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Does Your P2P Campaign Have a Purpose?

24942234870_2599920139_kWhen you’re starting a new peer-to-peer fundraising campaign — or evaluating your existing campaign — it’s easy to get wrapped up in the tactics.

You fret about whether you have enough volunteers, how you’re going to attract participants, and even what you will do if it rains.

But Plenty Consulting’s Kari Bodell advises peer-to-peer professionals to take a step back to ponder a basic — and crucial — question before they do anything else.

“It is important to clarify the purpose behind your campaign,” said Bodell, who will lead two day-long workshops this month with the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum. “Chances are, your organization is complex, and constantly deploying many projects and campaigns that support your mission. Sometimes these campaigns are rooted in advocacy and education, others are meant to raise funds, which is why it is critical to know the goal of your campaign and to make sure it is the driving force behind your entire strategy – from brainstorming to execution.”

Once you decide on your purpose, it’s important to make sure that purpose is front and center in every decision you make.

This is especially true for P2P fundraising, where your success is determined by the ability of your supporters to share your message.

Bodell says your purpose should be clearly articulated in all of your communications with supporters so they, in turn, can relay that message when they’re out raising money on your behalf.

“The need for clarity is heightened in a P2P setting, because now we are not just communicating this purpose to our donor base, but we are also asking them to communicate this message to their own networks,” Bodell says.

“If you’re familiar with the telephone game you know how easy it is for communications to break down. While you can’t guarantee this won’t happen, you can strategically create concise and focused messaging that is better suited to withstand the natural deterioration communications face as they are passed through many channels.”

Donors More Likely to Open P2P Emails, Study Finds

Blackbaud StudyPotential donors who receive e-mail messages from their peers are significantly more likely to open those messages and take action than those who receive solicitations from nonprofits, according to a new study by the technology company Blackbaud.

Open rates for e-mails sent by participants in peer-to-peer cycling, endurance and walk events exceeded 40 percent — nearly tripling the 15.34 percent average open rate for nonprofit donation solicitations, the study found.

The new data, which is based on an analysis of the results of peer-to-peer programs managed by 186 nonprofits that use Blackbaud’s online fundraising software, confirms what many in the P2P fundraising world have hypothesized — that donors are much more responsive to appeals from friends and family than they are from organizations.

But the study also highlights the big challenge that many P2P programs face — getting participants in their events to take the time to send emails.

Blackbaud’s analysis, for example, found that only 9 percent of participants in walks send e-mail solicitations. That number climbs to 22 percent for participants in endurance campaigns and 30.1 percent for those who participate in cycling events.

Other key findings from the report:

  • Reports of the demise of the walk appear to have been exaggerated. The study found that online donation revenues for walks increased by 17 percent in 2015. Endurance events also showed robust gains of 21 percent.
  • While overall revenues were down 4 percent for cycling events in 2015, participants in cycling events are still the most active fundraisers when compared to other types of P2P programs. For example, more than one half of participants in cycling events collected 2 or more donations in 2015. By comparison, only about 13.4 percent of walk participants collected 2 or more donations.
  • Participants in Canadian P2P events tend to be more active fundraisers than those who participate in US P2P events. Roughly 15 percent of Canadian walk participants, for example, sent e-mail solicitations — compared with just 8.9 percent of U.S. participants.

Click here to download the full report.

Give Your Supporters Something to Believe In

Derrick FeldmannDerrick Feldmann, author of Social Movements for Good, will challenge attendees at Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada’s annual conference to do more than simply ask for their supporters to belong.

He will challenge them to engage them in a journey to become a part of something much larger — to inspire them to become true believers who see their participation in P2P campaigns as part of a larger movement.

Whether your organization is working to cure a disease, improve the environment, or feed the homeless, Feldmann says your message to your supporters should be clear: we have an opportunity to do much more than simply raise money.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada sat down with Feldmann to learn more about how P2P fundraisers can help build movements.

Here’s some of what he had to say:

P2P Fundraising Canada: Define a social movement and how is that different than the way charities and organizations work on behalf of a cause?

Feldmann: There isn’t a cause leader in the world who doesn’t want to lead a movement. Social movements for good happen when you have a very big collective of people who support and work together in the interest of the larger whole. The collective supports the needs of the collective.

The entity is not the movement. The movement is the people. The people involved have to believe that they are working toward something better together. The entity or, in this case the nonprofit, is really the infrastructure that keeps the movement going.

How does something become a movement?

We’ve found that there are three stages of movement that an individual goes through.

