We have now run four peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising campaigns: the Charity Science walk, birthday fundraisers, Christmas fundraisers, and Experience Poverty. Here are some of the broad lessons we’ve learned so far.
The power of publicity
We previously wrote that publicity was one of the factors we expected to be the biggest in determining success. In our most recent experiment, however, we had much more publicity and many more people joining up, but overall less funds than some other much less publicised events.
Two theories on why this might have happened are:
A) More publicity leads to more fundraisers, but those most dedicated would have participated regardless. This would lead to major diminishing returns on outreach.
B) A huge amount of the money raised for each P2P event was raised by the top three fundraisers. They were not evenly spread out between campaigns, so would account for the majority of the variance.
Bright Spots are really important
As mentioned in the point above, our top fundraisers (or bright spots) made a huge difference in how successful the campaign was. The average amount raised for each event ranged from $160 to $240, with the average of all fundraisers being $200. Out of 300 participants in total, about 40% of all money raised came from the top 3 fundraisers. These were often well off, older than average individuals, raising from work peers and friends. This makes us lean towards a workplace P2P event and workplace giving in general. We have contacted and talked to these bright spots a little bit and plan to talk to them more so that we can determine how to reach out to similar individuals.
P2P fundraisers work great if they are not done too often
We wrote previously on this point, but now after analyzing our data we think this is even more true. Our average fundraiser raised 60% less if they have done another P2P campaign in the past.
We are less confident in matching than we have previously written
Previously we have written that we thought matching was a major factor in our P2P success. However, after running a few more campaigns and comparing the matching and non-matching campaigns, we have found no difference between the two. The spike we got near the end of the campaign that we attributed to matching beforehand occurred during our campaigns where we did not match anything. Additionally some external research also suggested matching was not as strong as conventional funding wisdom would suggest.
We could not find easy ways to increase people's money raised
Matching is not the only thing we looked out for when comparing between different campaigns and different fundraisers. Some individuals campaigns were randomly chosen to be seeded (given a small amount of initial funding) as conventional fundraising wisdom tends to suggest this works well in inspiring more donations. However in our small test we did not find any effects. Another thing we looked for was if a extreme or harder campaign raised more money per individual but we also saw no visible effects. The main factor we did find that seemed to affect it was very similarly how many people the fundraiser contacted and how wealthy the fundraisers group was. How many staff hours went into the events did not seem to visibly affect total money moved (slight negative correlation) although it did correlate well (0.81) with # of people who signed up and amount of money moved with the top 3 fundraisers taken out (0.81). Offering more help for individuals seemed to help in some situations but we could not measure how much. Setting up two levels of challenge did not seem to affect average amount of money raised.
The cost all all P2P events including staff pay (but not counterfactual time) was about $6000 about $125,000 was raised not including any matching, seeding and excluding some but not all counterfactual donations (this is about $350 an hour).
Things to do better
Focus more on the top fundraisers
Fundraising is very top heavy and our top fundraisers brought in most of the money moved. In the future we plan on putting a much larger focus on these indiduals.
Pick a better name
We had a very large pushback on the name “experience poverty” and will spend more time making picking a name in the future.
focus on 1 great p2p fundraiser a year and have an open door for other people doing year round fundraisers
due to P2P fatigue and diminishing returns we are currently leaning towards putting our energy towards one very successful P2P event a year around xmas. Xmas is the clear choice for a number of reasons including it was our most successful event and conventional fundraising wisdom is that many people make their donations at the end of the year around xmas. We plan to leave open ways for people to do year round fundraisers such as birthdays or weddings but we will not promote these as heavily as we did experience poverty or birthdays in the past. We may also set up specific personal campaigns for individuals that have a particularly strong network.
Getting a better P2P system?
We found a few flaws with our system and will consider paying for a different system in the future. It might be worth paying more upfront money for a system that can deal better with different currencies and has lower % based fees. A few non-CS related individuals are also looking into building free systems for effective charities.
This is a blog that details our month to month organizational progress as well as the more technical ideas we have. The RSS feed is just for this content, not for normal blog content.