It would be fair to say that the entire social good sector was shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic. Quickly moving from in-person meetings, events, and general office work to a completely virtual strategy forced organizations to make decisions faster than ever before. On the upside, it gave us freedom to try new ways of working towards our missions; on the downside, it exposed the lack of diversification in fundraising strategies. As the pandemic continues to provide us all with a roller coaster of medical guidelines and recommendations, it’s important to keep that pioneer spirit in your strategic planning, with an eye on diversifying your fundraising revenue to weather the future.
Much like we’re guided to diversify our stocks, diversifying your fundraising strategy can ensure your organization is set up to maintain funding no matter the crisis ahead. In the Blackbaud Institute’s incredible npExpert free e-book, The Great Reset: Moving Into the New Normal with Intention, Dr. Una Osili opens with some key findings from the last year of fundraising data compiled by the Lilly School of Philanthropy. Most notable is that in a recent survey of nonprofit organizations, 80.5% stated they had made one or more changes to their fundraising strategy in response to the pandemic. Hybrid approaches to fundraising for any organization are here to stay and this will naturally help you diversify your organization’s P2P fundraising portfolio.
So where should you start with diversifying your P2P fundraising? Let’s touch on a few easy ways to ensure you’re mixing up your P2P strategy and blending it with your organization’s overall fundraising strategy.
- First things first: Start P2P fundraising. Four in ten Americans say they donated to charity because a friend or family member asked them to. That is called peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising and it’s a proven fundraising strategy that has been around for at least 50 years. Ask why your organization doesn’t have a P2P strategy. It’s not about having a walk, run or cycle event anymore – it’s about enabling your supporters to fundraise for you by asking their friends and family to support you, too. This works for hospitals, colleges, universities, K-12 schools and all the nonprofits in-between. If you’re not devoting some of your fundraising strategy to P2P fundraising you are leaving money on the table.
- Get on the Crowdfunding Bandwagon. We’ve heard it a million times: P2P revenue shouldn’t be restricted funds! This was the preeminent way of thinking 10-15 years ago, but times have changed. First, the notion that supporters need your permission to raise money for your organization is incredibly dated. Between Facebook and the myriad free fundraising platforms (including JustGiving® from Blackbaud®), supporters can sign up, fundraise for you, and you’ll never know about it. It is better to have an easy plan and platform to use so you can cultivate them as you would other P2P participants.
Second, crowdfunding is an opportunity for you to fundraise for programs that donors love to assist with. Nashville State Community College is using crowdfunding to support areas of student life that historically make it harder to graduate, like financial aid, child care or even transportation. It’s timely, it speaks to every kind of donor, and it’s easy to manage. Make like the Spice Girls and give your donors what they really, really want. If you’re working with all of your Development Department colleagues (see below), you can steward them to give through more traditional giving channels in time. Crowdfunding benefits your entire organization so don’t miss out on an easy way to boost your P2P fundraising.
- DIY fundraising is what the cool kids are doing. Despite what you may be told, you don’t need a catchy name or specific DIY fundraising strategy to launch DIY fundraising. That said, you shouldn’t have to chase down this revenue on multiple platforms. This is the fastest growing area of P2P fundraising and yet so many organizations can’t figure out how to maximize the work of their DIY fundraisers.
My recommendation is to use one platform, direct all DIY fundraising to that platform, make it accessible via your main website (like Rochester Regional Health Foundation did), and MARKET IT. Yes, work with your marketing colleagues to figure out a plan to let your constituents know this is available to them. Facebook markets to users two weeks before their birthday asking them to fundraise for a cause, and you should do the same. What about Gotcha Day Fundraisers for animal rescue Moms and Dads? Disease Remission anniversaries for healthcare patients? You have all of this incredible data on your donors in your CRM so use it to market to them about fundraising for your organization in ways that will be meaningful to them.
- Make friends with Annual Giving, Major Gifts, and Corporate Giving Colleagues. The original purpose of P2P events was to help bring new donors and volunteers into the organization. Over time and with an emphasis on retention, fundraisers became territorial about their participants. If a returning participant raises 147% more than a new participant, why risk them leaving you for different pastures? We get it, but this doesn’t benefit the participant or your organization. Look at your returning participants as people with great power to move your organization forward. Set up a meeting with your Annual Giving, Major Giving, and Corporate Giving Officers and design a plan that helps them identify who they can talk with based on different identifying factors, like years participating, work status, total raised, number of donors and more. Help create a plan where your work is critical to the overall health of your organization. Personal tip: I guarantee you the participant will not only continue their participation in your event, but they will raise more money!
Seems simple, right? It is! Fundraisers are the world’s greatest multi-talented workforce (ask for $100,000 AND make a balloon arch in the same afternoon? On it!) but we tend to overcomplicate our plans. Just choose one of these strategies to take action on by end of year and pick another one for next year. You will have done your program and your organization a great service, and you’ll likely find some great new volunteers and donors along the way.