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Stay up-to-date on the latest in peer-to-peer fundraising in Canada

Facebook is Coming: Is Your Nonprofit Prepared?

As we start a new year, I’ve been thinking a lot about what will impact P2P fundraisers the most in 2019.

And I keep coming back to one thing: Facebook.

While Facebook has been allowing individuals to raise money on the platform for about three years, it has only recently been stepping up its efforts to partner directly with charities and fundraising platforms.

The social networking site said in November that it has raised more than $1 billion for charities and personal causes — with roughly $300 million coming through DIY-style birthday fundraisers hosted on the platform.

Facebook’s huge user base clearly offers huge opportunities for nonprofits that manage P2P programs — and organizations such as the National Kidney Foundation, March of Dimes, and Susan G. Women for the Cure have already been integrating Facebook into their existing programs.

But partnering with Facebook also has drawbacks — namely that it requires nonprofits to give up access to donor data. As more nonprofits undoubtedly jump on board in 2019, it will be interesting to see whether they are able to successfully build relationships with the new donors who contribute through the platform.

To help you wrestle with how — and whether — to integrate Facebook into your program, we’ve put together some interactive sessions at our annual conference in New Orleans on Feb. 27-28.

During the course of this year’s event, you’ll have a chance to hear from Facebook’s Kendra Sinclair, P2P fundraising professionals from the National Kidney Foundation and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and experts from Blackbaud.

Register now!

‘The Ultimate Team Captain’ Honoured as North America’s Top Volunteer Fundraiser

oCash, Sweat & Tears Award Winner Chris McPhee’s Cycling Team Has Raised Nearly $700,000 for Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation

Chris McPheeChris McPhee is the type of supporter nonprofits dream about.

The 42-year-old paramedic has personally raised $30,000 for the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation through the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. But the ride’s organizers say his work leading the Paramedics for the Cure ride team — an effort that has raised nearly $700,000 for the organization — is both inspiring and extraordinary.

In recognition of his inspiring example, the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum is honouring McPhee as the 2018 recipient of the Cash, Sweat & Tears Award as North America’s outstanding volunteer fundraiser.

In addition to his fundraising work, McPhee also coordinates efforts to have paramedics and law enforcement officials donate their time and ambulances to ensure the safety of participants in the event — and shares his time and expertise to help organize other teams that participate in the ride.

“We wish we could clone Chris McPhee,” says Steve Merker, vice president of business development for the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. “Good team captains are vital to the success of peer-to-peer programs like ours. But exemplary team captains are few and far between — and Chris is truly an exemplary team captain.”

The Cash Sweat & Tears award honours an extraordinary volunteer who has gone above and beyond to conduct peer-to-peer fundraising for charity. McPhee received the award during a ceremony tonight in Miami at the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum conference.

In peer-to-peer fundraising, a nonprofit’s supporters reach out to their friends, family and colleagues for donations often in connection with an activity such as a walk or ride. Collectively, these campaigns raise billions for nonprofits across North America.

The Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer is Canada’s largest peer-to-peer fundraising program, raising more than $39.4 million in 2017, according to Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada’s survey of Canada’s 30 largest campaigns.

And McPhee has been a driving force in its success.

McPhee began participating in the ride in 2009 in honour of his mother and mother-in-law, both of whom had died following battles with cancer. In 2010, he joined the Paramedics for a Cure team — and was asked to take over as team captain four years later.

Since then, he has worked to build the size and impact of Paramedics for a Cure — growing it from 10 riders who raised more than $25,000 to a group that counted more than 50 riders who raised $130,000 in 2017. All told, the team has raised nearly $700,000 for Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation during the past seven years alone.

“It’s humbling and rewarding when you look back and know that this has made a difference,” says McPhee, who has been an avid cyclist since he was a teenager and is passionate about working to find a cure for cancer.

McPhee says he is constantly energized by the experience — and that he works to instill passion in others who care about finding a cure.

“You experience an overwhelming feeling of emotion when you cross the finish line each year. For me, it was images of all of the people I’ve lost and people I’ve encountered in my job as a paramedic,” he said. “I want others to experience that same feeling of crossing the finish line. That’s one of the huge motivating factors I have for bringing all of these people together.”

Merker says McPhee has become an ambassador for the cause — and has inspired countless supporters to not only take part in the ride, but to raise money.

