Diary of a Peer-to-Peer Fundraiser: Tips for Retaining P2P Donors & Participants

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I recently wrapped up my time as a peer-to-peer fundraiser, which was a really great experience (if you’re not familiar with peer-to-peer fundraising, you can read all about it here). My husband and I teamed up to participate in The Lakeland Derby, an annual paddle-boat race put on by Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine (LVIM). If you’re curious about LVIM’s event, check out our spotlight on the Lakeland Derby and how they use peer-to-peer fundraising to connect with our community!

According to their CEO, Alice Koehler, the LVIM staff noticed a disheartening trend: participants in the Lakeland Derby rarely stayed involved with the organization after the race. And, since LVIM recruits new participants every year, traditional peer-to-peer participant retention methods wouldn’t work for them.

This has forced them to get creative with their retention methods — here are some strategies they’re using that will work for you, too!

They started “The Swan Society”

Each person who participates in the Lakeland Derby is invited to join The Swan Society, which is an alumni association for past participants. Society members pledge to make a $150 annual gift ($225 for couples) to LVIM. In return, you receive recognition on the LVIM site, a Swan Society badge, standing invitations to the Lakeland Derby VIP party, and the opportunity to be an “insider” at LVIM.

The Swan Society is a fantastic option for keeping us engaged with LVIM. As a general rule, everyone who participates is a young professional, and we’ve all got loads of responsibilities outside our jobs. This is a great way to be a part of something important without committing to more time-intensive engagements like volunteering or serving on committees.

What you can do

Give your participants a way to stay engaged long term! Creating an exclusive group for your top supporters is a tried-and-true method for keeping your supporters involved with your mission. You can make your group open to everyone, or you might limit the group to your top performers. Inviting everyone to join the Swan Society is pretty simple: there are only 20 participants in each Lakeland Derby group! You might need to be more selective if you run a peer-to-peer event that draws hundreds or thousands of participants.

This air of exclusivity will make people more excited about participating and more likely to stay involved. People love feeling like they belong to something, and they love it even more if it’s exclusive. Try giving your group a name, a giving level, and some perks. It will give participants a goal to pursue, a reason to donate regularly, and is a great way to stay involved.

They recruit a “Mama Swan”

Each group of participants is led by a “Mama Swan” (you could also have a “Papa Swan,” but this group definitely skews female). Each “Mama Swan” is a past participant who went above and beyond to support LVIM when they were raising money for the Lakeland Derby. Our Mama Swan, Kathryn, was our point person if we had questions, concerns, or ideas. She also herded us through the crowds on the day of the event and made sure we were where we were supposed to be when we were supposed to be there.

As Mama Swan, Kathryn handled everything from sending us reminder emails to telling us what to wear for a paddle boat race. Kathryn also showed up to our fundraising events. She reacted to or commented on everything we posted about the event and shared our events with her friends. It was a great example to the other participants! Knowing that LVIM built relationships with people who had supported them in the past made us feel good about supporting them in the present.

What you can do

Give experienced participants opportunities to support your organization in a volunteer capacity! New participants need guidance and ideas, and you probably don’t have a ton of resources to spare. Empowering your veteran participants to help new ones frees up bandwidth for you and makes your loyal supporters engage with you even more deeply. Look into setting up someone like a Mama Swan — someone who’s familiar with your event and can answer questions and send important emails. You could also try recruiting experienced participants to be team captains, volunteer coordinators, or specially-appointed ambassadors for your campaign.

They send out regular surveys

Full disclosure: I haven’t received a survey after the Lakeland Derby. But I’ve supported past Derby participants, and I know LVIM is meticulous about checking in with their donors!

A few years ago, I donated to a co-worker who was participating in the Lakeland Derby. I’d never really heard of LVIM; all I knew is that my co-worker was raising money for them. I made a quick donation and forgot about them… until they sent me a donor survey a couple weeks later.

That donor survey inspired me to look more closely into their mission and their work. I didn’t know half of what they did until their survey asked me specifically about why I gave, what I’d be interested in learning more about, and what I knew about their work. Aside from being surprised that they wanted my opinion (I’d only given $20, I think), it made me feel pretty good that they asked for my feedback… and I’ve been interested in LVIM ever since.

What you can do

Survey your participants! This is a golden opportunity to learn about what compels your supporters, how they’d like to be involved with your organization, and how you can improve your event. This is an especially significant strategy if you, like LVIM, don’t have returning participants. Anything you can do to keep past participants engaged with you is important, and this is a great way to open a dialogue between your staff and the people who support you.

Donor surveys are also a powerful donor retention tool. Humans are funny: we feel fondness toward people for whom we do favors, because our brains tell us that we wouldn’t do a favor for someone we don’t like. If you can get someone to do you a favor and give you some feedback, you’re actively convincing that person that they really like it. It’s a valuable step in building an ongoing relationship with them!

You can learn more about surveys, read about when to use them, and download some templates right over here!

Peer-to-peer fundraising has been a blast

I learned so much during this experience! I hope some of the lessons I’ve learned and some of the strategies LVIM uses every year are helpful to you, too.

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

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 $43,324.16! You can also check out these other really great peer-to-peer event examples from our clients.

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