Important Reminders to Keep Yourself Sane & Your Event Successful

We begin every peer-to-peer fundraising event campaign inspired by you, the Event Directors across the country, who are so willing to step up and lead – it’s no small matter. 

And this year is no different. 

Whether you’re gearing up for RIDE 2021, TGP 2021, another event, or simply feeling like you need a pep-talk, here are three important reminders that Event Directors have taught us over the years: 

  • Fundraising happens when fundraising matters – We know you want to see great fundraising this year – of course you do.  Then as you begin, go out of your way to connect your mission to your participants and especially your team captains. Explain in simple terms what you do, why it matters and how it’s making a difference. When you do, you’ll invigorate fundraising everywhere in your charity, including your p2p fundraising campaign. 
  • Your cause is serious but p2p fundraising events are fun – We remind you of this annually because this is the approach we take in the event and it’s worked well. When emailing, posting, recruiting or fundraising, balance the grinding pain and need behind your cause with the uplifting fun and hope of this event. Keep your event light, fun, and celebratory (where appropriate), and your cause serious, critical, and worth caring about. 
  • No campaign is perfect (not even yours) – No matter how good your campaign plan is, it’s never going to roll out exactly as you hoped. And this year we’ll all need to be more agile and flexible than ever. Things are changing almost weekly so you know, the best made plans… Cut yourself some slack as you begin your campaign this year.  After all, your team isn’t following your plan so much as they are following you (and we think you are pretty awesome). 

Key Take-a-way: You’ve got this! Find a simple way to explain your mission, balance your cause and the event carefully, and remember, people love you, not your plan. 

Our Proven Process For Team Captain Recruiting

Recruiting team captains to join your peer-to-peer (p2p) fundraising event isn’t complicated, but it does take some planning, strategizing, and determined follow-up. The most successful campaigns always begin the team captain recruitment process with good old fashioned brainstorming. Let’s walk you through the process from start to success:

Ready, Set, Brainstorm!

First things first, gather your team and put brainstorming as the first item on your meeting agenda. Together, you’re looking to come up with a big, fat list of all of the names of all of the potential team captains who could join your p2p fundraising event this year. Everyone should come prepared to think big, brainstorm, and contribute to the list (and yes, everyone needs to be involved asking, too – more on that below). You should also expect that everyone on your event planning team will lead a team of their own – especially if it’s the first year you’re running the event. 

Now, to aid you in this exercise, print out our Team Captain Prospect Generator and think about each category of prospect (listed below). Who could you ask? Set up a shared Google Doc with these categories as headers and type in ALLLLL of the potential names you can think of.  (Pro Tip: A shared Google Doc is the best format because this way your whole team can add names in real time and update activity between meetings.) 

Who Could You Ask? 

Me | YouFriendsFamilySpouse/Partner
Board MembersCEO | MgtStaffVolunteers
DonorsVendorsChurchesSchools
Service ClubsBusinessesPoliticiansMedia

Divide & Conquer

Once you’ve got an initial list of 20, 30, or 40 names, consider who on your team is the best person to ask each of these potential captains to join your campaign. Consider who each person is, how they’re involved with your charity, how long they’ve been involved, who they know, etc. For example, we wouldn’t recommend that a new staff member ask your Board Chair to lead a team… that’s the CEO’s job. In the same shared doc that you’ve been using to generate a list of names, assign the best person for each ask.

The assigned “asker” should then go ahead and connect with their potential team captains individually (no mass emails please!!). Remember to be confident in your ask and follow-up at least every two weeks till the prospect gives an answer. 

Then, repeat the process! Every week in your event team meetings, have team captain recruitment as your #1 item of business – how are the asks going? How many captains are registered? Who else can be added to the list of prospects? Who is the best person(s) from the team to ask these new additions?

Our Top Tips 

Team captains should come from every corner of your community of supporters, so be open-minded and don’t answer for people you haven’t asked. Let them decide for themselves if they want to join your p2p fundraising event. In our experience, most people are flattered to be asked and are willing to consider it, especially if you ask personally, define their role and expectations clearly, and connect their fundraising efforts to your charity’s mission. 

