Recently, my husband received a job offer in Charleston, SC. I’m thrilled because now I can be closer to the Blackbaud office and take on a new challenge. But what has been keeping me up at night is the fear of making the wrong move—what are the best school districts, is renting at first better than buying, how friendly will my neighbors be?

More often than not, it is the fear of the unknown that causes people to panic.

In the nonprofit world, organizations don’t want to face the wrath of their board or even worse, lose the trust of their donors, so they don’t make a move at all. Fundraisers that are new to your event are often uncomfortable with asking people for money multiple times, so they stop at just one ask. But as Benjamin Franklin said, “The problem with doing nothing is not knowing when you’re finished”—meaning nothing ever changes. New donors aren’t acquired and fundraisers aren’t nearly as successful.


Putting this all into perspective, think about the bold moves that you’ve made over the years in an effort to make your P2P events more successful.  Perhaps you changed venues, raised your registration fees, or changed the color of your T-shirts. But think about this: how much time have you spent truly focused on making your fundraisers successful? Blackbaud’s most recent P2P Benchmark reports have proven year over year that returning participants continue to rock. Overall they represent small segments of the participant population, but they raise the majority of the online revenue. Yet, most nonprofit organizations have a laser-focus on acquiring new participants and adding email addresses to their house file and neglect the rock stars that are doing a large percentage of the fundraising.

To truly reap what you sow, we suggest that you follow these rules: 

  1. Communicate with your past participants differently than your newly acquired participants. Past participants already know how to use the tools, they know what your event is all about and they are comfortable with fundraising.  Using simple segmentation in your database, you can easily target each audience with different messaging. That allows you to concentrate on training your newbies on the tools and getting them comfortable with fundraising, while offering challenges and heightening the ask for your old timers.
  2. Ensure that you are offering a reason for the past fundraisers to return. We have found one of the biggest ways to do this is to showcase how the funds raised last year have been raised. Feature a family that you fed or a child that you cheered up in a hospital. Show their picture and tell their story. Make the emotional connection with that fundraiser so that they want to continue raising funds for you.
  3. Shine a light on those hard-working participants. Feature a top team or top fundraiser in your newsletter. Send them a special thank you note (a phone call works event better!). Invite them to lunch with your staff. Any tactic that you can use to make them feel special will go a long ways for retention.

Here’s the bottom line:

Today’s online fundraising tools allow you to shape your content based on fundraiser behaviors. If you spend the time sowing the oats with your past fundraisers and planting seeds with your new acquisition, you can reap the rewards at the finish line.


Tammy Radencic has more than 10 years’ experience in providing nonprofits with both strategic and technical fundraising guidance. Tammy is passionate about the Blackbaud nonprofits that she assists and has worked with hundreds of nonprofits to scale revenue and retention growth while helping organizations think outside the box by implementing DIY and Crowdfunding solutions. She has deep expertise in nonprofit email and website best practices. She serves on the board for the Equine Rescue League and resides in Charleston, SC.

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