Here's a quick multiple choice quiz...
Which of these scenarios offers your nonprofit organization the best chance of launching a successful walk, cycling event, run - or something else entirely - that leverages use of the peer-to-peer platform?
All right I admit it. It's a trick(y) question. The answer could be 4. Or just as likely it could be 5. Having a large sponsor in your corner is a strong start but not a guarantee you'll find the participant base needed to build out a sustainable event. Getting buy-in and the start of a leadership team from your volunteers is helpful but it's still the tip of the iceberg. Finally, a semi-successful launch is the beginning of what may become a story that can be scaled. However, if you're still in the mistake-making phase, keep learning before moving forward. That's why pilot programs are well, pilot programs.
With an ever growing number of organizations looking at peer-to-peer as a very viable source of new revenue, I wanted to suggest the following tips as you look to launch new fundraising events:
Diversify, Diversify, Diversify: Be sure you've got a diversified group of supporters before launching an event. This should include prospective participants, sponsors, leadership and volunteers. Fight the urge to roll out an event simply because a few of your key volunteers or a major sponsor says they'll support your new fundraising initiative. I realize this can be really difficult. Let's face it, we're in this profession because we want to do good things for others. More money = more good. But this is a slippery slope. Just because you have The Big Sponsor (for example), that won't suffice in place of a consistent and diversified audience for your event. Unless you've identified all the key moving parts, you may be holding a big party that very few are attending.
Scale when you've got something worth Scaling: No matter how much organizational capacity you have - staff, committed volunteers and yes, MONEY - figure out your model for success first and then replicate it. If scaling is about replicating a working model and you're still experimenting, learning, trying and failing, you're most likely replicating mistakes. You're doing the opposite of establishing best practices.
Do A Feasibility Study: Several of the pitfalls I've identified (and probably a few that I haven't) can be revealed with the help of a decent feasibility study. Even on a limited budget, you should be able to test for some basics including:
While doing the above is no guarantee of success, doing your homework first is a great starting point.
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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