Here are a few quick tips: 

  • How to ask?  Personally, by phone or zoom, zoom, zoom. Email last resort. 
  • When to ask? Now is a good time or later today – tomorrow at the latest. 
  • What to ask? Ask them to lead, recruit and fundraise for you. 

We can confidently say that if you consistently and enthusiastically work through this team captain recruitment process, you will have a successful event. It’s as easy as one-two-ask! 

Why Team Captains Are Your P2P Fundraising Campaign Fuel

When Blue Sea first began we didn’t understand how important team captains were to the success of a P2P Fundraising event. We spent a lot of time trying to recruit hundreds of individual participants (which was both expensive and exhausting) when all we really needed were a couple dozen team captains.

Why? Because if you get these leaders, you’ll get their followers, and if you get their followers you’ll get their donors. It’s that simple. 

That’s the power of team captains in peer-to-peer fundraising. They are the leading indicator of your success as long as you recruit them properly with clear expectations to:

  1. Lead their team energetically  
  2. Recruit 7+ friends and families successfully 
  3. Make fundraising a priority for themselves and their team

Recruiting Team Captains 

So what’s the best way to recruit team captains?

  • Start by tasking everyone on your team to ask 3 people they know well to be a team captain. 
  • Ensure they understand how their personal and team fundraising will impact both your charity and the lives of the people you serve. 
  • Connect their fundraising to your mission. Explain what you do, why it matters and how it’s making a difference in your community. 
    • This is the fuel your captains need to remain focused and motivated during the campaign. 

1000% Worth It

Is it worth it? Absolutely – the average team captain recruits  6-7 team members and raises $1,500-$2,000. That’s average but many raise well above that level. Imagine recruiting 15, 20, or 40 of them? Do the math – that quickly gets your event up to the $25k, $40k or $100k level. And better still, team captains who are well cared for and appreciated by you during (and after!) the event will come back year after year because they enjoyed the experience  of leading their team and fundraising for your charity. 

So yes, team captains are worth it. They are 24 carat gold. They’re your campaign fuel. Your number one campaign strategy should be recruiting and encouraging them throughout the campaign. 

Key Takeaway: Successful campaigns recruit 25% of their team captains in the first 30 days, 50% in the next 30 days and 25% in the final month.

Campaign Quick Start: Gather Your Team

We’ve worked with a lot of different leader types the past decade and respect and admire all of them.  Maybe you recognize some of these types below?

  • The Organizer shows up on time, does what they say and always (always) finishes what they started. 
  • The Networker shows up with a miles-long list of people and businesses who they know personally. 
  • The Cheerleader shows up with every ounce of their enthusiastic being. 
  • The Risk Manager shows up with a thoughtful, critical eye on plans, strategy and risk management. 
  • The Do-It-Your-Selfer shows up ready to put the whole event on their back if they have to. 

Other types include the Number-Cruncher, Collaborator, and always-on Promoter. The point is, great teams are almost always made up of different types of people with their own unique personalities. A P2P fundraising event team will likely require team members who, collectively, have all of these skills and abilities. As Event Director your first goal in this first week of your campaign is to strategically assemble the best possible team. 

So without further ado, here’s what you need to do:

Gather Your Team.

Do it soon. Ask staff, high-capacity volunteers, or former event participants. Invite people with different gifts, skills, and backgrounds and ask for their help. People love to be needed so don’t hesitate.

Once they agree, set a weekly or bi-weekly meeting schedule (likely by zoom) to gather, plan, and execute your recruitment and fundraising plan. The more often you meet and the more accountable you are to each other and your plan the more successful you’ll be. 

Make a Plan

A good plan is clear, realistic, and above all simple. It keeps the most important things front and centre and helps everyone stay out of the weeds. Four tips to remember:

  1. Set your fundraising goal using the expected number of team captains as your guide—for every 10 teams you expect to recruit, add $15,000 and always set your public goal 15-20% less than your private goal. 
  2. Prioritize team captain and sponsorship recruitment in every meeting. Tackle these tasks first before anything else.
  3. Have everyone on your team responsible for asking 2-3 prospects. Own the recruitment responsibility together. 
  4. Make sure your meetings are fun so that your team loves meeting. You’ll need to  pull hard together from November through February. This should be a fun and exciting experience for your team members, not feel like a never-ended daily grind 

Key Takeaway:

Don’t try to do this alone. Gather a team around you, make a plan, meet regularly and have everyone on your team contribute in the recruiting of your team captains and sponsors.

