3 Ways P2P Fundraising is Old School
Did your New Year’s Resolution include trying a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign? If so, great! They are an incredibly fun and engaging way to raise funds. Until Susan G. Komen and Lance Armstrong’s charities took big hits in 2013, peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising was growing like gang-busters. It fumbled a little in 2013, but the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge brought it back with a vengeance in 2014.
For the last two years, my consulting work has involved working with a nonprofit organization called Cure JM (curejm.org). It’s an awesome organization, run by a very dedicated group of volunteers who work harder than any group of volunteers I’ve ever worked with before. They are all driven to find a cure for a group of rare auto-immune diseases that affect about 2-5 children per million (their children). The disease expresses itself in a range of different ways—sometimes in a milder form with rashes and muscle weakness, sometimes in a debilitating way affecting muscles, body organs, and skin in significant ways, and—unfortunately—sometimes even causing death. Currently, there is no cure. Some children do enter remission, though, others suffer life-long.
For the last two consecutive years, Cure JM has entered and won or placed in the Crowdrise Holiday Challenge (1st place in 2013-2014 and 2nd place in 2014-2015), raising more than $700,000. The campaigns the organization has run have been incredible, very focused and organized.
As I’ve thought about the secrets to the success of these campaigns, I’ve realized that while the tools for online, crowdfunding P2P type campaigns are newer than the tools for traditional fundraising campaigns, the underlying techniques and principles that drive success are still very much the same. Here are 3 ways that P2P fundraising is similar to any other type of fundraising campaign.
- Start Strong! This is critical. Before the campaigns have ever launched, the organization has rounded up families and teams, recruiting them to participate in the campaign.
In advance of Day 1 of the campaign, these fundraisers would have their pictures on their Crowdrise websites. They would have in-hand the email templates created for them to write messages to their friends and family, asking for funds. They were sitting on go, engines revved.
Having a large team ready, feet hovering over the accelerator is so important. Not only is it a little intimidating to the other teams, it’s so encouraging and inspiriting to the other members of our community. They look at the contest, see how the organization has immediately pulled out into the lead and, if they haven’t already signed-up, joined-in, and gotten started, they jump in now.
When Capital Campaigns are launched, they have a quiet phase before a campaign goes live. During that quiet phase, the campaign committee and staff work on soliciting commitments from several key organizational leaders. The general rule of thumb is that capital campaigns are announced when campaigns are about 50% complete. This helps the others who are a part of the organization feel like the goal is realistic and within reach.
It takes a real leadership commitment to be willing to make a financial commitment before others. Many people, when it comes to money, aren’t willing to be the first on-board. They wait to see what others will do.
The same goes for any other type of fundraising campaign, including P2P campaigns. There is a bandwagon effect and once people see that the campaign is credible, that your leadership is committed, and that others are involved, they, too, will get on-board.
A strong start makes for a strong campaign.
- P2P fundraising campaigns may be virtual, online campaigns, but offline, calls and face-to-face visits still have an important place—just as they do in any other type of fundraising.
During our holiday challenge campaigns, we didn’t simple send emails or post messages to Facebook pages inviting people to participate, we picked up the phone and called. Some people we spoke to face-to-face.
We asked all the question fundraisers traditionally asked: “Would you consider a gift of …” “Would you be willing to start a team?” “Would you please call so-and-so and invite them to set up a page?”
There were lots of personal invitations and personal touches. Many people were involved in reaching out in lots of different directions.
The come one, come all electronic invites will only take you so far. At some point, you’ve got to pick up the phone or get out of the office. It’s not any different with “virtual” campaigns as it is with old-school, traditional campaigns.
- People give to people. Isn’t this one of the oldest maxims in fundraising? What exactly is P2P fundraising, if not that?
The technology may be different. We’re no longer recording pledges with a stone tablet and chisel, but underneath the sleak, new interfaces of our favorite online giving interfaces—DonorDrive, StayClassy, FirstGiving, Crowdrise—the fundamentals are the same. People like being on winning teams, a part of successful organizations, they respond to a personal touch, and they give when asked by a person they know and trust.
So if 2015 includes a resolution to take a stab at P2P fundraising, you may have to learn new technological tools, but the rest is still the same. You can do it!