Peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising has been a staple of the American fundraising scene since the oldest charities formed. The model is simple – charities recruit volunteers to fundraise for them, from their peer groups.
The United Way does it through workplace campaigns. Charities like March of Dimes use marathons. Then the umbrella groups divvy up the funding for causes in their area or for specific nonprofit goals like cancer research. Small nonprofits and local charities often apply the same model, like when PTA groups ask parents to fundraise in their networks. (Tips For Running A Marathon Fundraiser)
Though a staple, like nearly every other charitable mechanism in our Smart Phone age, the P2P model is rapidly evolving with modern times. So what are the key findings and trends from the Peer-to-Peer Thirty, the most comprehensive annual study on P2P giving, and what does it mean for your nonprofit?
Declining Revenues Across the Board for Peer-to-Peer Models
The largest 30 P2P programs have seen declining revenues across the board since 2012. 2017 saw a 6.7 percent decrease in revenues from 2016. Though declining, however, they are still an amazing charity force. In 2017, the top 30 US Peer-to-Peer campaigns raised $1.47 billion.
Higher Donation Amounts to Peer-to-Peer Campaigns
Part of the reason for the decline in overall revenue is that the trend is for organizations to focus on fewer, smaller events (that cost less). Though less people give, the average donor gives more. Hence the trend is to maximize fundraising returns, spending less on the campaigns themselves.
The systems are more efficient. Each Relay for Life donor (American Cancer Society) gave an average $115 in 2017 as opposed to $103 in 2016. They had a total of 930 less events across the country, but raised 11 percent more from each donor. (Download the Peer-to-Peer summary report here upon free website registration).
Youthful and Exciting Events are on the Rise
Many charities are seeing fast rising success in their peer-to-peer efforts, despite the overall decline. Children’s Miracle Network’s Dance Marathon program increased nearly 20 percent in 2017. The program raised more than $38 million. Their strategy is to recruit youth and students in supporting hospitals in the network. They boast that more than 250,000 students participate. Eleven universities raised more than $1 million each in 2017.
Trends are Likewise Across Cultures
P2P programs are evolving across the world, not just in America. Forbes compared charities using peer-to-peer models in the US and the UK, searching for new innovations. What we are seeing is that the life-cycle for projects has shrunk. Successful projects plan for 5 years as opposed to 20, and they need to modify their projects to include new ideas.
A local UK hospice program for children, Bluebell Wood, found success in hosting a Soap Box Derby, for instance. Revenues improved across year one and year two, but year three saw a decline.
The organizer, Helen Bower, concluded that though their model of using social media and garnering buzz is successful, they needed to create something new. They are now offering a handful of P2P fundraisers that are very new and innovative, including a ‘Mud Madness’ obstacle challenge fundraiser.
Similarly, Dutch P2P fundraising programs were traditional spin offs of marathons and swimming competitions, but are increasingly dominated by extreme events. One of Canada’s fastest rising P2P events is the Great Camp Adventure Walk.
What do Top Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Trends Mean for your Nonprofit?
So what does all of this mean to your nonprofit?
Here are some top tips we can derive:
1. People are still interested in Peer-to-Peer events, but they want to do something more exciting than a marathon or walkathon. Move away from the traditional! Get in the mud or host a scary night hiking competition. The modern donor and supporter wants to witness something extreme and unique.
2. Less is more. Host fewer campaign events but focus on higher level donors and people with more giving capacity. You will do better on your bottom line for much less effort.
3. Get youth involved. The successful campaigns are involving university students and youth in general in being their peer fundraising partners. Your nonprofit or cause can do the same!
4. Use social media and the power of networks – this point has not changed, and is still the staple of a successful campaign. People need to know about the project to support it!