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Three Keys to Personal Fundraising Success


By Sean Chisholm

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Call it a professional hazard, but we tend to obsess over the details of online fundraising quite a lot. One of the things we’ve recently been pondering is why some personal fundraisers take off and others flop. Unsurprisingly (and as happens with most questions we ask ourselves) we’ve come to the conclusion that this one doesn’t have a single straightforward answer. We have been able, however, to identify three factors that help predict personal fundraising success. Take a look, and help set your personal fundraisers up for greater success during your next campaign:

1. Make Personal Fundraising…Personal

One thing we’ve noticed is that there is a lot of value in personalization of the individual fundraising page. And when you think about the underlying dynamics of peer-to-peer fundraising this makes a lot of sense.

P2P involves supporters setting up personal fundraising pages and then reaching out to family and friends. At the end of the day, what the recipients of those messages really care about is the person sending the message (and not necessarily the cause). That’s why personalization of the fundraising page is so important. The fundraising page shouldn’t just tell the visitor how big the problem is, or how great the organization’s work is; it should tell the visitor why this particular individual cares enough to do something about it.

If I visit a friend’s personal fundraising page for an organization that does cancer research, I probably won’t spend much time at all on the default copy. There are a lot of nonprofits that work in cancer research, and unless I already have a reason to be interested in this particular one, I won’t spend a lot of time on it. That’s just the reality of human nature…especially when it comes to the type of attention spans you can expect on the Internet (one study has shown that the average visitor will only read 28% of the words on a given page!).  What I will stop and read, however, is a short personal note from my friend telling me why he cares about this cause. Because I care about my friend, I care about what he has to say. If he shows commitment to the fundraising effort, I will be more likely to give.

2. Challenge Your Personal Fundraisers and You’ll Both be Rewarded

One of the biggest decisions you have to make when you decide to conduct an online fundraising campaign is what the theme of that campaign will be. Sometimes the campaign is simply a call to action to supporters to create fundraising pages and share those pages. Other times, the campaign may involve some sort of activity for individual fundraisers, like participation in a run or walk. And there are a million variations in between those two poles (check out these three unique campaign ideas for some clever examples).

When you’re thinking about organizing your next campaign, you should seriously consider including some sort of activity for your fundraisers. It doesn’t have to be anything too involved (like a race or walk); it could be as simple as having fundraisers commit to wearing a certain color (one associated with your cause) on certain days during the month of the campaign. The point is to make the campaign interactive on some level.

When your individual fundraisers have to make some sort of sacrifice, they will have an easier time raising money. Potential donors see sacrifice (or the willingness to take on a challenge) as a sign of commitment. This makes people more willing to hear them out. It also introduces an element of “quid pro quo” into their thinking. For instance, I might not want to give money to my friend Joe if he just creates a page and asks for a donation, that’s not really hard to do. On the other hand, I might think he “deserves” the donation more if I learn he’s also running a road race as part of the fundraising effort.

3. Encourage Personal Fundraisers to Go First

This one is pretty straightforward. You should always encourage your personal fundraisers to kick off the effort by making a donation to their own fundraising pages. Why’s that? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

First, when your fundraisers start out the whole effort by making a donation to their own pages, they instantly become more invested in the process. It’s one thing to create a page; it’s another to put your own money on the line. After you’ve given some of your own money your commitment to seeing the fundraising through will automatically go up.  Second, when your fundraisers kick things off with their own donations, it helps prime the pump for other people to give. Donors are less willing to give if no one else has given to the page (no one likes to go first). When a fundraiser makes the initial donation, you remove this barrier.

Keep these three tips in mind for your next fundraising campaign. They will help you set your fundraisers up for success, which will only improve your organization’s fundraising results. And if you’re really looking to take things to the next level, check out our recent article on using email segmentation to drive your fundraising. It’s a nice complement to the tips here and will really help you get even more out of your individual fundraisers!

Photo Credit: Flickr User Widerbergs

Checklists for Crowdfunding, Peer-to-Peer, and Event Fundraising Campaigns

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