“He’s not just passionate. He has this gift of being able to inspire others,” Merker says. “He has an amazing ability to create energy and get people excited. When he invites you to get involved, you can’t say no.”

These qualities are what ultimately set McPhee apart from a field of other outstanding volunteers from the United States and Canada who were nominated for the award, said David Hessekiel, president and founder of the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum.

“Team captains are vital to the success of peer-to-peer fundraising programs — and Chris is really the ultimate team captain,” Hessekiel said. “Not only is he active in riding and raising money, his infectious spirit pushes countless others to get on a bike and support the fight against cancer. He’s an amazing example of what peer-to-peer fundraising is all about.”

In addition to the Cash, Sweat & Tears Award trophy, McPhee gets a $1,000 check from award sponsor Blackbaud.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada Thirty Survey Shows an Industry in Transition

2017 Top Thirty Benchmarking Survey Results Released


Fundraising revenue for Canada’s 30-largest peer-to-peer fundraising programs declined 1.5 percent in 2017 to $238.8 million, according to the Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada Thirty survey of the nation’s largest fundraising programs.

The modest drop follows several years of more substantial declines in revenue among these 30 bellwether programs and suggests brighter days ahead for many groups. More than half of the campaigns in this year’s survey, in fact, saw revenues increase or stay even in 2017.

“2017 was an encouraging year for Canadian charities that manage peer-to-peer fundraising programs,” said David Hessekiel, president of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada, which produces the annual survey. “A number of prominent programs are thriving — and a number of other organizations have been adding new programs and campaigns that augment their longstanding campaigns.”

A number of campaigns saw significant growth, headlined by Canada’s largest peer-to-peer program, The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation’s Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. The campaign saw a massive 13 percent increase in 2017 and posted record revenue of $39.4 million.

Blue Sea Philanthropy’s Coldest Night of the Year also boasted another record year, with revenues totaling more than $4.7 million — a 21.8 percent increase over its total in 2016. The results made Coldest Night of the Year the fastest-growing large peer-to-peer fundraising program in North America.

“Coldest Night of the Year is leading a wave of newer Canadian peer-to-peer programs that are building strong connections with their supporters and spurring them to take action,” said Bill Wood, president and CEO of FrontStream, makers of the Panorama peer-to-peer fundraising and engagement platform, and sponsor of the 2017 survey.  “Each year, Blue Sea Philanthropy stays ahead of the curve by listening to participants and adjusting their online strategies to inspire 120 communities across the country to go the extra mile for good causes.”

The Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada Thirty survey ranks the 30 largest peer-to-peer fundraising programs in Canada.    

Peer-to-peer fundraising is the practice of having a nonprofit’s supporters take part in an activity such as a walk, bike ride or challenge and reach out to their friends, family members and colleagues for donations.

In the past, peer-to-peer fundraising was dominated by large national health charities that played host to multi-city events.

But the landscape has shifted in recent years with the explosion of social media and independent peer-to-peer fundraising in which individuals can easily launch their own campaigns to raise money for their favorite charities.

“Peer-to-peer fundraising is becoming much more diverse — and much more efficient — than ever before,” Hessekiel said. “Nonprofits report that they are taking steps to make sure they are managing their costs and getting more bang for their investments.”

Other highlights from the survey include:

  • SickKids Foundation is seeing significant growth among two of its peer-to-peer programs — Great Cycle Challenge and the Canaccord Genuity Great Camp Adventure Walk. Both campaigns are among Canada’s five fastest-growing peer-to-peer programs — an impressive achievement considering the fact that both programs are new. Great Cycle Challenge debuted in 2016, while the Great Camp Adventure Walk started in 2013.
  • The Terry Fox Run — the oldest campaign in the survey and Canada’s third-largest peer-to-peer fundraising program — saw revenues increase by 2.5 percent in 2017. It marked the second-straight year of strong growth for the program, which raised more than $24 million.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada conducts the survey with sponsorship support from FrontStream.

