One example is 2020’s Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Thirty data, released as part of the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum. The study found that the top 10 P2P programs in the U.S. all reported decreases in revenue in 2020. These decreases ranged from a less severe 15% to a whopping 50% or more. Participation was also down, dropping to just 2.2 million participants in the top 30 campaigns in 2020 compared to the nearly 6 million participants in 2019.
This data clearly shows that there were financial and engagement consequences with moving nonprofit peer-to-peer events online. But with the changing public health atmosphere and general convenience of virtual events, it’s clear that virtual and hybrid P2P fundraising isn’t going anywhere.
With that in mind, let’s walk through three strategies that you can use to elevate your P2P efforts in 2021 and beyond:
- Fundraising Challenges
- Embracing the Virtual Atmosphere
- One-on-One Communications
1. Fundraising Challenges
We’ve established that many nonprofits faced P2P revenue decreases in the move to virtual fundraising. One solution that’s emerged is to host quick, additive P2P challenges to supplement your main fundraisers.
Facebook Challenges are time-bound peer-to-peer fundraisers that take place entirely through the social media platform. During the Challenge, participants complete a task (such as walking 10K steps per day) while raising funds through a personal Facebook fundraiser. For the duration of the Challenge, participants are added to a corresponding Facebook group to connect with one another and experience community.
Facebook Challenges present a plethora of benefits for nonprofits. For one, they’re incredibly easy to host (we’ll walk through the exact steps you can use to do so shortly). Because they’re time-bound and occur on a platform your supporters likely already have a profile on, it’s easy for participants to get involved and requires low effort on their behalf.
These factors make Challenges the ideal fundraiser to host alongside your other planning-intensive efforts, allowing you to supplement your revenue in an efficient manner. Here’s how you can host one for your nonprofit:
- Define the parameters of your Challenge. This includes the timeline of the Challenge (anywhere from a few weeks to a few months), the task participants will complete, and an overall fundraising goal that you hope to reach. Check out this GoodUnited guide to virtual fundraising ideas for a variety of tasks that would work well for Challenges.
- Create the tech infrastructure for the fundraiser. Create the Facebook group that participants will join for the duration of the Challenge. Choose an eye-catching cover photo and write a description that clearly outlines the Challenge parameters so participants understand what they’re joining.
- Advertise your Challenge on Facebook. Use paid Facebook Ads to spread the word about your event. Target these ads to both prospects who have already given to your organization (such as those who have conducted personal Facebook fundraisers on your behalf) and those who are on the periphery (i.e. those who have liked your page but never formally interacted).
From there, prospects will encounter the ad, join the Facebook group, and create their personal fundraisers. Then, for the duration of the Challenge, you should share encouragement, fundraising tips, and discussion prompts within the group to drive participants toward the finish line.
2. Embracing the Virtual Atmosphere
In 2020, many nonprofits tried to pivot their traditionally in-person P2P events to the virtual sphere. For example, rather than walking a set distance in-person as a group, each participant walked the distance from their own location and reported back on their results. While this strategy was largely successful, there was an emerging strategy that had even more success: fully embracing technology and the virtual “atmosphere” for P2P fundraisers.
We can see this strategy’s success in the aforementioned P2P Thirty data. Play Live and Extra Life were both peer-to-peer fundraisers that embraced the virtual medium rather than resisting it. In both, video gaming was the fundraiser task. As a result, these were two of the few programs that actually reported increases in revenue despite the pandemic’s challenges.
Whether you’re continuing to host virtual events for safety reasons or simply due to the increased convenience, consider experimenting with nontraditional P2P tasks such as video gaming or coding challenges.
The setup would be the same as any other peer-to-peer event. However, instead of completing a physical activity, participants play video games from the comfort of their own homes. Often these fundraisers have a set time period (like 24 hours straight of gaming) and leaderboards showing the top gamers. You could incorporate a livestreaming element by streaming top gamers on popular sites like Twitch to make participants feel like they’re fundraising alongside one another.
3. One-on-One Communications
One of the biggest complaints about virtual fundraising is the physical disconnect between supporters and the nonprofit. In an industry where relationship-building and carefully tailored communications reign supreme, this distance can harm a nonprofit’s ability to convert P2P participants into long-term supporters.
However, you can close this distance with one-on-one conversational messaging. This is essentially a strategy where a representative of your nonprofit holds conversations with each individual participant, tailoring those messages to each individual.
Here’s how to incorporate conversational messaging into your P2P strategy using Facebook Messenger:
- Thank users for their support. Whether they started a birthday fundraiser, participated in a Challenge, or simply “liked” your nonprofit’s page, thank them for their support. Check out this GoodUnited guide to thanking donors on Facebook for the next steps on how to do so.
- Invite users to connect with you on Facebook Messenger. In your thank-you note, invite the user to start a conversation with you on Messenger, opening the door to continued communication.
- Chat with users who connect with you. You can share fundraising tips, educational resources, gratitude, encouragement, and future opportunities to give back to your cause. Additionally, you can ask questions and link to surveys to learn more about the individual user and tailor your future communications accordingly.
Usually when nonprofits communicate with P2P participants, it’s in the form of broadcasting information to all participants. With conversational messaging, you can optimize your outreach content to align with what will actually interest participants. You can then provide content that inspires them to continue engaging and grow your relationships over time.
According to these nonprofit statistics, “31% of offline-only first-time donors are retained for over a year, versus 25% of online-only first-time donors.” This tells us that while virtual and hybrid fundraising is sticking around in the P2P world, you’re fighting an uphill battle when it comes to retaining these online supporters.
So, let’s work out some immediate next steps that your nonprofit can take to position your P2P programming for success:
- Turn to your overall fundraising calendar for the rest of 2021, and look for any gaps in your programming. If you have any down periods, begin planning your first Facebook Challenges to fill them.
- Meet with your fundraising planning team and begin brainstorming unique virtual fundraising activities. Reading books, playing video games, coding— there are a variety of options!
- Start outlining your conversational messaging cadences. You could even try partnering with a social fundraising services provider who can tackle this task for you.
With these steps, you’ll be off to a great start with P2P fundraising in 2021 and beyond. Good luck!
About the Author
Maria Clark is a nonprofit executive and technology evangelist with 30+ years of industry experience. Today, she serves as Executive Vice President of Partnerships and Chief Evangelist for GoodUnited, the social fundraising solution. Maria is a champion of the new and has fearlessly led change management efforts throughout her career.
Previously, Maria spent 33 years at the American Cancer Society, a top #20 US nonprofit and the leading cancer research nonprofit with an annual $800+M budget, in roles spanning all aspects of nonprofit communication, operations, and fundraising. Most recently, as Senior Vice President for Peer to Peer Development, Maria led strategy development, planning and implementation for name brand ACS events like Relay for Life, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, a robust gala and golf portfolio and the Raise Your Way DIY platform, as well as championing new digital strategies that support community fundraising.