You Know You’re An Event Director If…

Every week we throw a lot of stuff at you. Oh, you hadn’t noticed? Really? I think not – we KNOW we firehose you with gallons of peer-to-peer metrics, data, trends, guidelines, deadlines, blogs, delivery-dates, best-before-dates, don’t-forget-valentines-date etc. It never ends and we make no apologies for that. We want you to be successful (and honestly, we have a problem and can’t help ourselves). 

But not this week. Oh no – this week we’ve got absolutely nothing of value to say, write or share with you. Instead, we want to buzzfeed you with some meaningless meme-fare that we hope puts a smile on your face and helps you start (or end) your day with a little levity. 

While a lot has happened on Earth in the past 12 months, one thing that hasn’t changed is that EVENT DIRECTORS (that’s you!!) are the superstars that drive great p2p fundraising events. If you have any doubts about your event director DNA then scroll down the page and know that we get you and that you’re among friends. 

You Know You’re an Event Director If…

  • You’re constantly watching the 3 Ws: WAVES, weather, and walkers
  • Your wardrobe consists almost entirely of swag
  • Your spouse starts calling themselves a CNOY widow
  • You yell at your 10 year old for not fundraising more
  • You wake up in a cold sweat worried about fundraising metrics
  • Your office/home has more boxes than furniture
  • Your charity colleagues avoid you in the staff room because of their poor fundraising
  • You get the feels watching old Jerry Lewis telethons
  • You find yourself unconsciously looking for good walk routes
  • You smile knowingly as you write down the names of all the sponsors at another charities golf event
  • Even your personal emails have your giving link included
  • Your Mother starts leaving messages concerned about how you are doing
  • You are overheating because you are wearing too much swag (Or maybe just a BC Lower mainland experience?!)
  • Your backseat has posters, postcards and toques — as you never know who you might mean or where you might be able to snap a #cnoy photo……
  • Your children react uncontrollably to the question, “Did you ask them yet?”

Event Directors are a special breed of humans! We commend you for your efforts, enthusiasm, and adaptability. Thank you for being you!

The #1 Metric Every P2P Fundraising Event Should Be Watching

Metrics matter to your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. If you are going to be successful long term, your charity needs to understand (and react to) the fundraising trends of your participants. These trends reveal the fundraising health of your event. Are you recruiting participants who merely show up or fundraisers who raise cold, hard cash? Tracking these participant fundraising metrics will help you ensure your event grows an ever increasing culture of fundraising

The #1 Metric Every P2P Fundraising Event Should Be Watching

No matter who you are, how big your charity is, or how successful your p2p fundraising events have been in the past, you need to monitor your “Participants Fundraising Percentage.” This metric tracks every participant who registers for your event and, depending on their activity, tags them into one of four categories: 

  • No Activity
  • Self Donated (only)
  • Fundraised (only)
  • Self Donated and Fundraised.

If your event charges a registration fee (which we’d generally discourage given how it transactionalizes your participant relationship and weakens your culture of fundraising), then you’ll want to track that too. Categories might then include “Reg Fee Only,” “Reg Fee + Self Donated,” “Reg Fee, Self Donated + Fundraised.” 

Why do these categories matter? What can they teach you? How will they inform your campaign? Let’s take a closer look:

No Activity 

Participants who register and then do nothing are in this category. Every event has good folks like these so don’t be too put off. They may have sincerely intended to fundraise, but in the end, for whatever reason, they didn’t. If your event is family-friendly, then of course some of your “No Activity” participants could be toddlers or children who you wouldn’t necessarily expect to fundraise. 