Download the Top 30 Narrative and Dataset

 Top 10 list

  1. Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation ($39.4 million)
  2. Relay for Life, Canadian Cancer Society ($25 million)
  3. The Terry Fox Run, Terry Fox Foundation ($24.1 million)
  4. CIBC Run for the Cure, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation ($17 million)
  5. Movember Canada, Movember Canada ($15.5 million)
  6. Jump Rope for Heart, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada ($12.7 million)
  7. MS Bike, MS Society of Canada ($8.5 million)
  8. MS Walk, MS Society of Canada ($8.4 million)
  9. World Partnership Walk, Aga Khan Foundation Canada ($7.6 million)
  10. Big Bike, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada ($7.5 million)

How Moves Management Can Improve Your P2P Results

If you are looking to convert more of your low-dollar fundraisers into high achievers, consider adopting Moves Management.

Moves Management is the process of stewarding donors from entry-level to major donors using a series of planned touches or “moves”.

And if it’s employed properly, Moves Management can help your P2P program move its revenues to an entirely new level.

Just ask Kristin Flickinger, who employed Moves Management strategy to engage donors who took part in AIDS/LifeCycle and saw an immediate $1 million increase in revenue.

“Moves Management in a peer-to-peer context is more about stewarding participants than donors,” Flickinger says. “While the ultimate goal is to raise more money, that’s done by inspiring and empowering the participant to make asks and steward their contacts/donors.”

To do that, Flickinger and her team developed goals and benchmarks for its participants using historical fundraising and participant data — then used those benchmarks and data to develop a series of communications efforts and incentives that aimed to move each participant to a higher level of giving.

The AIDS/LifeCycle team analyzes data to determine how much individual participants have raised, develops a series of incentives for participants in different fundraising levels and targets them with specific asks.

“Depending on what the data suggests regarding where people need to be with fundraising in order to be retained, or achieve a certain fundraising level, you develop calling periods to impact those brackets of people,” Flickinger says. “Incentives are placed to assist with the upward movement, and messaging is crafted according to overarching communication themes.”

You can learn more about how to employ Moves Management at your P2P program during a special webinar on Thursday, Oct. 26.

Register now to learn how AIDS/LifeCycle used Moves Management to increase its fundraising totals — and how you can use the same strategy to improve results at your program.

Will Your Leadership Go the Extra Mile for Your P2P Program?

When climbers began their ascent of Toronto’s CN Tower in April to raise money for WWF Canada, they stood alongside 9,000 athletes and passionate supporters.

But there was one participant who carried a special title up each of the 1,776 steps to the top of Toronto’s tallest landmark — David Miller, WWF Canada’s president and CEO.

Many top executives talk a good game when it comes to supporting the P2P programs at their organizations. But Miller was willing to go the extra mile to show his support for his team — and to give thanks those who are willing to raise money for the organization.

“He felt that it’s important as a leader to step up, as you will, and show that the organization supports the event,” said Carey Suleiman, WWF Canada’s Director of Community Giving. “Having the organization’s leadership be willing to put their tennis shoes behind it really resonated with a lot of the people who took part in the climb.”

Miller’s participation was one of many highlights of this year’s climb. Fundraising revenue totaled $1.4 million — a healthy jump from the $1.225 million raised in 2016 and a record for the event.

And for an event that is attractive to corporate fundraising teams, Suleiman said Miller’s support carries an especially powerful message — a message that is likely to resonate as they organization seeks to attract climbers for its 2018 event.

“Joining thousands of Canadians climbing 1,776 steps to the top of the Tower is an incredible experience,” Miller says. “I can’t overstate the energy, the enthusiasm and the unity of purpose as we all joined together, right here in Toronto, to raise money to stop the degradation of nature.”

Fewer Participants, More Revenue: A Reverse Model for P2P

Peer-to-peer fundraising has long been built on the idea that more is better. More events and more participants bring more dollars, which, in turn, more help to those in need.

But the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation is proving that the opposite can also be true.

MMRF, which raises money to combat a specific strain of cancer that annually affects about 30,000 people in the U.S., has been experimenting with a new campaign that brings together small groups of passionate supporters to participate in adventure-based P2P events.

The campaign, Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma, succeeds because of participation is exclusive — as small as 12-15 people per excursion — and the level of interaction among participants is high.

To date, MMRF has played host to 6 treks to exotic locations such as Mt. Kilimanjaro, Machu Picchu and Mt. Fuji — and it has been able to underwrite the cost of staging the event through sponsorship from a pharmaceutical company that provides treatment for the disease.

And the results have been extraordinary — 112 participants have raised $1.2 million for the organization during these six events.

