You’ve probably heard it said that the first million is the hardest. And if you’re in the peer to peer event space, you know this to be especially true.
I recently returned to Blackbaud after a 3-year stint working for a large cancer hospital where I established a brand new institutional P2P fundraising event—The Boot Walk to End Cancer. The event took place in November and I’m super exited to share that it attracted 6,000+ participants and raised over $1M in personal fundraising and sponsorships, more than double the revenue originally projected in our financial forecast.
I credit much of the success to one key component of our P2P event strategy: Leadership Volunteers.
Leadership volunteers are individuals who dedicate their time and talents to your P2P event prior to event day. Typically, these folks also function on your event committee and can be a key indicator of the overall personal fundraising efforts.
3 Reasons Why Leadership Volunteers Are Pivotal to a Successful P2P Fundraising Strategy:
1. A donation of time/talents is an indicator of a deeper passion for your mission/event.
Time is money. In today’s busy world, a donation of time and talents can be more valuable than a monetary donation from the perspective of your supporters. For example, the time I spend volunteering for an organization is time I’m not spending with my kids, but it would only take me a few minutes to process an online donation.
When a person is passionate about a cause, they’re willing to do more than just click a donate button—they’re willing to serve. But it’s up to your organization to ask for what it needs—recruitment help, fundraising help, sponsorship connections, etc. Your volunteers will often bring new ideas and energy to the table, and that’s something you cannot put a price tag on.
2. Your volunteers are connected.
The average person has a network of 150 contacts that they could comfortably reach out to at any given time. In the social science world, this is called Dunbar’s number.
For our first-year event, we needed people to register. If people registered, then we could provide them with the motivation and tools necessary to start fundraising. As part of the job description for our leadership volunteers, we asked them to commit to recruiting 10 team captains. If you do the math, a committee of 10 people = 100 Team Captains. If every team has 10 team members, then we have a starting foundation of 1,000 participants.
For the Boot Walk, our executive committee had ~12 people and our extended sub-committee had ~100 people.
Hypothetically speaking, even if only half of my 120 committee members actually fulfilled this commitment, I would end up with 600 team captains, who are all tasked with recruiting 10 team members. That would mean 6,000 participants. Taking this idea one step further using the metrics available in the P2P Fundraising Benchmark report, I can extrapolate that the average funds raised per participant at $31 will ultimately result in ~$400K. For the Boot Walk, the average donation was closer to $153/person. As you can see, by mobilizing your volunteers ahead of time you’re setting your event up for success before it even begins.
3. Volunteers lead to retention.
The key to getting volunteers to drive your fundraising & recruitment efforts relies on their motivation to serve your larger mission and the warm fuzzy feeling they get as a result of giving you their time. You must proactively plan and manage these relationship to ensure your volunteers are having a positive experience and are compelled to continue investing their time in your mission.
One easy way to retain your leadership volunteers is to give them legitimate jobs and the authority to execute. I’m a huge advocate of providing a documented job description to any candidate considering a leadership role. Be clear on the responsibilities of the position (like recruiting 10 team members) and the expected time commitment. The responsibility isn’t for everyone, but those who do choose to step up will prove to be some of your most ardent supporters. And those are relationships worth investing in long-term.