Friend-to-friend fundraising works- so why aren't you doing it?

I’m a pretty passionate advocate of nonprofits trying Friend-to-Friend or Social Fundraising techniques for their organizations. Having come out of the health fundraising world, I’ve seen the power of having supporters fundraising on your behalf. Mobilizing an army of passionate advocates for your organization can tap into thousands of dollars in unseen funds and link your organization to hundreds--if not thousands--of new supporters.

So why does this technique seem to be the domain of heath organizations alone?   

Is it the fear of the work of putting on a massive event like a Walk-a-thon or Dance-off? With the entry into the online marketplace of social fundraising tools like FirstGiving, Causes, Razoo and Blackbaud’s Friends Asking Friends, you don’t even need to associate your campaign with the a-thon event to see major success. So that’s not an excuse. 

Is it lack of confidence in your supporters? Do you think it would be a lot of effort for little excitement? I promise you, if Idealware can do a Friend-to-Friend Campaign, so can your organization. Really--do you think your cause is less sexy than helping other nonprofits improve their technology capacity?

Is it lack of knowledge about how to motivate your supporters? Remember, this is a fundraising technique. I know you all tell your boards “you can all raise money for our organization,” so why are your most fervent supporters less qualified or less motivated? In fact, throwing in a little bit of fun--like contests for the person or team who raises the most money or contacts the most people, raffles for anyone fundraising, a kick-off party for training, or an e-mail leader board--can go a long way. If I can make this fun, so can you. 

We used to offer a seminar on “Getting Started with Distributed Fundraising,” but no one ever took the class. Thinking it was due to a terrible name, we changed the title and tried again. Enter “Turning Your Supporters Into Fundraisers,” but still no takers. Feeling very strongly that nonprofits should know about this approach, we decided to offer the session for free, and it had the lowest registration rate for any of the 11 free seminars we've offered in 2011.

So what is going on? Why don’t you care? Because honestly, you should. This method works. I promise. 



It Must Be Fun!

You hit it on the head with the "fun factor". People won't be willing to put themselves out there and on the line if there is not some benefit to them and fun is one of the biggest benefits nonprofits can provide back. 

Gen Y-ers

Great article.  Studies have shown recently that Gen Y-ers in particular have found that "friends asking friends" for money is an "acceptable" form of solicitation.  You're right on target about advocating for this form of fundraising. 

Friend to Friend fundraising relationships

I used to do a lot of F2F fundraising and we were able to meet goals year to year.  However, for me, I didn't find it very sustainable.  I think the reason is that NP's haven't figured out how to build a strong relationship with donors if they are really only giving becuase of a friend's ask at a one time event.  However, we now use a sustainable giving model and at it's core, we are asking our organizations most committed donors to invite others to a fundraising lunch (essentially Friend to Friend).  But the difference is that the lunch is mission-based and not a walk/run/danceathon etc. It works remarkably well.  Second difference is that we focus on multi-year pledges, making these events sustainable and allowing us to build relationships with the guests of our fundraisers over time. It is about the same amount of work as a run or walk but has lasting impact.  But I have to say, I shy away now from other kinds of F2F fundraising.  I'd love to take the webinar and learn more, though!