Finding the Right Timing for Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Email Communications

Last month, I wrote about how to build a strong email strategy for your peer-to-peer fundraising. It highlighted some key points from a five-session email communications workshop I presented with peer-to-peer fundraising experts as part of the recent virtual conference, It’s a Peer-to-Peer World.

In the second session, Kari Bodell and Julie Brock from Susan G. Komen and Joann Buckley Collins from Event 360 shared tips on email communication timing.

Here are some key points from the session:

Timing levers
When it comes to timing of email communications for your peer-to-peer events, there are three big levers you can adjust:

  • Launch –This is about when you launch registration, recruitment, and regular communications with your participants.
  • Frequency –This is about how often you send each type of communication.
  • Shift –This focuses on when to shift communications from recruitment to participant engagement.

Timing by type of event
Let’s take a look at how timing varies by type of event. And, first, for our purposes, let’s break down events by four event types:

  • Fundraising events – Fundraising is the number one focus of the event. The audience is there primarily because they care about the cause. These events are often 5k runs/walks, bike rides, or any activity that just about anyone can do.
  • Awareness events – These events require a low commitment, are not difficult physically, and require no fundraising minimum. The goal is typically high visibility of the cause with many participants. Examples of these types of events are large walks, festivals, and even social media events.
  • Activity-based events – These events are centered around a physical event that’s often challenging. Participants don’t necessarily have a connection to the cause – they’re mostly in it for the fun of the event. Examples of these types of events are races, mud runs, and obstacle courses.
  • High commitment events – These events require a high fundraising commitment and often a high physical commitment. Most participants have a strong connection with the cause and tend to return year after year. Examples of these events are multi-day walks or bike rides, marathons, and cross-country journeys. 

And now let’s look at how timing levers vary for each event type:

For fundraising events:

  • Launch: Launch recruitment communications about six months out from the event to people who are not registered.
  • Frequency:
    • For recruitment emails, start sending communications about every other month. You can increase this frequency around times you might be running special discounts or other promotions.
    • When people register, start an immediate on-boarding series to welcome them and give them tools and information to get them fundraising right away. Communicate with them about once per month to give them key tools and information. About two months before the event, increase communications to about two times per month. These communications should encourage participants to raise more dollars and recruit others to participate in team fundraising. In the final two to three weeks, increase this to once per week to ensure they have the information they need for the event and to encourage final fundraising pushes.
  • Shift: About two to three weeks out, begin to shift focus away from recruiting and toward participant engagement and encouragement (anyone registering after this time will not have much time left to fundraise). Consider sending one final “registration is closing” message around this time, and ask if non-registrants might want to make a donation if they do not want to register.

For awareness events:

  • Launch: For this type of event, plan to launch closer to the event – about three months out. Any earlier, and they might sign up but then lose interest by the time of the event.
  • Frequency:
    • For recruitment emails, send communications about once per month, increasing to twice per month closer to the event.
    • As with fundraising events, start an immediate on-boarding series with a welcome message and initial details. Then, begin asking them to recruit their friends and family to participate. Increase the frequency of these communications about one month before the event.
  • Shift: In this type of event, there really isn’t a shift; continue to recruit participants up until the day of the event.

For activity-based events:

  • Launch: Because people tend to be focused more on the activity than the cause for this type of event, they often register at the last minute. So, as with awareness events, plan to launch about three months before the event.
  • Frequency:
    • While you might include a soft fundraising ask in recruiting email communications, the purpose of these communications is primarily to recruit. Send communications about once per month, increasing to twice per month closer to the event.
    • For participants, send them an onboarding email series with key information, and then ask them to recruit others to participate – but keep the number and frequency of communications to a minimum. As you get closer to the event, you can step up the email frequency to share details and reminders about the event.
  • Shift: Similar to awareness events, continue to recruit participants up until the day of the event.

For high-commitment events:

  • Launch: If possible, launch as far out from the event as one year. This will catch participants while they’re still enthusiastic from the past event and gives them time to build their fundraising and train for the next event.
  • Frequency
    • Send about one email per month. 
    • Send an onboarding email series to registrants to get them fundraising right away while their commitment is fresh. Then, send monthly emails to encourage them to fundraise and recruit other participants. Around six to nine months before the event, increase communication frequency to about two times per month. One to two months out, increase to about one to two times per week.
  • Shift: High-commitment events will not likely have last-minute registrants, so you can shift focus away from recruiting at about one month before the event so you can focus most of your time on engaging participants.

Learn more
Sending the right message to the right audience at the right time is critically important for successful peer-to-peer fundraising. Learn more tips and best practices for building strong email communications for your next peer-to-peer fundraising campaign or event: Watch the on-demand Email Communications Workshop from the 2021 edition of It’s a Peer-to-Peer world virtual conference.

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