All that being said, you want as few people as possible in this category, but, depending on your event, it will likely never get to zero. Set a goal of having no more than 20% off your registered participants here and keep a close eye on which direction this category trends. Are your “No Activity” registrations going up or down? If your percentage is increasing (even after accounting for kids), you’ve likely got a problem. Take an honest look at the way you are recruiting – is there a clear expectation to fundraise? Look closely at your messaging and recruitment efforts – do you use the language of participation or fundraising? 


A word about awareness. We all want to grow the awareness of our events, hard as it is to measure sometimes. But don’t let your awareness pursuit distract you from your fundraising purpose and be cautious you don’t trade fundraising failure for awareness success. Let awareness follow your successful fundraising event rather than lead it. A hugely successful fundraising event will satisfy your funding needs now and bring you all the buzz and momentum you desire to grow your charity later. Focus on fundraising success and the awareness you seek will find you. 


Self Donated (Only)

Participants who have registered and donated to themselves, but who do not receive any other donations, are in this category. Again, maybe they intended to fundraise, but in the end they did not or could not bring in any other funds. The good news is they did put themselves out there financially and participated on event day. You can work with that effort. Any skin in the game is positive and some participants in this category give very generously. 

Having a number of people in this category is not inherently bad, but don’t confuse them with fundraisers – at least not yet. Self-donating participants are really just donors who also participate. They have potential. If you can convert them to fundraisers they’ll be absolute gold for you. So watch how this metric is trending year over year – are more people self-donating than last year? How does this number compare to those who “Fundraised” or were in the “No Activity” category? 

The relationship between these numbers will paint a different picture of your event’s long term success. If your number of “Self Donated” participants is going up while your number of “No Activity” participants is going down, that’s progress! But if your number of “Self Donated” participants is going up while your number of “Fundraised” or “Fundraised + Self Donated” participants is going down, your people are becoming disengaged, and that’s no bueno.

Regardless of the trend, always remember there is real potential to bump up the engagement in this group. With the right messaging, motivation, and management, you can move participants from “Self Donated” to “Fundraised + Self Donated.” Lean into a strong fundraising message, ensure captains are clear on their responsibilities, and share your momentum throughout the campaign. Note: some percentage of self donated registrants may be children whose parents donated on their behalf. 

Fundraised (Only)

This category tracks participants who register and fundraise, whether $1 or $1,000, but who do not (or have not yet) donated to themselves. These folks are wonderful. A team captain has recruited them (or maybe they are a captain themselves) and they’ve done the work: setting up their personal fundraising page, posting pictures, sharing their story, and asking their friends and family for m-m-m-say-it-with-me-MONEY! They are the engine in your campaign and what’s great is they come in all age ranges. Kids, youth, teens, twenties, middle aged and beyond (where I reside) can all successfully find their way into this “Fundraised” category. The data shows that the wider your demographic of ages, the better your chances of hitting your fundraising goal.  

As you monitor this metric, you want the number of “Fundraised” participants (and “Fundraised + Self Donated”) to always, always be trending upwards. If these numbers begin to drop, you need to act quickly and reorient your campaign to be focused on the fundraising first and the event second. 

Fundraised + Self Donated

We saved the best for last. This category contains participants who register and self-donate and fundraise. They are the diamonds in your campaign. They are truly invested. They give to themselves, likely others as well, and fundraise with effort. These are often team captains, eager to recruit, and have nothing but positive things to say about your event (and they talk to a lot of people about your event!). It would be wise for you to get to know them. If they are this committed to your event they might make a great committee member or value becoming a long term organizational donor. The ultimate goal would be to have as many participants as possible in this category. As with your “Fundraised” folks, if the number of people in this category is trending downward, you need to act – fast!

Setting Targets For Your Event

Now that you know your categories, what should your target be for each? In a perfect world you’ve got only “Fundraised + Self Donated” participants, but if you’re like us, working in the family-friendly p2p event market, you’ll likely have a spread of all four categories. 

Let’s take a closer look at the Participants Fundraising Percentage from our fall 2020 virtual event, the Ride for Refuge. We had just over 800 captains and 4,100 participants. In the end, here’s where our four categories broke down for this event:

This is a great result. 78% of our participants were fundraising. But, to be transparent, in another much larger p2p event we host nationally, the Coldest Night of the Year, our combined fundraising percentage was only 64% (the last three years) after hitting a high water mark of 70% six years ago. The struggle is real. The challenge for all of us in the p2p world is to watch our participant fundraising metrics closely. 