They start with belonging — and this is how a lot of people become involved in peer-to-peer campaigns. This is where I can say, ‘Pledge to me because I am trying to raise money by running in this race’. I’m asking my friends to belong to my movement. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re making a deep or a long-term commitment. It does mean that they’re belonging for that moment.

It’s very simple to belong to something where you have friends. That friendship and that relationship make that belonging so much more natural. But when we truly believe in a cause and you want to go out on your own and find and tell, that’s a different case. The person moved away from belonging to it and is saying that this is exactly what I care about it. This person has moved from belonging to believing.

The third phase is owning the movement. They own and self organize.

How do nonprofits get their supporters to move beyond belonging?

We have to move from assuming that just because someone is participating, or belonging, that they are a believer, because it’s not true for everyone.

Most peer-to-peer campaigns, for instance, are based on the owners of the movement going out and trying to get more belongers. Often, they get stuck in a cycle where they are pulling the lever each year and getting their supporters to attract more belongers.

To get them from belonger to believer often involves getting them to internalize the real reason why this issue is top of mind for them. When we see that connection really falter at times is when the organization has not really established their true peer-to-peer model. If you have a very shortsighted peer-to-peer model where they just say they want to have people join us and give to us, there’s an assumption that because we got them to give on a small level, we ultimately will be able to over time get them to give on a bigger level. But organizations don’t always take the time to plan it and figure out how to get them to that next level.

When you look at groups like Pencils of Promise that really have high engagement with millennials, they create a very very intentional strategy that takes them from belonging to a campaign, to believing and ultimately owning it.

What are these organizations doing to create right kinds of conditions for that progression to happen?

True movements are often started and led by those who are able to inspire those who are participating to feel as though they have the power to make a difference. Their message is that without you, the movement wouldn’t be possible.

Along the way, almost all of the movements we’ve studied have also presented participants with an opportunity to bring others along. It provides an opportunity for that person to escalate their involvement in the movement not just because they want to share something. but to escalate the feeling that they are doing something more. Always presenting the opportunity.

Providing the person with the idea that they are powerful and giving them consistent opportunities to help them link others, made it much more substantial than saying, ‘Hey, it’s peer-to-peer fundraising season again. Here’s another opportunity to gather your friends and get involved’.

The most successful campaigns move beyond that message and say ‘Here is your opportunity to share what you believe in.’

When you feel like you belong and own part of a movement and you’re given an opportunity to go further, it’s much bigger than just raising money.

Derrick Feldmann will provide the keynote address at Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada’s annual conference on Nov. 1 in Toronto.

— Peter Panepento

Is DIY fundraising making your day or driving you nuts?

By David Hessekiel
P2P Fundraising Canada Founder

Six years ago, a leader in our industry told me to keep an eye on independent or third-party fundraising. Nonprofits were uncomfortable with supporters “doing their own thing,” but the pendulum was swinging in that direction.

“Sure, sure,” I replied, but I didn’t prioritize that sector because my eye was fixed on the world of runs, walks, rides and endurance fundraising Fast forward to August 2016 and “do it yourself fundraising” is a hot topic for almost all Canadian organizations seriously engaged in peer-to-peer.

Numerous groups have set up portal pages encouraging supporters to dedicate their birthdays, arrange tributes, organize events or choose virtually any activity. Only a few groups are bringing in big bucks this way, but in age of social media it’s clear that DIY is here to stay and growing. Over the summer, I’ve spoken with dozens of members of our community in Canada and the U.S. about DIY fundraising and it is clear that:

  • they want to learn more
  • this area is the “wild, wild west” of P2P with lots of obstacles to be overcome

That’s why we’re excited to be undertaking a serious study of this marketplace to help establish a common language, identify best practices and provide guidance on major challenges.
Whether you call it DIY, independent fundraising, third-party events or something else, we’d like to learn about the status of your efforts and the questions you have.

Please email me today with your thoughts – and enjoy the waning days of summer.

As Olympic Couple Goes for Gold, It Also Launches a DIY Campaign

When American decathlete Ashton Eaton and Canadian heptathlete Brianne Theisen-Eaton begin their quests for gold next week at the 2016 Summer Olympics, they will have big fans at World Vision.

Ashton and Brianne are vying to become the first married couple from different countries to win medals in the same Olympics. If they are successful in their quest, they will likely become one of the biggest stories of this year’s Games.

And, if that happens, it will likely help them achieve their goal of getting 500 people to sponsor children through World Vision.

