As we discussed in part one of this series, the surge in crowdfunding has resulted in a populace who is accustomed to the idea of setting up a fundraising page. This is a positive development for those of us working in peer-to-peer fundraising, but it also presents a challenge as we need to compete in an increasingly flooded crowdfunding marketplace.
We must create exciting and marketable experiences that rival GoFundMe or Kickstarter-style fundraising.
One way we can adapt to the changing landscape brought on by the pervasiveness of crowdfunding is to double down on do-it-yourself (DIY) fundraising. Up until a few years ago, DIY occupied a very small part of organization’s peer-to-peer portfolio. In general, there was minimal staff involvement in these campaigns, and as a result fundraisers did not receive much guidance. These DIY websites became stagnant and outdated.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen many traditional runs, walks, and cycling events falter. Executives or board members then remember the DIY program that was thrown together years ago, and see an opportunity to make up for the shortfall without a lot of effort. There is a somewhat rampant misconception in nonprofit circles that DIY fundraising is easy money. The rise in crowdfunding coupled with that misconception has fueled the appearance of many new or resurrected DIY programs.
A large majority of organizations with events in the Peer-to-Peer 30 also have DIY programs and hundreds of organizations are creating new DIY programs each year. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t have the appetite, or the appropriate resources, to build a successful program.
In an interview with npENGAGE, Jonathan Cass from World Wildlife Federation’s Panda Nation told us that DIY fundraising is a great way to harness the creativity of their supporters, but there’s a lot more involved than just making a website and directing people to it. A solid strategy, ongoing staff involvement, and continuous promotion to current and potential supporters is essential.
Double down on strategy
In their haste to create a campaign and get a website live, many organizations neglect to actually think through the campaign’s overarching strategy. They simply place a pronoun or the word “team” before their organizational name (My Save the Turtles, Team Save the Turtles) and call it a day. For a DIY program to thrive, organizations must determine how they can best leverage their supporters to fundraise on their behalf and create an entire campaign around it.
You must apply the same level of conceptual preparation, branding development, and financial forecasting as you would to a traditional fundraising campaign.
Double down on staffing
WWF made a decision to double down on DIY from the very beginning when they hired Jonathan, a skilled peer-to-peer professional, to manage Panda Nation. A fundraising program cannot run itself, and cannot be properly managed without qualified staff charged with growing it. A DIY campaign is only as good as the staff tasked to grow it. They provide the strategy, communication, follow-up, and relationship building that’s key to any campaign.
DIY fundraising does not mean “set it and forget it.” Like any other peer-to-peer event or campaign, the magic isn’t in the website—the real magic is created by the people who unleash the program’s potential.
Double down on marketing
This isn’t the DIY Field of Dreams. No one is whispering “if you build it, they will come” from a cornfield! Often times, when a new campaign is created, a few emails are sent out with accompanying social media posts to the launch the campaign. Three months later, staff is scratching their heads wondering why they haven’t recruited many fundraisers or raised much money. Meanwhile, their campaign is somewhere buried on their website, behind five clicks, where almost no one can find it.
Successful programs don’t treat marketing as a one shot deal; they are consistently educating constituents and the public about their exciting fundraising program.
Successful programs prominently feature the program on their organizational homepage, in newsletters, and throughout social media. The top programs even employ public relations campaigns to spread the word beyond their constituency. They use email as a primary acquisition channel and tap into ambassadors to promote the campaign outside of their immediate circle of influence. Here’s some inspiration!
- WWF’s Panda Nation taps into relevant moments in time to promote fundraiser acquisition, like Halloween or your birthday.
- Feeding America’s Set the Table sends geniusly on brand messages that coincide with occasions like Thanksgiving, the Super Bowl or the Oscars.
- Popular chefs Curtis Stone and Alton Brown support Set the Table.
Double down on coaching
Just like traditional event participants, do-it-yourselfers need help fundraising. We often take for granted that people know how to effectively fundraise. We also assume that because someone has signed up for a DIY fundraiser that they are committed to fundraising, when in actuality, do-it-yourselfers raise money about one third of the time, very similar to the rate of fundraising for walks. We must provide them with resources, tips, tools, and reminders.
- Set up a welcome series for new registrants. Spend the first two weeks reminding registrants why they signed up in the first place and providing them with advice on how to achieve their goals. Here’s an email surprisingly brilliant in its simplicity to help fundraisers ask for donations.
- Make fundraising easy. The less a fundraiser has to do, the more likely they are to take action. Provide pre-written emails, social media post templates, print materials, and more. For example, Set the Table supporters are given a full suite of social media templates and images.
- Get to know your fundraisers. Automated messaging and resources are important, but the personal touch is key. Send an email to welcome them and find out why they love your cause, text them when they start fundraising, call and leave a voice mail on their birthday.
Double down on the program launch
In a webinar with the Peer to Peer Professional Forum, Kelley Hohl, formerly of the Humane Society of the Unites States dropped some crowdfunding knowledge. “When setting up our DIY campaign, we learned from Kickstarter that we should have a lot of our backers in place before we even launch.”
When launching, be sure that you already have momentum. Enlist board members, organizational ambassadors, social media influencers, and big supporters to get started. When you launch, the program will be bursting with social proof and excitement leading to increased interest in signing up and fundraising for your organization.
Are you ready to double down on DIY?
While many of the strategies outlined here may seem obvious when planning for a traditional peer-to-peer event, they are so often ignored in DIY campaigns. In a marketplace getting used to crowdfunding, organizations with smart, modern campaigns will rise to the top.
Are we listening to what the crowd is telling us about how we can improve our peer-to-peer campaigns? This is part two of a four part series detailing how you and your nonprofit can be prepared for this crowdfunding shake up, based on a thought-provoking plenary session delivered by Shana Masterson at the P2P Forum Conference in Orlando on February 25, 2016.