How to Save the Spring 2021 Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Season
2020 has been a tough year for many so far, and the coming winter seems to be preparing us for more of the same. The state of constant change and uncertainty has interrupted three major human needs:
- Certainty – Humans are hardwired to crave certainty. Our brains prefer to be able to predict the outcome of a situation. When predictions aren’t met or there isn’t enough information to draw a conclusion, the brain can view that as a threat, which leads to indecision and a lack of focus.
- Routine – As parents and teachers know well, routine gives children the feeling of safety. For adults, routine establishes a feeling of flow, contentment, and purpose. In both cases, routine can be critical in giving us the self-control needed to stay positive.
- Connection – We quickly discovered that we could exist for days, weeks, or even months without ever leaving our homes. With that came isolation and loneliness, feelings that lead to poor physical and mental health outcomes. A lack of true connection with others can result in lower self-esteem, accountability, and motivation.
Ultimately, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we have looked to government, employers, schools, companies, and other institutions to develop well thought out plans and procedures designed to help us reclaim those aspects of our lives. We accept that our routines, certainties, and connections may look different as a result of those plans, and we’ve done our part to shift our perspectives.
Through all of this, we’ve seen long-standing peer-to-peer fundraising events cancelled, postponed, go virtual, or be completely reimagined. As we look to spring, however, there is reason for optimism. We (YOU!) have the power to turn these events around.
Get Your Peer-to-Peer Fundraising House in Order!
The time for heavy recruiting for spring 2021 events is fast approaching. Now is not the time to take a wait-and-see approach for in-person events. If you wait-and-see, your participants will as well, delaying, or completely sacrificing registration and fundraising. What’s more, an organization that simply shifts strategy without a solid plan behind it can be seen as being unprepared, panicking, or failing its participants.
In today’s environment, declaring “we’re going virtual” or “we will have an event” doesn’t do enough to ease a potential participant’s uncertainty and can lead to depressed registration numbers.
When it all comes down to it, people are gravitating to experiences that can fulfill the primal need for safety, along with certainty, routine, and connection. Though only one aspect of potential participant’s life, fundraising for the causes they care about can help build confidence, belonging, and purpose. Through careful preparation, we can give them back small, but significant, pieces of certainty, routine, and connection. Here’s how:
If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
When spring event season rolls around, we will have nearly a year of “pandemic experience” under our belts. Like many other facets of our daily lives, people are eager to get back to some sense of normalcy. There is widespread acceptance that normalcy will come with modifications. In Blackbaud’s Guide to Evolving Beyond Virtual, we recommend a hybrid approach to event fundraising, with both compelling virtual and safe in-person options.
For those participants with both the desire and the ability to gather in a scaled-back and socially distant manner, organizations are starting to develop adjusted in-person events. As other businesses, such as restaurants and schools, adapt to social distancing and masking protocols, so too can traditional peer-to-peer events. Rather than a single large-scale event, this usually involves a smaller event, sometimes with larger fundraising minimums, or a series of smaller events over a longer period of time.
Especially for fundraising campaigns that previously culminated with an in-person event, those fundraisers tend to require much more direction and instruction than simply recommending they fundraise or participate in their own way in lieu of the event. The virtual option for those who do not feel comfortable at an in-person event should come with very specific guidelines, recommendations, and materials. Though flexibility is encouraged, many will appreciate the figurative box being drawn around their efforts.
Once you decide on your approach, map out exactly what that looks like from the day you launch your campaign to the day(s) of your event(s) and beyond. Be sure to include extensive safety protocols where necessary, a calendar of live and virtual events, and what is expected of both staff and participants.
Long-term businesses stick around by reinforcing the opposite of fear: stability.
One of the most critical acts of kindness you can take for your engaged supporters new and old is to leave no stone unturned as you plan the Spring 2021 experience. But the real key is sharing that plan with them early and often. That information sharing is critical to returning some semblance of certainty, routine, and connection into their lives.
Marketing, public relations, and content related to the event should not shy away from the pandemic. While we don’t want to focus on it, we want to clearly acknowledge it and present the plan to protect against it. Many potential participants will feel empowered with this knowledge and excitedly commit to taking part. A lack of information will be interpreted as instability and uncertainty and will not inspire action by participants.
Especially for past participants, specific information about how the modified event season will look will get them back into their comfortable routine of registering and fundraising, with the confidence set forth in the organization’s plan.
Vision without execution is hallucination.
Thomas A. Edison
Once a decision is made about how to treat the spring 2021 season, lean into it. Even if you’ve decided against the recommended hybrid-style event, lean into whichever style you’ve chosen, not only by clearly communicating the plan to your audience, but by thoroughly executing it. This isn’t just a two-sentence update on the website homepage, but a reimagining of every aspect of the campaign. The homepage, the registration process, the fundraising center, and everything in between should reflect the new plan. Emails like autoresponders, recruitment, and engagement messages should be updated. Other campaign elements like staff training, fundraising materials, mailers, and recognition should also be considered.
Spring as a Symbol of Hope
Spring is a time of renewal, a promise of better days ahead. The anticipation of spring is what keeps many going through the winter. Likewise, the anticipation of exciting events can help people persevere through trying times. This winter and coming spring may be the epitome of that experience. By giving people something positive to look forward to, you’ll actually brighten their days.
Your plan will create enough certainty for participants to join you, the fundraising season will provide a sense of routine they need, and the culmination of the campaign in the spring will bring the connection they crave.
With springtime comes optimism, and with a solid plan that is both strenuously communicated and enthusiastically executed, we can capitalize on that and save the spring 2021 fundraising season!
Interested in hearing more about Spring 2021 P2P plans? Join the November TeamRaiser Community Call to hear from thought leaders and others at peer-to-peer fundraising organizations on November 19 at 12 E.T.