Before the Olympics, the couple set up a do-it-yourself fundraising campaign for the charity — hoping to use the attention that comes with competing at the Olympics to help do some good.

Their campaign has yet to fully take off. But World Vision will be promoting it heavily beginning today, when Brianne starts her quest for gold and again next week, when Ashton aims to follow in the footsteps of past American Olympic greats.

P2P Fundraising in the News: Pickles and Lemonade Edition

Summer might be in its dog days, but there’s been quite a bit of news bubbling up recently about Canadian peer-to-peer fundraising efforts.

Here are a few items that have caught our attention in recent days:

What’s In That Bucket?

A Toronto marketing company is looking to capture the magic of the Ice Bucket Challenge with a month-long campaign called #WhatsInYourBucket. Instead of getting dumped with water, the agency’s employees will get dumped in the material of their choice. Participants have gotten pretty creative, as you can see from the video showing a fundraiser getting doused in pickles.

One challenge is being posted each business day in August to raise money for ALS charities.

Ride to Conquer Cancer Results

Times have been tough in Calgary, but that didn’t stop 1,400 riders from raising $6.35 million during the Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, according to the Calgary Herald.

Starting Young

Finally, it doesn’t get much cuter than these two young girls who are selling lemonade to raise money for endangered species at the Calgary Zoo. The zoo was so inspired by their enthusiasm that has decided to launch a new do-it-yourself campaign called “I Blank for Wlidlife” that aims to give people the ability to create their own fundraising campaigns on its behalf.

How the MS Society of Canada Is Rethinking P2P for a New Era

Becky Mitts - updated 2016

Becky Mitts

Like many longstanding peer-to-peer campaigns, the MS Society of Canada’s Walk MS series has been trending downward since its heyday in the late 2000s.

As peer-to-peer fundraising has matured, legacy events such as Walk MS are seeing their revenues get chipped away by a growing number of competitors — and a widening menu of choices.

Social and digital technology are making it easier than ever for nonprofit supporters to launch their own, stand-alone campaigns. Meanwhile, smaller nonprofits and regional charities have been starting their own programs, giving donors even more choices.

It’s no surprise, then, that events like the MS Walk — which has been a spring staple in communities across Canada since 1991 — are no longer pulling in the revenues they once did.

But rather than scaling back, the MS Society of Canada is doubling down.

The organization is putting a renewed focus on legacy P2P programs like MS Walk and MS Bike —choosing to view them less as massive revenue opportunities and more as a way to begin relationships with donors that will span decades.

“MS Walk exists to raise money, but it also exists to introduce people to the MS Society,” said Becky Mitts, MS Society of Canada’s Senior Manager, National Event Strategy. “It’s the first time a lot of people interact with us.”

This insight is changing the way the organization thinks about — and plans for — the event.

Rather than using it solely as an opportunity to raise money, the MS Society is changing the way it communicates with participants. It is positioning the money raised through MS Walk as an investment in an organization that is making an impact.

By doing so, it hopes to engage P2P fundraisers in a relationship that extends well beyond the event itself and leads to greater donations and support in the future. This shift is allowing the organization to focus on the walk not as a single event, but as the first step in a path of engagement with the MS Society.

“We’re mapping out what are the opportunities to get them engaged with the organization as a whole,” says Mitts, who will be a featured speaker at Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada’s annual conference on Nov. 1 in Toronto. “It pushes us to tell our story better. If you’re going to fundraise on our behalf, we’re going to tell you what we’re doing with your investment.”

At first blush, the MS Society’s approach appears counter intuitive — especially as new P2P models are growing more popular and legacy programs are earning less favor.

Twenty of Canada’s 30 largest peer-to-peer fundraising programs posted revenue declines in 2015, according to the Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada Top Thirty Benchmarking Survey.

Overall, fundraising totals at these top 30 programs dropped by 8.6 percent in 2015 — and the MS Society’s two signature programs struggled.

MS Walk, Canada’s 7th-largest P2P program, raised $9.6 million in 2015, down 8 percent from $10.4 million the previous year.

MS Bike, which ranked just below the walk at No. 8, saw its revenues decline by 5.4 percent, to just under $9.1 million. Despite last year’s decline, MS Bike has seen steady increases in revenue over the years. And while the organization isn’t giving the program a strategic overhaul, it is nonetheless stepping up its investment and looking at new ways to engage riders.

“We’re going to invest in bike as a program,” Mitts said. “If we are not investing in it now, five years from now we’re going to have a declining program on our hands.”

