[GUEST POST] Peer-to-Peer Fundraising During a Crisis

The global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of us as individuals, of course; but it has also had major impacts on our organizations. Whether you already worked remotely or not, there have inevitably been changes to workflow, events, programs, and service delivery. We’ve all received countless emails with “unprecedented” or “uncertain times” and rolled our eyes at how meaningless those words have become in rapid overuse, but also how true they are for this moment. None of us have been nonprofit leaders during a global COVID-19 pandemic before, so everyone is learning together at the same time about how to make it through.

Fallout from the Global Pandemic

At NTEN, we’ve certainly seen a fair share of the impacts of the pandemic. We were scheduled to hold our annual conference, the Nonprofit Technology Conference, in March in Baltimore. We were down to the final details and getting ready to welcome 2,400 people for three days of learning and connecting when various cities started issuing recommendations to limit large events. Then, a few locations restricted travel. It was hard to fathom what was coming but it felt like the right decision was the very hardest one, and that was to cancel the conference only a week before we were meant to be getting on the plane.

Of course now, in early May, it is so very clear that no event of any kind was going to be taking place for at least the next few months. But at the time, we were looking at willingly cancelling the event that comprises 62% of our annual budget. For a nonprofit — for any type of organization, honestly — that is a very difficult place to be.

There were many different channels that we knew we’d need to activate and one of those was peer-to-peer fundraising. Thankfully, investing in peer-to-peer meant it was the channel where we needed to do the the least to get it started!

Putting Peer-to-Peer Fundraising into Action Quickly

As an organization, we have a policy for our board similar to many others — a “give/get fundraising” policy which asks each board member to commit to giving and raising funds for the organization each year. On our board, each member chooses a goal for themselves and we have no minimum amount that is considered valuable to us. To support the board raising money in a way that feels like a unified campaign but doesn’t take a lot of effort, we use peer-to-peer fundraising each year.

We set up our profile on the fundraising platform, customize all of the “thank you” message text and ensure that the profile has lots of usable content and media, and then ask board members to set up their pages using as much or as little of our content as they like. Then, they can promote their pages to their friends and family and raise money towards their goal.

Because this is something we already do, it was easy to put peer-to-peer fundraising into action in rapid response to our event cancellation message. Board members past and present did the work to set up pages on the same day and start promoting the campaign over social media. It inspired community members to join them! And, made it easy for the organization to promote across channels, as the campaign was already underway and raising funds.

The visibility of the peer-to-peer campaign, the stories folks were sharing, and the truly inspiring asks that were made on our behalf also inspired a number of gifts directly to NTEN and folks who had been registered for the conference sharing publicly that they would donate their registration fees back to the organization. The power of peer-to-peer goes beyond the specific campaign pages and helps spread the inspiration to support the organization in whatever ways possible.

I’m so glad that we invested in peer-to-peer fundraising as a regular part of our efforts so that when it was needed quickly, we had the systems and experience to put it into action.

By Amy Sample Ward, CEO, NTEN

Amy Sample Ward is the CEO of NTEN as well as a frequent speaker and author focused on the use of technology for social impact, from digital inclusion to social innovation.

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