It’s hard to imagine a time when peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising wasn’t fueled by digital platforms and online communications tools. A time when P2P meant actually talking to someone “in real life” to ask for a donation. Successful donation campaigns were driven by donation signup sheets in the company lunch rooms and letters to neighbors with return envelopes. Paper pledge forms were compelling enough to drive donations back in the P2P olden days.
These “olden days” lasted for about thirty years, until the early 2000s when online fundraising software was introduced for P2P campaigns, signaling a significant shift in the way participants asked others for donations. Instead of directing donors to paper pledge forms, fundraisers were now able to direct them to a website. Cash and checks slowly gave way to online credit card donations and mailed letters gave way to emails.
Over the next five or so years, both the communication channels and the method to donate became more online-centric. Though P2P fundraisers may have been communicating through different channels, they were mostly reaching out to the same people as they were before. The rise of online fundraising tools did not significantly alter the potential donor audience. Participants continued to ask their family members, friends, and co-workers for their support, regardless of the ask channel.
And then in 2006, Facebook happened. And completely changed the game for P2P.
The secret sauce of P2P fundraising is and has always been networks. By tapping into their supporters’ networks, organizations engaging in P2P fundraising can exponentially expand their potential donor pools. People in these extended networks make donations to organizations they may have never considered supporting if not for the peer-to-peer request.
For the first time in more than three decades, the growth of Facebook and other social tools made it possible to significantly widen the network for organizations who engaged in P2P fundraising. It became easy for P2P campaign participants to put a persuasive fundraising ask in front of those they likely never would have reached out to in real life or through email in the past. The dawn of Facebook gave rise to pleasantly surprised participants who received donations from an old college buddy they lost touch with, someone they just met last week, or a friend-of-a-friend they barely knew.
Fast forward to today, and setting up and donating to fundraising pages online is as commonplace as playing a game or reading the news online. Someone can set up a fundraising page at any time, to raise funds for quite literally anything. We often see and sometimes respond to peer-to-peer requests for support for all sorts of things – helping a friend pay for their honeymoon, supporting a local family who recently suffered a tragedy, or making a gift to a nonprofit on behalf of a family member participating in a run, walk, or ride.
This competition for donors, has proven challenging for the traditional P2P fundraising marketplace. Large-scale fundraising events that have roots in the early days of P2P are struggling to attract and retain participants. Smaller, niche fundraising events, however, are thriving in this new environment. But those fundraising for a cause tend to be more passionate than ever and according to the 2016 P2P Fundraising Study, P2P participants are raising increasingly more money on average.
Still today, organizations concentrate a great deal of resources on “coaching participants off zero”, and rightly so. A fundraising participant is a more engaged and loyal participant than one who does not raise any money. Providing tools that make it as easy as possible for someone to ask for gifts is as relevant now as it was in 1970. The more plug-and-play the ask, the more likely the participant is to become an active fundraiser. The email tools that were such a boon to P2P fundraising at the beginning of this millennium are still relevant, but we are also seeing a slow decline in the percentage of participants sending email.
The communication channels for the fundraising ask have been gradually pivoting away from email and towards other social outlets. Facebook took notice of this trend and in 2012 introduced the ability to make donations to charitable causes in honor of a special occasion through their Facebook Gifts functionality. A year later came the Facebook “donate now” button, which has seen a variety of iterations over the last four years. In 2015, Facebook Fundraisers were first offered directly to nonprofits, then become available for supporters to raise funds for organizations, and now people can even raise funds for personal campaigns.
When evaluating P2P campaigns, Google and Facebook are consistently the highest ranked external sources of registrations and donations. The difference between those two sources is not insignificant. Google is an active source – people are purposefully seeking out the campaign or something similar. Facebook is a passive source – registrations and donations are usually the result of someone happening upon the information.
During the Social Good Summit in November, Facebook announced the availability of an API that allows P2P fundraisers to link their external fundraising pages directly to Facebook. Blackbaud was the first software company to leverage this API and worked closely with Facebook and three pilot organizations using TeamRaiser. JDRF, Susan G. Komen, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society implemented the integration over the past several months. Blackbaud plans to make this available to all US-based TeamRaiser customers in the Spring of 2018.
Sandra Hijikata, JDRF’s Chief Development Officer says, “Allowing those living with or impacted by type 1 diabetes to easily engage their Facebook network to share their story, educate people about T1D, and raise money towards their goals has been very powerful for JDRF fundraising and awareness.”
So, is Facebook changing the game for P2P fundraising again? It certainly seems so! Here are some promising features we’ve seen with the API so far:
- Donors give without leaving Facebook; gifts are processed through TeamRaiser! Donors give in just a few taps on Facebook, and organizations are no longer waiting weeks or months to receive a check with limited information about who should get credit for the gift(s).
- Thermometers sync! The amount shown on the thermometer of fundraiser’s personal page in TeamRaiser is the same amount shown on the thermometer on Facebook.
- Rich, dynamic Facebook posts with newsfeed priority! Because Facebook Fundraisers are native to Facebook, posts receive higher priority than an external link. They also enjoy a prominent display with dynamic elements, such as a fundraising thermometer, information on other friends who have donated, and, of course, a donate button.
- Easily access fundraising in the participant center and on Facebook! Once a participant has linked to Facebook, they can easily access their Facebook Fundraiser from their participant center. Facebook makes it easy to reach your friends, and even does some of the work for you. Facebook also doesn’t let you forget about your fundraiser. It’s shown on your newsfeed, on your profile, and reminders often appear in your notifications.
- Donors can share too! Donors are given the opportunity to share your fundraiser and invite their friends to make a gift as well. Like they did more than ten years ago, Facebook has effectively widened the pool of potential donors for organizations again.
The Facebook Fundraisers API has made fundraising and donating easier than ever, so stay tuned to npENGAGE for more exciting news on this potentially game changing development in P2P fundraising!