Modifying Peer-to-Peer Campaigns When Participants Crave Social Connection

Many have objected to the term “social distancing” during the COVID-19 pandemic given the physical and mental health ramifications of seclusion. Psychology Today tells us that social isolation increases the risk of anxiety and depression and has the equivalent adverse impact on physical health to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Though most of us are responsibly opting for physical distance, we are craving connection more than ever.  

As we decrease our physical closeness and restrictions are being placed on nearly all aspects of life, media consumption is skyrocketing. Combine children being out of school and people working from home or being out of work with a fervent global curiosity, and we have a recipe for unprecedented levels of screen time and social media usage. According to Verizon, there has already been a 75% increase in gaming, a 20% increase in web traffic, and a 12% increase in video. On Instagram, influencer marketing firm Obviously reported a 76% increase in likes on ad posts over the last two weeks.  

Nearly everything is going more virtual than ever before: work, shopping, education, exercise, mindfulness, girls’ night out, watch parties…the list is endless! As the pandemic is hitting on the brink of Spring event season, many peer-to-peer (P2P) events are starting to go virtual too. 

One of the first large-scale P2P events to cancel and go virtual was the JDRF One Walk in Miami, FL. They made the announcement just two days in advance of their event, and how their participants responded was nothing short of inspirational. Since then, they’ve posted video or went live more than 40 times, including opening ceremonies, national anthem, messages from their walk chairs, awards, sponsor thank yous, and many participant-submitted videos using a designated hashtag. Event organizers made their participants feel connected and empowered during a time of great distress, and as a result raised more by going virtual than they would have under normal conditions. 

Should we even be asking people to fundraise? 

Even during uncertain times, your mission doesn’t stop being important. COVID-19 might even be having a direct impact on those you serve, making fundraising more important than ever. Encourage community and a sense of connection by giving constituents the opportunity to fundraise on your behalf, and don’t forget these critical elements: 

  • Bring Joy: While it is easy to get caught up in the negative, positivity makes it much easier to get through the day. While certain humor is absolutely inappropriate, making people smile is important. One of the JDRF Southern Florida Chapter most watched videos from their virtual walk was bloopers! 
  • Encourage generosityWe’ve known for a long time that the act of donating and fundraising makes people happy. There has been a significant increase in compassionate outreach on social media, and many people will be more than willing to step up to the plate, especially if the fundraising request is directly related to how an organization is responding to those they serve during this pandemic. 
  • Express gratitude: Expressing thanks and being thanked are also positive mood enhancers. Make sure to celebrate your fundraisers both personally and publicly. In addition to online recognition, drop a card in the mail or pick up the phone! A handwritten note will be an unexpected delight amidst another dull day at home, and youll be surprised how many people will be excited to talk to a friendly voice, even a stranger, over the phone. You can also encourage supporters to reflect on and share things they may be grateful for, especially related to your mission. 

What kind of P2P Fundraising can we do right now? 

  • Convert traditional events to virtual events: What we learned from JDRF is that making an event virtual means a lot more than updating the location online and creating a hashtag. They had carefully prepared social media schedule, despite only having a few short days to pull it together. A virtual event will actually require more proactive and personal communication with participants than an in-person event, so organizations should be prepared to be all hands on deck to support this initiative. Many organizations will invest more time and effort into tools that further support connection, such as Facebook Fundraiser integration, streaming services and equipment, or mobile push notifications. 
  • Create a fundraising campaign specific to COVID-19: If your organization has a genuine need related to the outbreak, give your supporters the opportunity to raise awareness and funds on your behalf. The timeliness, urgency, and relatability of this need will give people something positive to do and help them feel more in control during a time when many of us feel powerless. Bonus points if the campaign also involves something that overwhelmed parents can do with their children! 
  • Create (but don’t launch) a new P2P campaign: Take this time to get your creative juices flowing, step out of your organization’s comfort zone, or try something you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t had the chance to yet. Whether it’s a fun new DIY campaign, a Giving Day, livestream fundraising, or another brilliant idea, get to work on creating a brand new campaign, and once we do emerge on the other side of this, you will thank yourself for having something ready to go.  

Though we may be separated physically, nonprofits have the power to bring people together by encouraging the sense of community inherent in fundraising for a common cause.