Your own goal should be to have 50% or more of your participants in the “Fundraised” and/or “Fundraised + Self Donated” category.  If your percentage is lower than 50%, we’d advise you to address it soon. There are some simple, achievable strategies to troubleshoot your event before it dies or worse, continues on life support while wasting time and resources. A few bold steps will turn your event around in one campaign – it all starts with monitoring the metrics. 

Special: Blue Sea Foundation partners – you can track your participant fundraising percentage metrics easily by logging into waves and scrolling down your dashboard. Remember to navigate to each event year to track the trends. 

Launch Party Planner (With Virtual Adjustments)

We recommend that every charity hosting a p2p fundraising event officially kick things off with a campaign launch party. The purpose of a launch party is to make a splash and get your community of staff, captains, participants, volunteers, and donors excited and mobilized to fundraise! 

This party doesn’t have to happen on day one of your campaign, you may have already recruited fundraising teams and participants and signed up local business sponsors, that’s actually ideal. Instead think of your launch party as a 30 day countdown that positions your event as the fundraising event worth getting involved in and kicks your campaign into high gear!

We recommend our tried and true strategy for planning and executing an engaging launch party. 

For the first time ever, we’re sharing the Launch Party Planner that we use in coaching our event charity partners.

Choosing When to Party: Give yourself 6 weeks to plan a super-fun, high-energy, team-captain-attracting and momentum-building launch party and aim to host the party 30 days before event day. 

The Big Five

To be clear, a successful launch party will: 

  1. Bring your cause and charity to the forefront
  2. Ensure your community knows – and is excited – about the upcoming event 
  3. Motivate prior year participants and (especially) team captains to sign-up
  4. Inspire same-week recruitment traction and deliver actual registrations! 
  5. Get attention from your board, management, and staff (and result in their registrations!)

Here’s How: Launch parties are worth the effort if you make them fun, fast, and worthwhile. People are expecting a bit of a show and you need to be ready to deliver a solid event. You can’t call it a party if it feels like a meeting right? Here’s some pointers to get you up and running fast without it distracting from your actual campaign efforts. 

Note: if your launch party needs to be virtual keep reading and see our “Virtual Adjustments” section below to help bring this all together. 

When: Book your launch party no later than 30 days out from your event. Keep in mind holidays and vacations that might be happening in the lives of your attendees and plan accordingly.

Where: If you can host the party at your office, do so: homefield advantage is best! But, of course, pretty it up and make it look like a party is happening when your guests arrive! Use your provided event garb, hang some posters, lay out the toques/t-shirts/swag, order some balloons, etc.  

Who: Your invite list should include: 

(1) last year team captains 

(2) VIP fundraisers 

(3) involved board members 

(4) media / political supporters 

(5) prospective captains 

(6) prior year lead sponsor (or prospects)

It’s assumed that your ED / CEO will play a key role as well.

What: Here’s an outline to help you plan the actual in-person event. It  should be about an hour in total allowing for check-in (to capture names and contact info), mingling, food (if any), and the short presentations below:

