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Leadership Spotlight: David Hessekiel, President & Founder of the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum

Peer-to-peer fundraising is a method of fundraising that leverages your supporters to fundraise on your behalf. It’s also known as social fundraising, personal and/or team fundraising, or p2p fundraising. Peer-to-peer fundraising is a great way to get new donors and reach new networks of people. Where do non-profits and charitable organizations go to learn about the best p2p fundraising practices and new, developing trends?

We interviewed David Hessekiel, President & Founder of the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum and Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Canada, to learn why he started the P2P Forum and some of the initiatives he's developed to support charitable organization's peer-to-peer fundraising programs.

To start, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

I am the president of Cause Marketing Forum, Inc., the company behind the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum and the Cause Marketing Forum, two groups that produce conferences, awards programs, webinars and tons of digital information for people in those sectors in the US and Canada. I’ve been growing this mission-driven business for 15 years now with a small but mighty team out of my home office in Rye, New York. I tried on a lot of professional hats before finding this great fit: journalist, MBA, magazine publishing exec, consumer marketing agency guy, and survivor.

In a few sentences, describe the mission of the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum and why decided to found it.

The Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum exists to increase the success of nonprofit executives responsible for managing programs that move their supporters to ask their networks to donate. P2P fundraising raises billions each year, but before we launched (originally as the Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council) there was no independent source of practical information and benchmarking data for these folks. Everyone was reinventing the wheel within their own organizations.

As someone who works with other charities, what is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

It’s been amazing to see this disparate group grow into a community and to hear that the information and inspiration they pick up through our programming makes a big difference for them and their organizations. I love it when people share stories about how we helped them gain valuable knowledge, make a key connection or even find a new job.

Tell me about a project or program you developed from start to finish that’s impacted you, the P2P Professional Forum and its community?

Two years ago we rebranded to the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum. That opened the door for many more people to take advantage of what we have to offer. Although much of the money raised in our sector still involves runs, walks and rides, the field has changed so much. People holding other kinds of events (everything from rappelling off buildings to dedicating your birthday) thought that our group wasn’t appropriate for them. Now we serve a larger group of p2p fundraisers in a much bigger tent.

What’s the most challenging part of your job that in turn makes it so rewarding?

This field is constantly evolving. Do It Yourself fundraising was looked down upon by many nonprofit organizations five years, but now it’s the fastest growing area. We have many new people entering the field who need entry level information and also have a cadre of experienced people who want more advance information. That pushes us to constantly up our game — it’s challenging and very exciting when we get it right.

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What called you to this career journey where individuals put service above self?

When I worked in traditional marketing, I always felt a bit uneasy. Was I really put on this earth to dedicate 10 hour days to selling apple sauce (something I did at an agency for four years) Having the opportunity to help others working for nonprofit organizations be more effective is tremendously satisfying.

Skydiving or bungee jumping? Why?


Share one of your most cherished memories while working with the P2P Professional Forum, and why it stays with you?

The highpoint of each conference for me is the presentation of our Cash, Sweat & Tears award, an honor given to an inspiring volunteer participant who has gone above and beyond as a peer-to-peer fundraiser. We’ve had a grandmother who raised a million dollars to fight breast cancer, a son who ran from Canada to Mexico to fight Parkinsons in honor of his mother, a young diabetes patient who has used social media to involved thousands of people in raising money for the American Diabetes Association and other amazing honorees. As they tell their stories, it makes me realize how many incredible people are out there trying to do the right thing in this troubled world.

About Peer-to-Peer Forum

The Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum (formerly the Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council) was launched in May 2007 to support the professionals who manage peer-to-peer fundraising events that raise in excess of $1 billion a year for charities. Our conference and workshops, webinars and online services provide access to practical information on producing more successful programs, valuable contacts and recognition for outstanding work.

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Published on March 17, 2016

by JohnPaul Bennett

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