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Five questions you must ask before staging a peer-to-peer fundraising event

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Whether you manage a peer-to-peer fundraising walk, run, ride, swim or other physical program, it is critical that you give your supporters a positive experience.

Make them happy and you are laying the groundwork for growth next year. Disappoint them and you’ll be scrambling for participants in 12 months.

To set yourself up for success, here are five important questions to answer before the big day, courtesy of The Essential Guide to Peer-to-Peer Fundraising:

Do we have enough staff?

For most organizations — particularly local nonprofits or chapters — event day is all-hands-on-deck. You need to be sure that you have clear assignments for everyone on your team and that you have enough people to handle the myriad tasks that are associated with staging an event. Don’t wait for the day of the event to hand out assignments, provide instructions, and answer questions.

Plan ahead: identify roles for each person, offer clear instructions, and meet individually with key people so they have an opportunity to raise questions.

Do our volunteers have clear instructions?

In addition to your paid staff, you’re likely going to have enlisted a small army of volunteers to help make sure the event goes off without a hitch. Ahead of the event, make sure you’ve communicated clearly with your volunteers about their expected role and how they fit it in with the rest of the event. Provide them with clear instructions about where they need to be, when they need to be there, how they should dress, and who they should contact with questions.

On the day of the event, provide them with a warm welcome — and some rewards for their commitment. And be sure to say thank you — repeatedly — for their time and effort. If your volunteers feel welcomed, respected, and appreciated, chances are they will go above and beyond to make their part of the event a success.

Are you making it fun for participants?

Even if your charity is tackling a terrible disease or working to solve a terrible problem, keep in mind that your participants are here to celebrate your work and have a good time. If you’re hosting a race or walk, make sure you have entertainment along the way.

Perhaps you can incorporate a silly theme or a scavenger hunt with prizes into the mix. In any case, make sure you’re planning for as many “fun” moments as possible.

Does the event connect to your mission?

Your peer-to-peer event should also remind people why they are there — which is to support a cause that is doing important work for the greater good. Are you providing an event experience that reflects that message?

For health charities in particular, these events offer opportunities for participants to honor survivors or loved ones who they might have lost to a disease.

But there are great ways for other types of causes to achieve the same goal.

When runners exit the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel at the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation 5K run in New York, they pass 343 uniformed firefighters who hold banners depicting the men and women who lost their lives on 9/11.

Strong emotions build strong bonds that will likely inspire participants to tell others about their experience — and participate again.

Are you expecting the unexpected?

No matter how well you plan, something will inevitably go wrong. Thunderstorms will cloud the forecast. A key volunteer will get sick. Make sure you have contingencies and backup plans ready to go for these scenarios and be ready to change course quickly if something surprising pops up.

Successful fundraising events don’t happen by accident. They are the result of planning ahead and making sure you answer the important questions well ahead of event day.

For more advice on staging successful peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, check out the free Essential Guide to Peer-to-Peer Fundraising. It’s packed with great advice on how to get the most out of your next campaign.

David Hessekiel is founder and president of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada, which hosts ongoing programming, produces research, and offers advice to peer-to-peer fundraising professionals throughout Canada.

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Great article and very timely! My charity, Engage and Change is just discussing Peer-to-Peer fundraising now.

Thanks David!
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Hope you'll join us at Peer to Peer Fundraising Canada on November 1 Jody!
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