The fact that these two programs still collectively raise more than $18 million for the organization is only one factor in that shift. The organization also recognizes that these longstanding programs also engage more than 50,000 people annually in its work — and those 50,000 people have tremendous long-term value to the MS Society if they are properly engaged.

“The impact will ultimately be more people engaged with us in the fight to stop MS,” she says. “We can only do that with more people involved in fundraising and more people involved advocacy work. We need to widen our constituency.”

So far, the new approach is paying off, Mitts said. MS Walk has hit its fundraising goals for 2016, with the exception of Alberta, which has seen considerable money directed toward disaster relief. It also reached its goals for metrics such as the percentage of participants who made a personal donation and the average number of solicitation emails sent by participants.

But Mitts says it will take several years for the organization to be able to measure the full impact of the change in philosophy.

“It’s not a one-year fix,” she said. “To achieve the great things we want to achieve with walk, it’s going to take a few years to see results.”

Want more insights from Becky Mitts and other top P2P fundraising professionals? Join us on November 1 in Toronto for Canada’s only conference devoted exclusively to P2P fundraising.

How Canadian peer-to-peer fundraising programs are finding success even amidst falling revenues

Like many longstanding peer-to-peer campaigns, the MS Society of Canada’s MS Walk series has been trending downward since its heyday in the late 2000s.

As peer-to-peer fundraising has matured, legacy events such as MS Walk are seeing their revenues get chipped away by a growing number of competitors — and a widening menu of choices.

Social and digital technology are making it easier than ever for nonprofit supporters to launch their own, stand-alone campaigns. Meanwhile, smaller nonprofits and regional charities have been starting their own programs, giving donors even more choices.

It’s no surprise, then, that events like the MS Walk — which has been a spring staple in communities across Canada since 1991 — are no longer pulling in the revenues they once did.

Read the full August 2, 2016 article in Charity Village

Looking to Add Spice to Your Fundraising Walk? Try Legos

6454408915_fe55a8feeb_bAnyone who has ever stepped on a Lego knows the damage one of these small plastic building blocks can inflict on a bare foot.

Imagine if you had to walk across a 10-foot-long path filled with nothing but Legos.

We have one word to describe the thought of such a journey: Ouch!

But a number of nonprofits are beginning to turn this painful idea into a reality — all in the name of raising money.

In Marblehead, Mass., for instance, a family organized an event called the Lego Firewalk Challenge, which challenged participants to walk across a bed of Legos in their stocking feet to raise money for research into finding a cure for acute lymphocytic leukemia.

The event was a big hit with kids, many of whom recorded their walks on video and uploaded them online.

The Lego Firewalk Challenge is the latest entry on the growing Big List of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaigns — a resource that catalogs all of the different ways people raise money on behalf of their favorite causes.

The list is a great resource for organizations that are looking for new ideas for P2P events.

It also shows you the crazy things individuals will do for charity.

In fact, some people are willing to go a step beyond Legos and walk across a course filled with shards of broken glass — all in the name of charity.

Oh, what people will do!


A Creative Way to Thank Your Best Fundraisers

Do you thank your best fundraisers often enough?

Most likely you send notes. You make calls. You offer rewards.  Even with all of these steps, you know it’s not possible to fully thank your most outstanding peer-to-peer participants for everything they do to help your organization.

Today we offer you a simple way to honor the peer-to-peer fundraiser who inspired you the most over the last year.  Nominate him or her for the Cash, Sweat & Tears Canada Award. Simply fill out the short nomination form to publicly recognize your volunteer as one of Canada’s best.

Our judges will recognize one especially inspiring volunteer at annual conference in November — and all nominees will be recognized in the Cash, Sweat & Tears Canada Honor Roll.

Do it today — the final deadline is August 1. Act now. It’s free and easy. Just fill out this simple form and let your best volunteers know how much they mean to your organization.

The 2016 winner will join some amazing company.

The inaugural Cash, Sweat & Tears Canada Award winner, Lovisa McCallum, has raised more than $317,500 for Cystic Fibrosis Canada through its annual Great Strides Walk.

Lovisa is a true champion for the cause. In addition to her work as a peer-to-peer fundraiser, she is also an exemplary volunteer — serving as the President of the Toronto & District Chapter of Cystic Fibrosis Canada, as well as several other committees.

But it is her participation in the Great Strides Walk that is truly exceptional. Each year, Lovisa rallies coworkers, family, and friends to support the walk — raising huge sums of money through her personal network.