“This is a very different type of program,” says Alicia O’Neill, MMRF’s director of partnerships and business development. “You have to set up each group to be high touch. This is almost like stewardship of major donors in a development office.”

Such a model won’t work for every organization. But it can be highly successful, particularly if an organization is able to meet some or all of the following conditions:

A Strong Community

Unlike some nonprofits that raise money to fight diseases, multiple myeloma is a disease that affects a relatively small population. As a result, MMRF doesn’t have a huge base of supporters who have a close connection to the cause.

It does, however, have a highly committed group of supporters — many of whom have a close connection to the organization and its work.

This intimacy between the organization and its supporters lends itself to smaller, more focused events. It also means that some of its supporters are willing to take on extreme challenges and devote significant time to raising money on its behalf.

“We’re not an organization that is going to have a 1,000-person ride,” O’Neill said. “But we’re going to have 18 people who want to cross the country to raise $400,000.”

MMRF is careful to ensure that each person who takes part in the excursions has a close connection to the cause — either as a patient, a family member of a patient, or a medical professional who works with multiple myeloma.

A Committed Sponsor

Moving Mountains for Multiple Myeloma’s financial model is built, in large part, on the fact that participants do not have to pay for their trips.

Instead, those costs are underwritten by a sponsor, Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

The company agreed to sponsor the programs to help market a new drug that it had developed to help multiple myeloma patients.

“We don’t pay for people’s trips,” O’Neill said. “But with the support of Takeda, we have a grant that allows us to cover all of the costs.”

The sponsorship means that MMRF doesn’t need to cut into fundraising revenues to pay for the trip — and participants don’t have to worry about shelling out their own money for the effort. In turn, this frees them to focus on raising more money to support the organization.

A ‘High Touch’ Approach

Unlike larger events, Moving Mountains succeeds because of its intimacy.

Not only are participants carefully selected, they are also mentored by MMRF staff — and each other — throughout the process.

Participants are part of a private Facebook group, where they get to know each other as they train for the event, have personal get-togethers months before the event, and are guided through the journey by MMRF.

“I’m right there with them,” O’Neill said. “I’m training. I’m climbing the mountain. I’m fundraising. I’m experiencing everything that I’m asking them to do.”

To go big, sometimes it pays to think small!

Make-A-Wish Canada’s Rope for Hope Builds Strong Ties With Supporters

When Make-A-Wish Canada set out to launch a new national-scale peer-to-peer fundraising program, it wanted to create an experience that its supporters would always remember.

With Rope for Hope, it struck gold.

Rope for Hope gives supporters the opportunity to rappel down the side of a building in one of 10 Canadian cities after they have collected at least $1,500 in pledges from their friends and co-workers.

While the fundraising minimum is steep, the chance to shimmy down the side of an iconic structure has become an attractive draw for Make-A-Wish Canada supporters.

In 2016 — just the fourth year of the carefully-planned event — more than 600 people took part in the campaign and raised $1.4 million for the organization at 10 sites across Canada.

“It’s not a typical walk or run,” says Cheryl Woods, Make-A-Wish Canada’s director of chapter development & support and the organizer of Rope for Hope. “It’s adrenaline based. And we see a lot of people repeating because of the experience.”

Rope for Hope is among a wave of new, fast-growing P2P programs that are giving hope to Canadian charities that are looking to find novel ways to engage with their supporters.

According to the recently released Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada Benchmarking Survey, seven of Canada’s 30 largest P2P programs in 2016 were founded within the past 5 years. This marks a stark difference with their U.S. counterparts, as only one of the top 30 U.S. programs was founded after 2011.

It is also one of three new campaigns that joined the top 30 in 2016. SickKids Foundation’s Great Cycle Challenge and Princess Margaret Cancer Center’s Journey to Conquer Cancer are the others.

“Canadian nonprofits have had great success experimenting with new types of peer-to-peer campaigns,” says David Hessekiel, Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada’s Founder and President. “We’re seeing a great deal of innovation as nonprofits are looking for new ways to engage supporters beyond the more traditional walks and rides.”

Rope for Hope exemplifies this creative approach.

Because Make-A-Wish Canada is a chapter-based organization, Woods said it wanted to create a P2P campaign that would be easy to replicate, but would also capture the unique identity of communities across Canada.

