3 Ways Nonprofits Can Win Back Participants This Year

Erin Todd

Erin Todd

Digital Marketing Manager

How to move from building basic virtual events to creating remarkable online fundraising experiences

Nonprofit organizations have an uphill climb ahead of us this year. According to the 2020 Peer-to-Peer Top 30 Guide, total participation was down 61% across the nation. The organizations that will see the most recovery in 2021 will do 3 things remarkably well:  

  1. Reignite interest in participants who sat out last year
  2. Introduce your cause to new audiences
  3. Helping all of them achieve or over-achieve on their fundraising goals.

It's clear accomplishing these won't be a walk in the park as rejoining for in-person events is still dicy. We still have to navigate ever-changing regulations and advisories, so being agile and ready to work with the cards we're dealt is the task at hand. Some of us may have the ability to do smaller and socially distant in-person events; some may employ a hybrid model, and many of us will be using the production skills we’ve gained in 2020 and take our virtual events up a notch.

Regardless of what cards we play or “where” your communities meet, the winning hand will be the one that aligns with the desires and expectations of the participants we're trying to win back.

How can nonprofits attract and retain fundraisers?

Focus on building a compelling online fundraising experience over building virtual events.

Now more than ever, people are looking for something compelling to participate in. They do not want to be passive observers in isolation. They want to be part of something greater than themselves - they just won't engage in boring or clunky "virtual events" because they have thousands of other options competing for their attention every day.

People want to be part of vibrant communities and have remarkable experiences with your nonprofit's brand - for now, they just so happen to be based online over in-person. As nonprofit fundraising leaders, it’s our mission to give them a mission and all of the tools necessary to complete it.

From a technical perspective, there are many ways to level-up an online fundraising experience. Every nonprofit needs to be diligent in finding the mix of solutions that work well for their communities, but from a purely experiential perspective there are 3 principles to make virtual experiences that attract and retain participants:

Make the experience showcase the fundraiser just as much your cause

Participants want to tell their followers and community about what they are doing as much as they want to do it. A simple link to a page with their picture and thermo bar and an exclusive invitation to a video call doesn’t cut it in 2021. 

Give them the capabilities to let them own their digital space in your fundraising experience. They are adopting your cause to be their cause so let your participants do the driving and give them the ability to express themselves as they share it with their connections.

Let them set challenges for themselves through activity. Let set up and achieve milestones and incentives that fit their personality, and allow them to get in front of a camera or stream their activity on your behalf.

Make sure to integrate with social or streaming channels like Facebook Fundraisers and Twitch so it’s even easier for them to share their cause (your cause) to their world.

Create an environment where community members can collaborate and connect

Bring back the camaraderie and competition that in-person events had. Make discussion boards or exclusive chat features between participants and teams so it solidifies the feeling of working towards the mission together. Recognize and feature participants and teams on leaderboards and showcase their accomplishments with badges and activity milestones so every bit of progress feels purposeful and engagement stays high.  

Invite donors to join the journey

Don’t give donors a truncated donation path where once their transaction is complete they are thanked and virtually untouched after that. Allow them to claim incentives that the fundraiser is advertising. On live streams make their donations appear in real-time so the fundraiser can react and thank them in the moment.

Let the donor make pledges to the fundraiser so that the donation can multiply based on the activity they are doing. If the donor is impressed with the experience they receive as a donor and have an interesting interaction with the person they supported, they may be even more inclined to join your community to fundraise as well. 

Building an interactive and dynamic relationship with a fundraiser is the most valuable asset you have and can invest in. We’ve hit a pinnacle of time where there so many technologies that can help us do all of these things to better connect with participants and donors. Fundraisers are the beating heart of peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, to win participants back and to retain their loyalty it's up to us to make good use of their generosity and give them an inspiring experience in return. 


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