Do you have a donor engagement strategy? Your engagement strategy is part of your fundraising strategy, and the two are inextricably linked. You cannot have one without the other — at least not if you want to meet your goals! Let’s take a look at donor engagement and how P2P fundraising can amplify your efforts… and your results.

What is Donor Engagement? 

A thoughtful article on Front Range Source looks at donor engagement by focusing on the word itself. Engage means:

  1. To occupy, attract, or involve (someone’s interest or attention)
  2. To participate or become involved in

Involve. To engage your donors, you need to involve them on a level that goes beyond the purely transactional. 

It’s easier to get at the core of what donor engagement is if we first look at what it is not. A great way to disengage your donors is to treat them like an ATM. When you don’t bother to find out anything about them, to involve them in any other way beyond writing a check, or to honour their gifts with good reporting and feedback on the impact, they’ll wonder if they’ve spent their money in the wrong place. And they will have a point! 

Think of it this way: donor engagement allows you to add value to the lives of the donors. You never lose sight of the transactional side; you have a mission, and you need your donors to help with their dollars. But as they give to you, what are you giving to them? 

Engagement is the Foundation for Fundraising Success

Engaged donors don’t feel like their worth is measured entirely in dollar signs. Instead, they feel that they are integral to your mission. And, boy, are they. With higher levels of engagement, you’ll see:

  • More repeat donations
  • Larger donations 
  • Volunteering
  • Continued support and attendance at events
  • Advocating for your organization and/or for the central issues for which you stand
  • Lifetime engagement 

Engagement does boost the bottom line — but it goes beyond money. It’s about showing respect for those who fund you, building relationships, adding value to their lives, and demonstrating the impact of their gifts. Engagement is a way to add dimension, meaning, and significance to a donation, and ultimately, to your relationships with donors.

If your model is to consume… and consume and consume… donors and donations with little or no thought to effective engagement, you will 100% get what you deserve. (And in case you were wondering, that is not long term success!)

Authentic Opportunities to Engage

Do you have a plan to engage donors? How do you involve your donors beyond writing a check or clicking “Donate Now”? Here are a few ideas:

  • TOURS – Offer select donors a personal tour of your property or an insider’s look into a program that they’ve helped fund. 1-on-1 tours are great but touring with a larger group engages your donor with your wider community of support too. 
  • TESTIMONIES – Send a link to a video testimonial from someone who is representative of the impact of the donor’s gift.
  • BOARD – Have a Board Member give donors a personal “Thank You” call.
  • BUDDY UP – Introduce donors to key staff members. Host a 20 minute ZOOM or phone meeting to introduce a new program and its leader. Build engagement by letting other voices speak as well. 
  • SPECIAL EVENTS – Invite a limited number of donors to an intimate gathering (e.g. a dessert night) where they can ask questions, speak to your staff, and share ideas with their peers.
  • COHORTS – Establish a select peer cohort (e.g. business leaders or social service professionals) to work together on a real world problem related to your mission. How would they solve this? 
  • SHARE – Share knowledge. You have a wealth of information about your community, your key issues, your target clients, and much more. Help donors understand what you do, why, and how. Provide fact-based learning that helps them understand the issues — and better understand their world.
  • ADVICE – Are you stuck on a problem at work that one of your donors has experience with? Call them up and ask them for their advice. If you are sincere and not using this merely for an excuse to ask, they’ll value your candor and quite likely have some good solutions for you to consider. 
  • QUESTIONS (not ASKS) – Do you know who taught your donor to give? Do you know what’s important about giving for your donor? Do you know why your donor gives? Have you ever asked your donor who their favourite charity is or what charity they respect the most (and why)? Ask questions to learn about their philanthropic heart. 

Engagement can look different, and it should look different depending on your organization and its goals. But the key here is authenticity. These are meaningful activities, meaningful ways to involve donors. Dumping them in a mass email list looks pretty paltry by comparison, right? 

Enter P2P Fundraising 

A peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising event offers a unique engagement opportunity for you and your donor. In this instance, where you are inviting your donor to fundraise on behalf of your charity, it’s a litmus test of sorts. You aren’t looking for them to write a cheque, you are asking them to ask their friends to support them in the event. That’s quite a shift. It can be humbling to move from being a donor to being a fundraiser. But, if your donor says yes it’s a strong indication of their growing engagement. 

P2P fundraising, by nature, is more than simply raising money. It’s more than a transaction. These events give your donors ownership, in a sense. They can declare their support and commitment and involve their networks in causes and issues that matter to them. The sense of camaraderie and accomplishment is far more satisfying, more meaningful—more engaging!—than making a strictly financial contribution and maybe getting a free t-shirt.

P2P fundraising events also provide donors a variety of ways to get involved (e.g. volunteer, team captain, participant, supporter, etc.), as well as myriad touchpoints through which you can tell your story, teach donors about who you are, and report on the impact of giving.

Powerful P2P Fundraising Events

To leverage the power of P2P fundraising, you have to get donors and their networks together, excited, and, you guessed it, engaged. Events need to be:

  • Professional, well-organized, and well-executed. In other words: your event needs to reflect well on your donors so they want to reach out and spread the word. Their name is on the line too!
  • Connected to a meaningful cause and to a meaningful activity. 
  • Easy to participate in. If it’s difficult or confusing to sign up, participate, fundraise, or share, donors may wonder if your organization is run in the same haphazard way. And again, they have a point!

A well-run, buzzy P2P fundraising event generates excitement, increases knowledge and awareness, provides opportunities for involvement, boosts engagement. And, oh yeah, raises funds! 

Are You on Track for Long-Term Success?

How well do you plan for engagement? Is it ingrained in your fundraising strategy? Are you providing opportunities that allow donors to do more than give, that empower them to become involved, that enable you to build strong relationships? Or does engagement take a backseat to fundraising?

No trick questions here: just food for thought. P2P fundraising can help your organization build the relationships that drive you towards your goals. Let’s get involved!