The Peer-to-Peer (P2P) conference is the largest annual gathering of fundraising professionals, bringing together 500 attendees representing over 230 organizations and 60+ expert speakers from around the world. This year’s conference took place in New Orleans and generated more buzz and excitement than any previous show. The impressive lineup of speakers and panels was so strong that it was hard to pick which track you wanted to attend. Although there were lots of great takeaways from dozens of sessions, I wanted to share three themes in particular that really stood out to me.
Facebook is for real, for now, so hurry up and use it
There were many exciting success stories about Facebook fundraising from large and small nonprofits. Several organizations talked about the power of tapping into supporter networks to drive more engagement and donations by allowing fundraisers to share their goals with all their friends in just one (or a few) clicks. On Facebook there is no need to create a personal fundraising website, no need to collect and upload email addresses, and no modifying and sending out of template emails. Users can reach all their friends, family, and acquaintances without having to actually send them anything. And it works! Little did you know that several of your high school friends really care about your cause and are willing to donate, or that Aunt Nelly from Oklahoma feels very strongly about the mission and is willing to write a big check. Yes, the average amount is typically lower, however the number of donations make up the difference.
Although Facebook provides reach and streamlines some aspects of the process, there are some drawbacks. For starters, it is not straightforward to integrate with, and get fundraising data imported into your system, which results in less information about donors than most nonprofits are used to. Maybe the most significant issue to be wary of is that no one really knows how long this channel is going to last. New privacy laws are emerging, and Facebook has been in hot water lately over how they use the data of their users, so it’s probably not wise to put all your fundraising eggs in this basket. Facebook recently announced plans to add a “donate now” button inside Instagram, so nonprofits should stay tuned to what happens with that channel too.
My biggest takeaway is that nonprofits need to be nimble, move faster than they are used to, and take some calculated risks to capitalize on new channels. If they don’t, they are likely going to be too late to the social fundraising party.
Streaming is huge, but still early, so engage now to learn
Streaming platforms are popping up everywhere and Youtubers and e-Sports platforms are now drawing larger audiences than traditional TV and Cable broadcasts. There were plenty of exciting success stories at the conference, and a lot of the buzz surrounded Markiplier, a gamer and Youtuber who was able to raise $500K in 48 hours to help homeless children. Markiplier, whose real name is Mark Fischbach, rallied his 23 million YouTube subscribers over the course of a weekend to raise $500k using fundraising platform Tiltify. To put it into perspective, according to Newsini, My Friend’s Place, the charitable organization Markiplier supports, raised a total of 2.2M in 2018 – talk about an impressive boost in a weekend!
This channel is especially important for nonprofits trying to reach and engage with younger audiences. Facebook has become the realm of people over 40, which is great if you want to reach that audience, but most millennials and younger generations would never set foot inside Facebook. There are certainly potential issues with this channel too, like how do you control or influence what a Youtuber says and does once you have attached yourself to them? There is no bulletproof way to do that, so it’s important to find the right personalities that fit with your brand and cause. There needs to be a certain level of trust between you. Since this is such a nascent and rapidly changing category, it makes sense to partner with some of the platforms and service providers that specialize in helping nonprofits in this area like Tiltify, DonorDrive, and Crowdrise. They can help you start and begin to learn quickly.
The walk is not dead, but it must evolve to thrive
With so much focus on digital fundraising strategies, one might conclude that the traditional walk has become irrelevant. However, when you turn to the list of the Top-30 fundraisers in 2018 (the new list was announced at the show), it is still heavily dominated by Walk/Run/Rides and other events in the real world. Clearly there is still tremendous power in bringing people together.
While overall revenue for the 30 largest US-based P2P fundraising campaigns were down slightly in 2018, the percentage decrease (2.7%) was 60 percent less than the year before (6.7%). And if you remove the impact of a big decline at the largest P2P campaign — the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life — the remaining top 29 top programs posted a collective increase of nearly $6.4 million in 2018!
One big trend in this area is the shift towards DIY events, allowing supporters to choose their own event, whether that is a mud run, mountain climb, or ax throwing contest, all under the umbrella of the same nonprofit. By allowing fundraisers to do the type of events they enjoy, they are more likely to drive engagement with their friends and communities. It was also clear that rewards and incentives still drive behavior whether it’s online or offline. It may not be the primary driver for a donor or participant to take action, but they sure help drive results. Shana Spencer from the Chron’s & Colitis Foundation said “If you ask (a fundraiser) they may say they’re not doing it for the rewards or recognition, but they really do love those rewards”. She mentioned one example where someone raised an extra $1,000 to get another $1 badge, just because they wanted to be the best fundraiser in their group.
In conclusion, despite a slight dip from prior year in total funds raised by the top-30, there is good reason to be bullish on the future of P2P fundraising, especially for those who move fast and take advantage of new innovation in the space.
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