Rope for Hope provides all of these elements. While walks and rides are common for chapter-based organizations like Make-A-Wish, rappelling is much more unique.

Supporters are eager to take part because it provides them with a rare thrill — a thrill that they are willing to raise significant sums to achieve.

It also draws considerable attention in each community. TV and print media love the visuals — and participants are eager to share pictures and videos of their adventures on social media.

These elements have helped the expand grow quickly — though Woods said Make-A-Wish has been careful to manage its expansion to ensure that it is scaling at a sustainable rate.

Ultimately, she said the organization would like to see it expand to 20 sites in Canada — and raise somewhere between $2 million-$3million annually.

“We’re being very careful about how we manage it and we want to continue to keep it fresh,” Woods said.

That approach should serve Make-A-Wish well as it looks to expand Rope for Hope — and offers an excellent reminder to other organizations that are nurturing newer programs.

Canadian Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Declined in 2016, but 2017 Looks Better

P2PCanada_30_4c Fundraising revenue for Canada’s 30-largest peer-to-peer fundraising programs declined 6.2 percent in 2016, according to the Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada Top Thirty Benchmarking Survey.

Since peaking at $278.2 million in 2014, the revenues for these 30 bellwether programs have dropped by 14.8 percent in the past two years to $237.6 million.

But behind these seemingly bleak numbers are a number of trends that suggest that Canadian peer-to-peer fundraising is poised for growth.

A number of large Canadian peer-to-peer programs have been deliberately recalibrating and downsizing longstanding programs and are complementing flagship campaigns with initiatives that will help them reach a new generation of supporters.

In addition, many Canadian charities are seeing rapid growth in their peer-to-peer programs — particularly among newer and more creative program types.

Perhaps most encouraging, though, is news that a number of top programs are expecting revenue gains in 2017. While the fundraising year is still young, some large programs — including Toronto’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre’s Ride to Conquer Cancer and Blue Sea Philanthropy’s Coldest Night of the Year — are already reporting record revenues for their events in 2017.

The overall decline in Canadian P2P fundraising revenue is highly concentrated among the very largest and most established programs.

Seven of the eight largest Canadian programs saw their revenues decline in 2016 — and five of the top six programs saw their revenues decline by 11 percent or more.

Other highlights from the 2016 survey include:

    • The Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer saw its fundraising revenues drop by 13 percent in 2016, to $34.88 million. However, the campaign appears to be rebounding in 2017. The largest of the campaign’s four rides — the Toronto Ride to Conquer Cancer — is already reporting a revenue increase of 17 percent — to $20.5 million. Organizers say that the Toronto event is the largest single-event fundraiser in Canadian history.

    • The true standout among the largest programs in 2016 was the Terry Fox RunRevenues for the Run — the oldest P2P program among the top 30 — jumped by more than $4 million to nearly $23.5 million.

    • Outside of the eight-largest programs, revenues for the rest of the P2P Thirty actually increased slightly in 2016 — up 0.3 percent. And half of the programs on the list either posted increases or were brand-new programs.

    • Seven of the programs in the survey were 5 years old or younger in 2016 — spotlighting the fact that a number of new programs are seeing great success. This marks a stark difference with P2P programs in the U.S., where only one of the top 30 programs was founded after 2011.

    • SickKids Foundation’s Great Cycle Challenge — a brand-new program in 2016 — vaulted onto the list after raising nearly $1.8 million. This marks the first time that a virtual campaign has qualified for the top 30 in either the United States or Canada.

    • Blue Sea Philanthropy’s Coldest Night of the Year saw revenues increase by 27.5 percent in 2016, to $3.87 million. It was the third-straight year that Coldest Night has been Canada’s fastest-growing large program.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada conducts the survey with sponsorship support from Blackbaud.

Download the Top 30 Narrative and Dataset

Are Virtual Events the Next Big P2P Trend?

By Peter Panepento

Peer-to-peer fundraising runs, walks and rides are traditionally focused around central, in-person events.

But the growing popularity of FitBits and other wearable fitness tracking devices is making it easier than ever for nonprofits to organize P2P campaigns in which supporters can participate virtually on their own time — wherever they are.

For years, charities across North America have been incorporating virtual elements into their existing proprietary campaigns — offering participants in fundraising rides, for example, the opportunity to ride remotely or on stationary bikes.

Now, an increasing number of groups are organizing stand-alone virtual campaigns.

