I was thrilled to attend the Peer to Peer Professional Forum Conference in Orlando last week, not only to escape the mountain of snow that is my front yard, but to swap stories and strategies with some of the finest minds in fundraising and P2P.The conference organizers stepped up their social media game in a big way this year, allowing attendees to virtually attend multiple breakouts at once.

For those of you unable to attend, I’ve gathered five of the most tweetable moments from the conference. 

Let’s get this one out of the way first, because you know it’s on your mind. The Ice Bucket Challenge. As it wasn’t organized and managed by a single charity, it wasn’t included in the official P2P Thirty rankings. If had been included, it would have been the second largest P2P fundraising program in the U.S. in 2014.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was clearly the most talked about campaign of the year.

Very rarely do things like this get noticed beyond the nonprofit world, but this became a worldwide phenomenon. Upon the aftermath of #theicebucketchallenge, we all sat in obligatory “what’s our Ice Bucket Challenge?” meetings. And the beauty of it was that most us knew that if we had come up with the idea and pitched it to our ED, CEO or Board Chair, we would have been laughed out of the room. Lightning would not strike twice.

There was also a fair amount of rumbling last year about associated P2P events and how they would suffer due the attention of the summer’s social media craze. What many doubters overlooked is that a rising tide lifts all boats. The ALS Association definitively proved the naysayers wrong by posting a 36% increase in their Walk to Defeat ALS. The skeptics are already back at it, wondering if people are burned out and unwilling to help ALS-related causes further. People don’t get “burnt out” by giving. That’s a myth created and perpetuated by nonprofit staff. The message was clear and should resonate with every fundraiser – we are spending your donations wisely, but there is still more work to be done.


Everyone had a favorite celebrity Ice Bucket Challenge video. Mine was Patrick Stewart’s. But the video that left the most lasting impression on me was the raw truth of the video by Anthony Carbajal, the winner of the 2014 Cash, Sweat and Tears Award. I cannot adequately express what this video means and how it affects the viewer. Please watch for yourself. Anthony reminds us that anyone can change the world and that we must be relentless in our fight.

The world is counting on us to do important work like curing ALS, and yet we get caught up in the daily rigor of our jobs and end up with misplaced priorities.

Betty Ross from the MS Society shared an anecdote that left 400 people shaking their heads in unison. In the midst of event season, she found herself embroiled in lengthy conversations about the design of the latest event t-shirt. Finally, she calmly asked a simple question. “Should two executives really be talking about the t-shirt design?” Of course not, but sometimes—as nonprofit professionals and as a sector— we need to be reminded of our priorities.

There was a lot of talk about investment at this year’s conference, and investing in our people should be first on the list.

Employee turnover at nonprofits has become an accepted cost of doing business, and we need to do better. During the Proprietary Program Summit, Ed Lord led a session focused on the importance of employees to a program’s success. Wendy Folk Vizek from the Alzheimer’s Association echoed a similar theme during the Pursuit of Growth session. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s grew 19% in 2014, and she attributes much of that to putting a renewed focus on their people and training. We talk a good game about hiring the right people for the job, but particularly for field positions that have the most interaction with our participants, we’re often overly eager to fill the seat because of the strain a staff departure can have on other staff. Both Wendy and Ed urged attendees to slow down and be more thoughtful when hiring, and create better, more comprehensive on-boarding, training and mentoring programs. We can build amazing websites, have incredible event experiences, and give away cool swag, but  if employees don’t understand their role—aren’t connecting with our participants or enjoying coming to work every day—our events will suffer.

I found myself reaching for tissues twice during the conference. Anthony’s video didn’t leave many dry eyes in the room. Charity Water also shared a moving video about Rachel, whose birthday wish was to raise $300 so 15 people could get clean drinking water. A month later she was killed in a car accident. Her birthday wish went viral, raising $1.2 million and providing clean water to nearly 40,000 people.

What also struck me about the above tweet is how much people crave personal interaction, whether they know it or not, and how it underscores Ed Lord’s point about relationships. If people are in front of a screen for 8.5 hours a day, it can sure leave a lasting impression on someone to receive a hand-written note, to get a phone call, or be visited at the office. Those personal relationships still matter in the world of P2P. It’s the organizations that get this right that will see continued success.

Next week, I’ll share five more tweetable moments from the conference. Until then, I’ll see you on Twitter!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shana Masterson has been a fundraiser since 2001. In 2014, she joined Blackbaud as a senior consultant. Her unique skill set as both a peer to peer fundraiser and a technologist allows her to focus on maximizing peer to peer campaign revenue through success planning, road mapping, communication calendaring, configuration recommendations and more.

Prior to joining Blackbaud, Shana led the American Diabetes Association’s online fundraising and communication strategy for the national special events team. She also worked for the National Brain Tumor Society, the American Cancer Society and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Connect with Shana on Twitter or Linkedin.

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