Diary of a Peer-to-Peer Fundraiser: How to Transition Participants into Event Mode

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I had the distinct privilege of participating in my very first peer-to-peer fundraiser (if you’re not familiar with how a peer-to-peer fundraiser works, here’s a primer)! As much as I’ve written about fundraising and how to use the Qgiv platform, getting to actually raise money myself was a blast. It was also a really great way to learn first-hand what peer-to-peer participants need from the organizations they support.

This has been a fun way to share my experiences with nonprofits who are considering doing a peer-to-peer fundraiser of their own. If you want to learn about the event, check out our write-up on Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine and their Lakeland Derby!

The Lakeland Derby is a two-part event. The first part is a month-long fundraising period where 20 local participants raise as much money as possible for the organization. The fundraising period culminates in a huge event where the participants compete (in teams of two) to race across a local lake in swan-shaped paddle boats. There are fireworks, fun vendors, a VIP area, and loads of people dressed up in derby-inspired hats. It’s a free event that’s open to the public, and people love to spread picnic blankets and watch the race and other festivities.

For those of us who participated in the event (and even more so for the staff!), the week of the event was a whirlwind. We were making as many appeals as we could without alienating our friends, trying to cram in last-minute fundraising activities, go to our jobs, and generally fit being a fundraiser into our hectic schedules. And then BOOM! It was showtime. I, anyway, got off work and headed directly to the lake to race.

My race was an absolute disaster (more on that later!), but we all had a blast at the event. Here are some steps the LVIM staff took to transition us from fundraising mode to event mode without a hitch.

They were really thorough with their communications

Before the event, our point person sent us an email containing details of where we needed to be at any given time. We knew everything. Check in at 5:40 at the hospitality tent. Head towards the boats at 5:45. Paddle out to the starting line at 6:50. You get the idea!

Once the event was underway, we never had to think twice about where to be. We were shepherded towards the boats when we needed to be there. Everyone knew exactly where to stand for pictures. We all knew precisely where to go for snacks (we love snacks). Everything was meticulously planned! That was a huge relief for a bunch of fundraisers who had just gotten through a whirlwind of a week and landed at a huge event.

What you can do

Full disclosure: no event ever goes off totally without a hitch. There will be hitches. I’m SURE LVIM staff were running around putting out fires the day of the event. That happens! Be kind to yourself; understand that there will me mistakes, emergencies, or last-minute changes. It happens.

Just communicate with your participants! I promise, we will totally understand. If anything comes up, we’ll adjust! Just let us know where we need to be and when we need to be there. And tell us where the snacks are.

They made us feel awesome

Total honesty here: when I got to the event, I was not stoked about paddling a boat across a lake in front of a few thousand people. I’m 100% a behind-the-scenes person. Want me to raise money for you? Heck yeah! Want me to stand up for a photo op in front of a bunch of strangers? Eh… I’m not into it.

But the enthusiasm of the staff, the gorgeous setting, and the excitement of the attendees was infectious. And, most importantly, the staff went out of their way to make us feel great about participating. They kept reiterating what a fantastic job we’d done fundraising, made loads of jokes, and eased our nerves. Our point person, Kathryn, even made team Carry On My Wayward Swan (me and my husband) feel better about our disastrous performance after a mooring rope got tangled around our paddles (and my foot) and left our boat adrift in the lake.

After our race, we were presented to the crowds. All of us received medals with our names engraved on them, and the race winners were given trophies. Our fundraising totals were all posted, and the top three fundraising teams received awards, too. We all felt fantastic about the work we’d done!

What you can do

Depending on the type of event you’re running, your participants may be nervous. Put their minds at ease! If you’re frantic, distracted, and anxious, your participants will pick up on it. Like I said earlier, I am pretty positive the LVIM staff was scrambling around behind the scenes — that’s part of running an event. But they still emphasized keeping us organized, at ease, and having fun.

Also, remember to remind your fundraisers how special they are! Carry On My Wayward Swan didn’t win the fundraising competition, but we were never made to feel bad about it. The LVIM staff emphasized to participants and Derby attendees alike that raising money was a team effort. We all helped make a difference! Communicate that to your fundraisers, too.

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They didn’t monopolize our time

While we did have to line up for photo ops, awards, and other duties, the LVIM staff was careful not to monopolize our time. Our race was only a small part of the Derby overall, so we had lots of time to find our friends in the crowd, party in the VIP room, or just lie in the sunshine until it was time for fireworks.

This is especially important because this event was about building relationships between LVIM and the community, and we were a part of that. Getting to talk to our friends, thanking people for their support, and spending time with our supporters was a powerful way to raise awareness about LVIM and their cause.

What you can do

Encourage your participants to be more than fundraisers — encourage them to be ambassadors! Yes, your participants are raising money for you. But they’re also spreading your message to their friends and family. Give them time to mingle with people at your fundraising event. I can’t tell you how many times people asked me why we were raising money for LVIM. People wanted to know how we got involved. They had questions about the services LVIM provided and how they were able to serve so many people. It was fantastic! Give your fundraisers the opportunity to have similar conversations.

Previously in the Diary of a Peer-to-Peer Fundraiser

Next up in the Diary of a Peer-to-Peer Fundraiser

Once we got through the fundraising period, it was time for us to actually participate in Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine’s event. We’ll go over how LVIM handled the transition, got the crowd hyped about fundraising, and gave the participants an experience we’ll never forget.

Want to see how Qgiv’s peer-to-peer platform works?

You can do that! Contact us online to get more information or schedule a one-on-one tour of our tools. You’ll see exactly the same system our group of 20 participants used to raise $43,324.16You can also check out these other really great peer-to-peer event examples from our clients.

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