Virtual peer-to-peer campaigns have already proven successful in the United Kingdom, with efforts like the British Heart Foundation’s My Marathon and Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Running Down Dementia,

In addition, a number of North American charities — including Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and Children’s Cancer Research Fund — are also experimenting with virtual campaigns.

“It’s social fundraising at its finest,” says Robyn Mendez, a senior product marketing manager for Blackbaud. “You don’t have to go through the cost of managing a physical event. You can reach people where they are.”

Sensing a trend, many fundraising software companies are investing in developing peer-to-peer fundraising applications that integrate with wearable fitness trackers and allow users to raise money based on how far their run or ride, how many steps they take or how many calories they burn.

Other companies are developing similar technology — making it possible for fitness-minded participants to build their own do-it-yourself campaigns or participate in virtual activities that are organized by nonprofits.

As a result, Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum founder David Hessekiel says he expects virtual campaigns to take over a larger share of P2P fundraising activities in the U.S. and Canada in the years ahead.

“These campaigns have tremendous potential — in part because they combine the freedom of do-it-yourself fundraising with the structure of a proprietary event,” Hessekiel said. “Virtual campaigns aren’t for everyone, but they do offer some great opportunities for organizations that are looking for new ways to engage supporters or are looking to experiment with peer-to-peer for the first time.”

Early Examples

Unlike proprietary campaigns in which charities organize in-person walks, runs and rides, virtual events often focus on individuals pledging to take on a physical challenge — such as running the equivalent of a marathon or engaging in 30 minutes of exercise for 30 days — and then soliciting donations based on completing their challenge.

Fundraisers track their results through wearable technology or through another system.

“You’re on your own, but you’re not alone,” says Ken Foreman of Alzheimer’s Research UK, which has started the virtual program Running Down Dementia. “While people participate as individuals, they are still able to participate in a community that’s on the same page and aiming for the same thing. You’re just doing it virtually.”

The concept of community is central to most of the early virtual campaigns. Some examples of successful virtual programs include:

Running Down Dementia

Alzheimer’s Research UK partnered with park run — a volunteer group that organizes 5k runs every Saturday at parts throughout the United Kingdom — to encourage participants to raise money in conjunction with their weekly runs.

The program — which challenged people to commit to running 100 km over a 5-month period in 2016 — raised more than £220,000, or $286,000, last year from more than 4,000 runners. Roughly 40 percent of those participants are women between the ages of 35 and 45.

Alzheimer’s Research UK is looking to expand the campaign this year — with the goal of continuing to engage new supporters, Foreman says.

Great Cycle Challenge

The Children’s Cancer Research Fund started the Great Cycle Challenge in 2015 to raise money to support research to develop treatments and find a cure for childhood cancer.

In 2016, the Canadian version of the campaign — which is held throughout the month of June — included more than 10,000 riders and raised nearly $1.8 million.

My Marathon

Rather than running a full marathon in one shot, participants in the British Heart Foundation’s My Marathon virtual campaign have 31 days to complete their 26.2-mile journey.

Participants track their distances using the Everyday Hero mobile app —and the charity can communicate with them directly through the app to provide encouragement and advice for completing their journey and raising money.

To date, more than 32,000 people have raised more than $1 million through the campaign. And the campaign is helping the British Heart Foundation reach a growing army of new supporters — as more than 70 percent of its donors are new to the charity, says Everyday Hero’s Neil Harkins.

Miracle Challenge

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals has experimented with a pilot virtual campaign called Miracle Challenge in the United States and Canada — raising more than $750,000 in 2016.

The Miracle Challenge encouraged participants to engage in a physical challenge every day for 27 days across one of five tracks: walking, running, cycling/spinning, yoga, and boot camp.

Each day, participants were emailed a mini challenge that they are encouraged to complete as part of the program — and urged to raise at least $10 per day for a Children’s Miracle Network hospital.

The campaign offered participants a way to support the organization without having to attend an in-person event. At the same time, they are able to participate in an activity that will improve their health, says Staci Cross, the organization’s vice president of activation.

While Cross said the program was successful, she said the organization is now encouraging supporters to take on their own virtual challenges in support of the charity — rather than organizing a full-blown virtual event.

Why Consider Virtual?

As the above examples show, virtual campaigns don’t yet compete with the size and scale of longstanding proprietary programs.

