I recently began working with a young but growing health focused organization. I'm helping them with their third annual combination virtual/live ride peer-to-peer fundraiser. I was impressed that in their first year, with just a handful of riders and a committed board and group of volunteers, they raised nearly $50,000. This isn't easy in the best of circumstances. For this charity, the issue they focus on impacts well over 30,000 people per year; however, awareness has lots of room to grow. Despite this challenge, they had a successful launch and followed it up with a strong second year characterized by strong retention and fundraising.
Their reasons for going with a virtual/live ride for their first fundraising campaign were solid. They have a strong leadership presence near the research center where they started; however, their constituency is all over the US. Further, a survey they sent showed that those impacted were eager to share their story, start raising money and increasing awareness. Interestingly, there was more interest in a ride than the traditional walk. They chose a peer-to-peer approach since they felt it was critical to engage broadly then move towards a major giving program. Bottom line, leadership was on board, they had a base of support and had done enough homework to conclude their first effort would be successful.
The scenario above is bit unusual for newer nonprofits particularly when they choose a peer-to-peer event or campaign. Sometimes, a well-intentioned board member will take charge, suggest it and lead the way. On other occasions an energetic volunteer may offer to start a crowdfunding page since she’s running a 10K or half-marathon. And then there’s the granddaddy of them all: “I heard XYZ organization did a walk and raised $100,000 in the first year. We should do that!” None of these rationales are inherently “bad” reasons to launch a peer-to-peer event or campaign. At the same time, I’d suggest that you have the best chances for success with the following elements in place:
1. Leadership: Leadership is the secret (or sometimes not so secret) sauce that paves the way towards fundraising campaigns that meet or exceed their objectives. It’s no different with P2P, it may just seem that way i.e. virtual vs. onsite meetings. You need individuals that lead by example through action as well energy and enthusiasm.
2. A solid base of support: In fundraising, we always come back to the concept of “the Ask”. In this case, ASK your constituency if they’re ready, willing and able to fundraise. If the answer is Yes, you’ve got the beginnings of the base and the next questions are a lot more fun: You move towards the How and the When. If the answer is No, that’s a different story and worthy of a different post (stay tuned for that one!)
3. A plan for continuity: Are you trying to develop a long-term peer-to-peer program? Or conversely, do you just want to have an event, see how it goes and move on. I would submit that you want to plan your approach towards having a program even if it is just one solid event per year as part of a diversified approach. The goal is not to just have a successful event but build a foundation of support that allows you to grow and grow.
If these three elements sound suspiciously like the structure you would use for any fundraising campaign, it’s no accident. Ultimately, successful peer-to-peer fundraising takes the traditional giving model, connects it with the best practices of social engagement and then makes it hyper efficient by leveraging technology. In doing this, you’re both using the next generation of fundraising and creating your next generation of donors.
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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