Which of these scenarios offers your nonprofit organization the best chance of launching a successful walk, cycling event, run - or something else entirely - that leverages use of the peer-to-peer platform?
- One of your sponsors approaches you and offers their support for the launch of an event in a targeted geographic area;
- Several of your most enthusiastic volunteers and/or board members tell you that they're eager to provide key leadership for an event in their community and reach out to their networks as part of the initial campaign;
- You've just launched an event which raised a nice amount, was well received, and seems to be a model that can easily be replicated;
- All of the above; or
- None of the above
All right I admit it. It's a trick(y) question. The answer could be 4. Or just as likely it could be 5. Having a large sponsor in your corner is a strong start but not a guarantee you'll find the participant base needed to build out a sustainable event. Getting buy-in and the start of a leadership team from your volunteers is helpful but it's still the tip of the iceberg. Finally, a semi-successful launch is the beginning of what may become a story that can be scaled. However, if you're still in the mistake-making phase, keep learning before moving forward. That's why pilot programs are well, pilot programs.
With an ever growing number of organizations looking at peer-to-peer as a very viable source of new revenue, I wanted to suggest the following tips as you look to launch new fundraising events:
Diversify, Diversify, Diversify: Be sure you've got a diversified group of supporters before launching an event. This should include prospective participants, sponsors, leadership and volunteers. Fight the urge to roll out an event simply because a few of your key volunteers or a major sponsor says they'll support your new fundraising initiative. I realize this can be really difficult. Let's face it, we're in this profession because we want to do good things for others. More money = more good. But this is a slippery slope. Just because you have The Big Sponsor (for example), that won't suffice in place of a consistent and diversified audience for your event. Unless you've identified all the key moving parts, you may be holding a big party that very few are attending.
Scale when you've got something worth Scaling: No matter how much organizational capacity you have - staff, committed volunteers and yes, MONEY - figure out your model for success FIRST and then replicate it. If scaling is about replicating a working model and you're still experimenting, learning, trying and failing, you're most likely replicating mistakes. You're doing the opposite of establishing best practices.
Do A Feasibility Study: Several of the pitfalls I've identified (and probably a few that I haven't) can be revealed with the help of a decent feasibility study. Even on a limited budget, you should be able to test for some basics including:
- Leadership: Do you have the makings of a leadership team? If so, do they have the requisite skills to make it a true peer-to-peer experience so it becomes a volunteer driven event? Is this team also willing to make leadership gifts and do leadership fundraising to support the event?
- Participants: Do you have enough potential participants? An easy place to start is to survey your existing constituents i.e. volunteers, donors and others connected with your charity.
- Competition: If you're looking to build your participation by reaching out to others beyond your charity, what other events are competing for their attention?
While doing the above is no guarantee of success, doing your homework first, is a great starting point.