But they are nonetheless a potentially useful option for nonprofits that are looking to dip their toes into P2P and for groups that are looking to offer new P2P options for their supporters.

Virtual campaigns are worth considering for nonprofits that are looking to accomplish the following:

Reach new audiences

Younger supporters — particularly millennials — might not be keen on participating in a walk-a-thon or participating in a cycling event. But they are willing to leverage their interest in fitness — and their comfort with technology — for good. By providing them with the option of a virtual fitness campaign, you have an opportunity to reach this important and growing group of supporters.

Engage rural supporters

In-person campaigns work great in areas that can draw from large populations. But they aren’t always practical for those who live hours from a big city. Virtual campaigns make it possible for those in rural areas to run, walk, ride or swim in support of your organization.

Extend an existing P2P campaign

Many proprietary campaigns grow quickly during their early years — then plateau as they reach maturity. Incorporating a virtual element into your next ride or walk provides you with an opportunity to offer a fresh twist on your event, engage new audiences and help it grow beyond its core group of annual supporters.

Experiment with P2P

Mendez says virtual campaigns offer smaller organizations and groups that are new to P2P fundraising develop programs without a large upfront investment. “It helps with risk management and offers a low barrier for entry,” she says.

Manage their brands

Some organizations are fearful about encouraging supporters to take part in do-it-yourself or independent fundraising campaigns because they have little say in what their supporters say and do to raise money on their behalf. With a virtual campaign, groups can create a more structured program — and more effectively manage their messaging.

“It’s safer than DIY because you can maintain your brand presence,” Mendez says. “You can give people to fundraise on their own terms, but you can do it within the structure of an actual program.”

Advice for Getting Started

While virtual campaigns are still emerging, those who have staged successful campaigns offer the following advice for getting started.

Experts advise those who are considering a virtual campaign to consider the following advice:

Make a Simple Ask

You don’t have to get fancy when you develop your campaign. Instead, develop a concept that is easy to understand.

Running Down Dementia, for example, asked participants to run 100 kilometers and raise £100 pounds.

“The simple ask got people engaged,” says Kenneth Foreman, sporting event manager for Alzheimer’s Research UK. “Some of the virtual events I’ve seen seem a bit complicated. By keeping ours simple, we were able to get people to quickly understand — and we had a quite a number who raised much more than £100.”

Create a Community

One of the challenges of virtual events is that supporters are dispersed. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be connected.

In fact, it’s important to develop a community for participants where they can share advice, push each other and draw energy.

Some virtual event organizers create private Facebook groups for participants where they can meet in a closed community and share information. Others host meet ups and other in-person gatherings to bring participants together.

Provide Coaching

Technology offers amazing opportunities for organizers of virtual campaigns to communicate with supporters.

While you should certainly use technology to push information and encourage people to raise more money, you can also use it to provide tutorials and coaching.

The British Heart Foundation, for instance, uses its app to send messages to runners who reach certain milestones — and to push them to achieve their next goal. Alzheimer’s Research UK, meanwhile, uses Facebook Live to coach runners.

Offer Incentives

Because they aren’t as costly as proprietary events, virtual campaigns offer organizations the opportunity to invest in incentives that reward those who reach certain fundraising thresholds — while still keeping the overhead needed to manage the campaign quite low.

Consider investing in T-shirts and providing them to participants who reach minimum fundraising thresholds. This will help them feel more connected to the campaign — and will help you spread the word, Foreman says.

Get Personal

Don’t forget to make sure you add some personal touches to help build connections with your participants.

While text messages through your fundraising app or emails are nice, consider taking the time to have staff members or volunteers call to thank your supporters for reaching fundraising goals or to offer encouragement along the way.

These extra touches can help build stronger connections with your supporters that extend well beyond the campaign itself.

Coldest Night Continues P2P Fundraising Growth

Canada’s first major peer-to-peer fundraising campaign of 2017 is in the books — and its results should provide a measure of optimism to Canadian nonprofits that are planning P2P programs this spring.

Blue Sea Philanthropy reports that Coldest Night of the Year, which raises money for organizations that help the hungry and homeless, raised more than $4 million in February — a record total for the fast-growing event.

Revenues totaled about $3.85 million in 2016, or roughly 17 percent more than the $3.3 million raised by Coldest Night in 2015.