  • Focus on Your Cause (7 mins) 
    • Share the primary challenges faced by the people you serve. Make it personal. Talk about one story and then translate that story into 1-3 key local stats that highlight the wider challenges your community faces. Don’t overwhelm them with despair – just help them understand there’s a problem that _________ (i.e., Bob & Jane) are experiencing. 
  • Focus on Your Charity (7 mins) 
    • Don’t talk about your history – talk about today. Share how your charity is stepping into Bob & Jane’s story. What did your charity do? Why is that important and how is it helping? Then segue into the p2p event, “So, this is why we invited you to this CNOY/RIDE/TGP launch party today…”
    • Pro Tip: Have someone from the community speak briefly, endorsing your charity and its local impact. A well-known, well-spoken chair of your BOD could work well. 
  • Focus on the Event (7 mins) 
    • Explain what the event is, how it works, (whether in-person or virtual), your expectations of participants and what you are trying to achieve.  
    • Share the CNOY/RIDE/TGP promo video, your team captain goal, overall goal and then connect that to Bob & Jane’s story. By raising $___________ we’ll be able to help ___________ (many more Bob & Janes). 
    • Pro Tip: If you’ve hosted this event before, consider inviting back your most enthusiastic and successful (this part is key!) fundraising team captain to share their story. Their words should make their role look attractive and doable to those listening. Be sure to review what they plan on saying prior to the launch. 
  • Close + Call To Action (2 mins) 
    • Wrap up your launch party with a confident, well scripted ask:  “Well, you’ve heard Bob & Jane’s story, and how this event will help us fund the new/ongoing programs locally. What we’d like to ask you to consider is, how will you work with us on this event?”
  • Captains – please register today (have computers ready to go)
  • Participants – please register, recruit and fundraise this year
  • MEDIA – please cover this local event with national impact
  • Questions – take questions from anyone and everyone until they are all answered 
  • Follow-up
    • Consider having team captain kits ready to go for everyone who signs up 
    • Call, text, or email “Thank Yous” to all who attended
    • Include the name of your sponsor(s), if they’ve already signed-up, in all communications 

Tips For Hosting an Awesome Virtual Launch Party 

Let’s be honest, we’re all tired of Zoom meetings, but you can make your launch party an absolute online success following any combination of these tips (some will work well in person too!). Even in locations where you can gather safely, consider adding an online or simulcast option so people can join in from a distance. 

  1. Make Registration Easy
    • Use the online registration system in Zoom (or equivalent virtual meeting software) to make it easy for people to sign-up and for you to both manage the event and communicate with attendees afterward. 
  2. Devote Time to the Description
    • Write an inviting, punchy description of what’s in store for attendees and pair it with a great graphic.
  3. Record it!
    • Remember to record your virtual launch party so you can share it (in full or edited down to short snippets) later on. This is a virtual bonus and something that’s something much harder to do with in-person launches! 
  4. Decorate!
    • Use a virtual backdrop to add some fun to the online experience 
    • Use video of walkers out on routes in prior years, or send/share/use any of the images on our CNOY/RIDE/TGP home pages 
    • Change the backdrop for every speaker to add variety
    • Consider creating physical backdrops using our event posters, swag, etc. 
  5. Engage Attendees With Polls 
    • Create two polls to share
      • 1 serious – a cause-related trivia or a “guess how many” question
      • 1 super-fun, silly, entertaining question 
  6. Make Use of Your Event Location Page
    • Did you know that you can host your virtual launch party right on your location page? We’ve added a simple way for you to connect Zoom, YouTube and 5 other video streaming services right into WAVES 
  7. Share Your Screen
    • A virtual launch party has the added benefit of being able to show people whatever you want: content on your cause and charity, your event pages, etc.
    • Plus, you can show exactly how to register, select your location, name a team and get fundraising. 
  8. Play Our Event Promo Video
    • If your wifi is stable, it’s easy to click on the event promo video and play that for everyone to watch together. Make sure the volume is up on the YouTube link itself and everyone will hear it well. 

Whether online or in-person a campaign launch party is key to the overall success of your campaign. This mini-event is important but shouldn’t feel overwhelming. We’ve worked with hundreds of charity partners on thousands of p2p fundraising event campaigns and – trust us – the steps laid out in this Launch Party Planner work. So get planning, send the invites, write your engaging short presentations, and be prepared to party!

Donor Engagement 101 – Is Your Charity Acing Donor Engagement?

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!

Why P2P Fundraising Events may be a Blessing for Your Board

What do P2P fundraising events have to do with your board falling in love with fundraising for your charity? Perhaps, more than you think…

What Does Your Board Actually Do?

Let’s start here: Boards are charged with governing in your organization’s best interest. What falls under their purview? Lots! They:

  • Hire + support the CEO/ED 
  • Implement strategic direction and planning 
  • Enforce policy development and oversight 
  • Provide regular and constructive feedback
  • Ensure the financial health of the organization

It comes down to governance and money, folks! Governance is a massive, and massively important, job. But let’s leave that for now and focus on the money part. An essential part of the Board’s mandate is to help your organization succeed. And to do this, they need to be involved in fundraising. It’s that simple.

