Thursday, May 12, 2011

You'll Find Out Who Your Friends Are

Think back to the last time you made a charitable donation. 

Now, think about how you were asked - and who asked you to write that check or whip out that credit card to sponsor their participation in that 5K for cancer or autism. 

I'm betting the request you answered came from someone you know, right? 

That's the subject of David Simpson's article today ("Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Deserves Top Level Focus and Resources") in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.  In it, Simpson cites the eNonprofits Benchmark Study 2011 that "found that the email fundraising response rate in 2010 was less than .08 percent," a decrease of 20% over the past year. 

This doesn't come as much of a surprise to those of us familiar with the open-rates and responses to e-communications, does it? With every nonprofit having some version of an e-newsletter these days (and if yours doesn't have some semblance of one, you really should), these communications are competing for attention in our mailboxes with free newsletters from brands and companies - as well as our social media time LOLing with long-lost friends on Facebook. 

Simpson is right when he says that these peer-to-peer fundraising initiatives (the request from the friend's husband to sponsor him to shave his head for childhood cancer, the former intern's participation in a bike-a-thon to help find a cure for MS - all of which I personally received recently and made an online donation to) are ones worth looking more closely at.  Development professionals need to become more aware and savvy of who among their circle of supporters are activating their personal networks and begin to steward, cultivate, and recognize them for doing such. 

(They also may be an untapped source of your next fundraising chair or your special events coordinator.  After nonstop promotion of her participation in a special event for a local beach house for children fighting cancer, a friend was recently brought on board as the foundation's Events Coordinator.  You couldn't go more than an hour recently without a mention of this organization in her Facebook stream ... and you know what? It worked, because otherwise I would have never heard of this organization.) 

It also solidifies a belief that I have that peer-to-peer fundraising is going to become an even stronger force in how nonprofits will raise a significant chunk of their individual giving revenue. And for those organizations that are entrenched in the a-thon culture of various 5K races, walks, bike and toddler trike rides, etc., this might already be part of your revenue stream.  

With what we development professionals like often call "a-Thon Season" now in full swing, now's the time to do just that - and to plan to do such for the fall fundraising season, too, and beyond.

Have you noticed more requests to support friends' fundraising efforts in your Facebook stream or your email? Have you made a gift to help them out in their quest? If so, what made you do so - the cause, your relationship with the person asking, or perhaps something else? 

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