the recipient inaction of not opening an email and respond with a message whose subject line is tailored to attract the attention of someone who wasn’t engaged the first time. (Marketing automation can respond based on other actions too, like hitting a web page for a certain length of time or downloading a PDF, but we’re focusing on opens and clicks today.)
We can also identify those who opened the message but then didn’t follow through with a click. This interaction between recipient and email, while small, tells us volumes about this participant, like how engaged they are. Automated technologies allow us to react swiftly and strike while the iron is still hot, or alternatively, to be less aggressive.
When someone opens a message but fails to click or convert they are telling us that they are listening and that they probably want to get involved, but the exact ask we made was not what they were looking for. This allows us to expose them to different opportunities to engage that might better appeal to this person’s interests for involvement. If they’re not interested in making a donation, maybe sharing a message on social media better aligns with their self-label as a nonprofit supporter.
The combination of rapid response and reactive messaging is potent. Messaging built in specific response to what our participants are unconsciously telling us with their opens and clicks lets us build the most effective email messaging campaigns yet.
If all of that seemed like the scene in a movie where "the geeky one" talks really fast and no one completely understands then, No. 1, sorry and, No. 2, Google "marketing automation video."
Julian, in every way, being an oversized geekster, understands the interplay between technology and psychology. What he describes is a way to react quickly and appropriately, which has not been a possibility for us before on a mass scale. In the past, we have all wished that we could give each volunteer, fundraiser or donor the personal attention they need and deserve, based on how they feel at the moment. We couldn’t. There’s not enough HR manpower in the world to do that. But now we can.
Marketing automation simultaneously takes a pulse and reacts to it. In five years, variable data, segmented email campaigns will be our new floppy disk. Marketing automation will be de rigueur.
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.