The problem is that the fundraising bit is often conveniently left out of the recruitment conversation. The expectation to fundraise might have been in the board package but was it discussed directly with them? Would the Board member have accepted the position if they’d known they’d be involved in fundraising? Maybe, maybe not. But when they walk into the boardroom and are met with an unexpected expectation, if you will, they can be left feeling bamboozled. “No one told me…” 

The Board’s Role in Fundraising

So, maybe there are some mismanaged expectations, maybe your Board Chair is a little nervous to bring it up, maybe they’re simply becoming disengaged, or maybe they just don’t know *how* to help in the fundraising department. Either way, in order to be successful as a charity, you need Board members to be:

  • Engaging with existing donors (e.g. “thank you” calls to first-time and major donors)
  • Introducing the charity to new donors
  • Volunteering (e.g. volunteer at events, serve as a table host, etc.)
  • Advocating for your organization 
  • Donating!

If your Board is falling short in these areas, a P2P fundraising event could be the answer. 

How P2P Fundraising Events Can Help

If there’s some friction, frustration, or disconnect between the charity and the Board when it comes to fundraising, hosting a P2P event can help you move forward. How? Why? Let’s talk a closer look:

  • Gives Them Something Concrete to Do. With a P2P fundraising event, the ask is clear and simple. The Board member knows exactly what to do (i.e. walk + fundraise, host a table, etc.), what the event will look like (walk-a-thon, garden gala, etc.), and what the experience for those in their network would be. They can trust, believe, buy in, and act.
  • It’s a Finite Request. Your event has a beginning and an end, both of which are clearly marked. Board members can see the finish line and understand what they need to do to help get the organization across it. 
  • Provides Them With Multiple Opportunities to Engage. P2P events provide a variety of onramps for Board members to get involved. They can register as a team captain, participate in the event, recruit team members, ask friends and family to donate, give to themselves and others, sponsor the event if they own a business, or volunteer at the event (although, a more direct fundraising role is preferred). These simple but well defined roles help them know what to do and gives them different options to choose from. It’s no longer a “donate-or-nothing” conversation.
  • Builds Trust. When your Board members witness your charity putting on a professional event, it builds trust. 

According to fundraising expert Larry Matthews of KMA Consultants, one of the biggest impediments to Board member engagement with fundraising is that, “they don’t trust your charity to take care of their people.” (I know! We were surprised too!). 

When they see your P2P event—an event that looks effortless, smooth and seamless— with terrific signage, a down-pat registration process, intuitive online experiences, and, of course, cool swag, they start to “get it.” When the Board knows that the experience will be polished, professional, and positive, they trust that they can send their people to you and/or ask them to donate. 

  • Turnkey and Low Risk. “Turnkey” and “low risk” are music to a Board’s ears! A professionally managed P2P fundraising event can create buy-in from a big picture standpoint. 

So, all that to say: If your Board is not as involved in fundraising as you’d like – and as you need – them to be, hosting a P2P fundraising event may be the answer you’re looking for. 

Why a Difficult Challenge Can Make Fundraising Easier

Imagine this scenario: you want to make a charitable donation, and you obviously want it to make an impact. You have the option of attending a gala or trekking the Mount Everest Base Camp. Which do you choose? Increasingly, people are opting out of black tie and into… hiking boots. 

Now, Everest may be an extreme example, but the point is that when people face a difficult challenge – when they put their blood, sweat, and tears into an event… literally, in some cases! – they derive greater value from it. They want it to be hard, and peer-to-peer (aka P2P) fundraising events can deliver just that.

The Martyrdom Effect

Pain is usually a deterrent; we don’t touch hot stoves because it hurts. But studies prove that “the willingness to contribute to a charitable or collective cause increases when the contribution process is expected to be painful and effortful rather than easy and enjoyable.” Researchers call it the “Martyrdom Effect.” We call it a great opportunity for your organization! 

