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The secret to peer to peer success - keep your participants coming back for more!

Returning participants are key to the success of your peer-to-peer fundraising event for many reasons, but perhaps the most obvious is their ability to drive fundraising dollars. On average, returning participants raise 1.5 - 3x more than first-time participants. Returning participants also typically require less time and energy to manage because they are already familiar with your cause and understand what’s expected of them when it comes to fundraising. But ensuring participants return again next year doesn’t just happen magically, in fact, some peer-to-peer events report yearly turnover as high as 80%! However, if you’re thinking about engaging your participants, creating a retention strategy doesn’t need to be complicated. Hint: You can borrow best practices and principles from donor stewardship to remind participants how great their experience was and create excitement for your next event. Here are 3 tips to ensure your peer-to-peer participants return:

Tip #1 - Celebrate your participants

When your peer-to-peer fundraising event ends, your stewardship work begins. Your first step is to thank all participants for their hard work, celebrate their milestones and showcase the impact they’re going to make possible for your organization. Treat this as an opportunity to deepen your relationship with each fundraiser. Your thank you message should express gratitude for the support, but should also make a direct connection between the fundraising dollars raised by participants and how specific programs and people will benefit from those dollars. You can also set the stage for participants joining next year’s event by closing your ‘thank you’ message with how excited you are to ‘see participants again next year’!

Tip #2 Survey your participants for feedback

You’re probably already receiving informal feedback from your participants, but a post-event survey can unlock deeper insights into your participant’s behavior and motivations as well as provide tangible ideas to improve your event. A survey also allows you to reach a greater percentage of your participants and provides a direct channel to share what they liked and areas they felt could be improved. If you're looking for specific ideas to put this into practice, here are 4 recommended survey questions that are easy to answer and should give you solid insights into what participants thought about your event:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your experience in this year’s campaign?
  • What aspects did you enjoy most?
  • What aspects could be improved for next year?
  • Do you have any additional ideas or feedback you’d like to share?

The survey responses will improve your understanding of what participants value, help you make future decisions about where to dedicate limited resources for future events and may even debunk some stereotypes or beliefs you and your team have about your participants. In addition to collecting valuable feedback, surveys also provide another less-tangible benefit… by surveying participants, you’re signaling you value their perspective which will deepen their connection to you and future events. One final note, set a goal to distribute your survey within a few days after your event while the participant’s enthusiasm and feedback is fresh. Waiting longer than a few days will decrease the number of people who respond and the feedback will often be less specific.

Tip #3 - Stay top of mind in the offseason between events

One of the biggest challenges is staying top of mind with your participants between events. A simple strategy to help your participants stay connected to each other (and your event) is to share stories of other participants. Participants have an affinity for your organization for a variety of reasons - a personal experience, supporting a friend or family member - and creating the opportunity to share their ‘why’ helps them connect with new people and strengthen your community. A participant's story or profile can be as simple as sharing their name, a few sentences about why they participate in your event and three quick fundraising tips they’d give to all fundraisers. Sharing short profiles allows other participants to feel connected to the community while offering a few interesting ideas when they’re ready to begin fundraising for next year.

Another great way to build excitement with returning participants during the offseason is to create a feeling of exclusivity amongst the group by revealing ‘sneak peaks’ of event details as you’re preparing for the upcoming event. Are there fresh incentives this year? Did you make changes based on the survey results from last year? Great! Share those changes with your returning participants and thank them for the great ideas! As you’re getting ready to launch your next event, you should also consider ‘early-access’ opportunities for returning participants such as exclusive incentives or unique recognition so you’re starting off the next event with some of your best participants already signed up.

One final note about returning participants, they’re also a great audience to become team captains in future years - recruiting additional participants to support your event. So encourage past fundraisers to ‘level-up’ and bring their friends with them when they return next year!

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Published on August 9, 2021

by Dave Costlow

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