The peer-to-peer fundraising marketplace has undergone a transformation with momentum rapidly shifting toward individually directed fundraising and “DIY” or independent campaigns. This doesn’t mean traditional event-driven peer-to-peer events run by nonprofits are passé, just that our industry is undergoing a shift we cannot ignore.
First, technology propels this move. Dozens of crowdfunding platforms make it increasingly easier for people to raise money for any cause, from cancer research to disaster relief, often quite independent of direction from any charity.
Second, frequent stories in the news about high profile viral fundraising campaigns establish independent fundraising more and more firmly in people’s minds as “a thing that we do” when we feel called to help. In the fall of 2015, Humans of New York’s Brandon Stanton launch a very brief, very powerful fundraising campaign to support Syrian refugees. He raised over $760,000 by appealing to his worldwide following. Brandon made his next major foray into crowdfunding a few months later with an appeal to support childhood cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Within a matter of weeks this campaign raised $3.8 million. This was a socially influential individual acting independent of a charity to fundraise for a cause meaningful to him. During this same time period a neighbor’s house burned down in my community, and within hours friends had set up a fundraising page to help bring some relief to the family of four – a very personal, very local effort. Both types of efforts, local and global, are strong symbols of a changing world.
We as a collective society have learned from watching these types of independent fundraisers and crowdfunding initiatives that we can act independently of a charity or institution to achieve the change we want to see in the world.
What’s the Future of Traditional Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Events?
Individual fundraising doesn’t mean traditional nonprofit peer-to-peer events have become passé. It DOES mean we need to make room in our strategic planning for capturing the attention of self-directed individual fundraisers. As a society and as individuals we’re being conditioned by every new story of a successful viral fundraising campaign to expect and to want to raise money according to our own timeline and in the way we want to do it. Now, technology exists to let anyone fundraise independent of a nonprofit.
But, traditional and independent peer-to-peer fundraising are both about the cause or mission. In one case, the nonprofit creates opportunities for individuals to enroll in an event and support the mission through its P2P programs. In the other, an individual raises money and contributes it to the cause … whether it’s to an individual or a charity that seems to be addressing this problem effectively.
They’re both about the mission. In the coming fundraise-your-way world, it’s highly likely that the organizations that do the best job communicating about their mission impact and creating an exceptional experience for their volunteer fundraisers will find continued growth.
So What’s a Traditional Peer-to-Peer Program to Do?
Traditional peer-to-peer programs might have faced challenges recently, but they’re still incredibly important as awareness and fundraising tools for nonprofits. Blackbaud’s recent Peer-to-Peer Benchmark Study shows that in 2015, Walk programs posted impressive growth. Online donations to walks grew by 17% from 2014 to 2015 and 5% more participants joined the group of walk programs studied. Endurance events posted an impressive 21% increases in revenue with an 11% growth in participant registrations. Traditional event programs are quite definitely not dead.
However, this growth has not been without effort. The growth we’re seeing in 2015 is the result of deep and far reaching efforts, especially with Walks, to re-engineer these programs for success in our changing world.
Traditional programs like cycling, endurance, 5Ks, and walks will likely continue to be many organizations’ P2P foundation – while they reach to new audiences and experiment with alternative P2P revenue streams.
Let’s Accept that the Field Has Shifted
2017 looks to be a year where business as usual will not produce the usual results. More effort may be needed to re-invigorate traditional P2P events. At the same time it’s critical to explore and build on-ramps for the increasing numbers of people who want to get involved with your cause through individual and non-traditional fundraising efforts. The field has shifted, moving these efforts from the “nice to have” to the “must have” column.
To hear more from Kathryn Hall on peer to peer fundraising strategies, register for the On-Demand webinar “Expand Your Fundraising Opportunities with Crowdfundraising” co-presented with Robyn Mendez. Also be sure to check out Straight Up P2P for all things peer to peer from Blackbaud.
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