The Secret Behind Canada’s Fastest Growing Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Program

cony-bv-700Most peer-to-peer fundraising event planners cross their fingers and hope for clear skies and warm temperatures when they plan their annual walks, rides, and runs.

Not so for Blue Sea Philanthropy.

The organizers of Canada’s fastest-growing peer-to-peer campaign actually go out of their way to find the worst possible weather day of the year for their event.

Frigid temperatures? Yes, please.

Blinding snow and wind? Bring it on.

Blue Sea Philanthropy is the nonprofit that organizes the fast-growing Coldest Night of the Year walk series, which, you guessed it, is held on what is statistically Canada’s coldest night.

They’re so into poor conditions that they even wait until the sun goes down for participants to start their winter fundraising treks in frosty locales like Moose Jaw, Thunder Bay, and Chilliwack.

And that’s part of the allure for an event that raises money to support the hungry, homeless, and hurting.

But while many participants take part because of the opportunity to brave the cold for charity, the timing of the event has another benefit, says Brian Carney, Blue Sea’s chief executive.

“In February, the charitable calendar is clear. The competition is light,” Carney says. “It allows us to market and fundraise at a time when our message isn’t getting drowned out. And it gives our charitable partners early money (revenue that comes early in the annual calendar).”

Blue Sea has open marketing waters with its February event — and its charity partners say they appreciate the opportunity to generate fundraising revenue early in the year, when donations are typically light.

This fact has helped fuel Coldest Night’s rapid growth. The campaign saw fundraising revenue increase by a whopping 62 percent to more than $2.5 million in 2014, making it the fastest-growing P2P program in Canada, according to a study by Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada.

That growth is expected to continue. Blue Sea expects to grow revenue for the campaign to $5 million by 2017, or twice what it raised in 2014.

Carney says there are a number of factors that have him confident that Coldest Night will continue its fast pace. Those factors include:

A Simple Concept — Participants can quickly understand the reason for the event and why it matters.

A Sympathetic Beneficiary — “We help the guy on the street. The family at threat of eviction. The fleeing spouse in need of immediate housing,” Carney says. “People get that.”

Investing in Smart Systems — Blue Sea has made sure it has a well-functioning campaign portal and a well-designed and easy-to-navigate website. And it makes sure it improves its systems each year.

A Focus on Fundraising — “There is a lot of buzz about the event, but all of that comes behind the fundraising focus,” he says. “We never forget that and we work hard to keep our partners in step with that decision, too.”

The growth of Coldest Night is the result, then, of both focusing on the basics and a creative hook that differentiates it from the plethora of other P2P walks.