If you were to read just one academic article on fundraising, this is the one.
Virtual P2P fundraising events pose some challenges when it comes to participant engagement. You will not meet your supporters in a real physical space, and they won’t meet each other - how then do you make sure participants get an amazing experience and want to repeat it next year?
Not only that, without the physical event to discipline fundraising, how do you make sure participants will give their best attempt at fundraising? Assuming that your goal with your virtual event is to -
We are here to help you learn how to engage with virtual fundraisers.
We will divide our engagement advice into key periods in a fundraisers journey, namely
This blog post is based partly on two webinars we did in the spring of 2020. You can find a recording of the webinars at the end of this blog post. This is the third post in a three-part series on virtual events, and you can find part one and part two here.
The sign-up experience has a huge effect on the likelihood of a participant actually fundraising. We will focus on the actual sign-up form and experience. The key goal is to make sure the initial excitement from the sign-up is carried forward by the fundraiser committing themself.
A P2P fundraising page can be seen as a hyper-personalized landing page targeted to the network of the fundraiser. Thus the better the profile image and description of the personal motivation, the better. Therefore having the fundraiser personalise the fundraising page, both during sign-up and afterwards, is a key part of the sign-up experience.
We are currently doing some serious number crunching in connection with our machine learning project, and have found that the most important predictor of fundraising success is how much the donor self-donates.
Not only is it important that the fundraiser makes a donation themself - it really matters how much they donate. Their network will follow their lead, so if the fundraisers start out with a large donation, then the friends, family and other relations will try to match the level.
We try to get the fundraisers to actively fundraise as soon as possible. After this it is often a point-of-no-return and the fundraiser have publicly committed themselves to fundraising. It is like when you publicly announce your diet or other goal - it motivates you because you know your network will be watching.
So in short; getting the fundraiser to personalise the fundraiser, making a self-donation and sharing within the first day will make for a committed participant.
This in-between period has the potential to be an incredibly engaging and active period, but all too often ends up being dead water where you lose participant engagement. Here is how to make sure it will be the former of the two.
Recognising your heroes is always good advice, but especially in this in-between period. It will motivate your heroes to go the extra mile (and P2P fundraising is highly skewed, with 20% or less raising 8+% or more of the total funds!). It will also help motivate those who have stopped fundraising. Focus not only on how amazing your heroes are, but also on the overall feeling of achievement, as this is what will motivate other participants.
Just as managers should praise employees publicly and give critical feedback privately, so should you praise a fundraiser loudly and publicly, and nudge them toward fundraising privately.
Recognising the community as a whole is just as important. Some participants stick around just for the community. Not only to feel part of something bigger, but because this is where they belong now. Building a community feeling, with shared jokes, memes and a strong cohesiveness will be an incredibly strong asset. To read more on this - go download our guide on how to build a fundraising community.
Gamification is basically when you take something that isn’t a game (say, fundraising) and add game-like parts to it. Typically this involves some kind of competition, either between participants, or each participant against some external set goals.
Competition between participants works best if the participants know each other. It is much more fun competing with friends and family than strangers. Just ranking participants by how much they fundraise will do this.
Competition with yourself can be encouraged by e.g. rewarding certain behaviours or milestones with badges, emblems, awards, or other other forms of recognition. You define these awards and set the rules of the game.
Providing incentives is another form of gamification. Here you will receive an actual physical award for reaching fundraising milestones. Examples can be running gear, t-shirts, pins, medals etc. We give physical objects more value than a digital badge, so these definitely carry more weight.
We clearly see that incentives do have an effect. They help move fundraisers forward to new goals, and by clever adjustments, the milestone thresholds can definitely influence the overall average for the fundraisers.
For virtual P2P fundraising events these physical manifestations become even more important. You could therefore consider turning the incentive structure on its head, and just give free physical stuff to everyone who signs up - especially for virtual events. The idea here is to count on the fundraiser reciprocating your gift with effort and commitment. It is a more risky strategy for the brave, but in our experience often gives way better results.
Stewardship is part messaging automation and part personal touch and handholding. A certain amount of personal touch will always give the best results. For example, keeping in personal contact with top performers or team captains can be really useful.
When you have a large number of participants, as tends to be the case for virtual events, you will have to rely on automation to do the heavy lifting.
This is an area BetterNow geeks out over considerably. We try to make the automation as relevant as possible. Sending the perfect advice at the perfect time, based on trigger events such as a new donation, milestones, or activity levels. This is both to make sure fundraisers have a great experience, but also in order to improve upon the final results. We have made a guide, for anyone who doesn't rely on suppliers like us to help you with this, which has the best advice from us on how to build and design an automated stewardship journey. Download it here.
The last short stretch of time before the event is important, not only for the overall fundraising results, but especially for if you can start out strong with next year's event.
It is no secret that the days before an event (or the last days of a long event) is the period where the most donations come in. So making sure fundraisers are ready and prepared for a sprint is important. Helping them make the most of the last days is also an important part of the stewardship process as mentioned above.
For virtual P2P fundraising events it is incredibly important to check in with all participants a couple of days before. Basically what you want to say is “hey, we see you, we know you are about to do something crazy / wild for us, we are incredibly thankful, we are proud that you choose us!”. This makes an enormous difference in actual event participation.
Everyone deserves attention, so don’t be afraid to communicate a lot during the event. Check up on all participants before and after the event. You can automate this, just make sure they can talk to real humans if they want.
As mentioned above, sending and giving participants physical objects to work with here will do wonders. It could be as simple as graphic materials they can print at home.
Every participant is a winner for participating, and they truly need to feel so. Even if they fundraised very little or failed to complete the event. The feeling of achievement and being proud of their work is what will make them come back next year.
In the period just after completing the event, it is all about enhancing the positive emotions participants feel. They must be super proud and feel achievement. Besides giving them attention - we also want them to be in this state of mind when they are presented with a call-to-action to participate in next year's event (or another event by you).
So make sure to have an actionable sign-up form ready for your next event.
This is the final article in our series on virtual events. If you haven't already - check out the previous two. Ready to get started? Create a BetterNow account here. Blog series: Virtual events
If you were to read just one academic article on fundraising, this is the one.
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