A few months back I wrote a post called “What Does Your First Date with A Volunteer Look Like?” I identified several parallels between a first date and that initial connection with new volunteers or board members. These included the need for clear and honest communication and the fact both parties come to the table with lots of expectations, both spoken and unspoken. (you can find it here: http://www.trainingforgoodinc.com/blog-basic-training/whats-your-first-date-with-a-volunteer-look-like )
In recent conversations with colleagues though I’ve noticed a struggle with how to get that date in the first place. And in particular dates with P2P participants - volunteer fundraisers. By this I mean: the organization wants to offer P2P options but haven’t exactly figured out the how, who or of most concern, the WHY of starting this process. As one example of a potential “dating mismatch” I recently had a conversation with a charity leader that had decided to launch a walk. As we had further discussions, I learned that her interest in introducing the walk had little to do with identifying it as a fit for their fundraising mix or constituency. Rather, it was because they’d heard that (fill in name of charity) raised a ton of money doing a walk and they wanted in. I’m sure this story isn’t unique.
To keep the dating analogy going, developing the optimal portfolio of P2P events and connecting with a supportive audience starts with answering some questions:
What’s Your Type? Who are you trying to attract? If you’re thinking of launching a walk – which tends to connect with the more cause related supporters – will those constituents truly embrace your event? The charity I mentioned above that was eager to launch the walk was located in New York City but all of their potential participants happened to be international visitors and a few ex-pats. That makes for a tough start! Conversely, if you have a strong walk in place, are you better off scaling your walk program or can you introduce a compelling endurance event or series of events to complement it? Ultimately, you need to know who you want to attract, why you’re trying to attract them and what might get them interested.
What Are You Doing to Get Noticed? Are you sending out the right signals to potential participants? Once you’ve identified who you’re trying to attract, how are you showing off your strengths and responding to challenges? If you’re trying to find a cause related audience for a new walk, highlight your quality of research, depth of service and model for change as a starting point. If you’re launching a new cycling event in a community with multiple rides, what can you offer in terms of an event experience to stand out from the crowd? Maybe it’s the venue (think: vineyard, hard-to-access locale) or an incredibly different or challenging course. You can’t be all things to all people so figure out how to standout from the crowd and connect.
What’s Your Big Pick-Up Line? Come here often? What’s your sign? Do you know the pick-up lines that attract (and better yet KEEP) your P2P participants? One sure fire way to do this is to ask your long-term volunteers what attracted them to your organization and amplify their responses in your messaging. And keep it real. If you’re betting the house on free registration and lots of giveaways to reach endurance fundraisers, you’ll do great with one-timers but your retention may be hit or miss. It’s worth taking the time to build out your event experience so that you’re attracting – and retaining - participants that can move beyond fundraisers to become long term friends and future leaders of your organization.
Robert Grabel is the President of Nonprofit Now! You can find his posts here and at www.robertgrabel.com
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