What’s the “why” behind the Martyrdom Effect, though? If we won’t touch a hot stove, why do we willingly deprive ourselves of oxygen in the Himalayas – and pay for the privilege? Because we derive more meaning and value from hard-earned accomplishments than we do from easy wins. This is also why we value the car or the house we scrimped and saved to buy over one that’s handed to us; it’s more meaningful, and satisfying, because we worked hard for it.

P2P fundraising events that include a difficult activity can be incredibly successful; we want to push ourselves; we want to struggle; and, ultimately, we want to conquer. It helps us find meaning.

What Is “Hard”?

Difficult means different things for different people. In the world of “extreme fundraising,” for example, difficult is doing the Everest Base Camp trek or jumping out of a plane. But for others, a 2K walk may be very challenging. For some, hopping on a bike is Everest. 

“Hard” is relative; it’s not about finding the hardest activity out there. The key is to find an activity or event that engages your target supporters. What do they find difficult? What challenges do they want to overcome? What kind of activity will connect them with the struggles of those your charity serves? That’s the kind of “hard” activity that you ought to look for. 

Why Are P2P Fundraising Events So Appealing?

P2P fundraising events that include a level of difficulty for participants tend to be so successful for charities because they tap into this Martyrdom Effect. They also appeal to people because:

  • They’re Competitive. Whether you gamify the fundraising experience or provide a competitive team or individual activity, you drive participation and engagement. Competition pushes people to push themselves harder. Let’s raise the stakes a little! 
  • There’s a Sense of Team. If competition is important, so is camaraderie. Challenging activities create a “we’re in this together” mentality. It builds community and fosters a sense of belonging – both of which you can leverage to engage donors and boost results.
  • They’re Empathetic. The Coldest Night of the Year, Canada’s national walk for the hungry, hurting, and homeless, asks participants to walk a mile (actually 2, 5, or 10k) in the shoes of a homeless person. Held annually in late February, they trudge through the cold, the snow, the ice, and the dark. And they begin to identify with the people who trudge through the cold, the snow, the ice, and the dark every day. 

John Fenton is the single largest individual fundraiser for this event, in a single year receiving almost $50,000 in donations. What is even more remarkable is that Mr. Fenton is in his 80s. On his most recent CNOY Walk, he used two walking sticks to aid him… but he kept going. This was hard. This was difficult. Donating money doesn’t cost us anything but money; doing something challenging is valuable to us for many reasons, including the empathy we can gain through events like this.

  • They Make the Ask Easier. Asking for donations can sometimes range from feeling mildly awkward to extremely awkward, depending on the situation. But when people put themselves out there and demonstrate their willingness to take a risk and tackle a tough challenge, it rationalizes the ask. It makes it much easier for your community of stakeholders to ask their friends and family to give. They feel like they’re earning their donations (and they are!).
  • They’re Fun, Novel -– and Provide the Opportunity for Bragging Rights! Ben Southall is something of a celebrity in Australia. He won the 2009 Best Job In the World Competition as caretaker for the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef. Ben now leads Best Life Adventures (as you may have guessed, he’s the brains behind the Base Camp fundraising idea). He hits the nail right on the head here: 

People want to support good causes. It is just something which seems to be hardwired into most of us. But at the same time, we are also experiencing the new phenomena of donor fatigue…

It’s not that the dollars and goodwill are not there. It’s just the competition for them is so fierce it is becoming harder for charities and causes to be heard above the clamour of those wanting those dollars and goodwill.

P2P fundraising events that provide a challenge are fun; there’s a sense of novelty to repelling down the side of a building or doing a sponsored bungee jump that can wipe away donor fatigue.

Completing these tasks also gives participants a bit of social cache. They were the ones willing to strap on a harness and climb down a 20 story building. In doing so, they distinguish themselves from others. At the same time, they prove something to themselves. I can do this. I DID this. And I helped people.

Remember, your event doesn’t have to be extreme in order to be effective; but incorporating difficult activities can be just the wakeup your donors (and their networks!) need to pull out their wallets. P2P fundraising events are not just great fundraisers by accident; they tap into the core components of human nature and allow people to find meaning in giving to your charity.

What Do You Think?

Could this all be part of your fundraising strategy? What kinds of activities would work well for your cause and your community? What is “hard” in the context of your supporters?