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Gamify Your Peer-to-Peer Program in 5 Easy Steps

Peer-to-peer fundraising events are a growing favorite for nonprofits and it’s easy to understand why. Who wouldn’t want to involve your core supporters, get them to spread the word about your mission and fundraise for you? Well-planned peer-to-peer campaigns can increase your reach (and your fundraising) exponentially.

Sounds great, but here’s a common problem:  Once the enthusiasm of registration wanes (about 2-3 weeks post-registration) how can you keep your participants motivated? Those brave souls who have run a peer-to-peer event know there’s always a large group of attendees who register, but then do little to no fundraising. How can you reach those folks and also motivate your strongest performers?

It’s So Not About Winning a T-Shirt

Offering prizes and premiums has a long and storied tradition. Including prizes may help push along already motivated fundraisers, but they won’t do much for fundraisers who are having difficulty getting started. If your participants know that they probably aren’t going to be one of the top three fundraisers, those fundraising prizes do nothing at all to motivate them, and may actually cause folks to opt out right at the start.

Turning Work into Child’s Play

A better approach is one that relies on one of the hot new marketing trends, gamification. Gamification involves using a system of rewards and recognition to keep people engaged, and while it may be a new trend, it’s really based on one of the principles veteran fundraisers already know by heart: acknowledge, acknowledge, acknowledge! Gamification can turn something as routine as buying your morning latte into an accomplishment.

Foursquare is a great example of an app that is centered around gamification. Users get points and badges (recognition) for ‘checking in’ to the places they visit. If they check in often enough, a user can be made Mayor of a specific location. The upsides for the businesses that participate are two-fold:

  • Advertisement of their business to the user’s social media networks
  • An increased likelihood that the user will keep returning in order to get more points

How can we use that mindset as fundraisers? Foursquare works because it turns small, everyday things into reward-worthy tasks. We can do the same thing with our fundraisers. In addition to acknowledging the people who raise hundreds or even thousands with their efforts, we can acknowledge the people who receive as few as three online gifts, and then encourage them to move up to the next level.

Five Easy Steps to Get Started

  1. Communicate This is a no-brainer, but if you’re putting a new incentive strategy in place, telling your participants is the only way to get them excited about it! Take every opportunity to let people know what they can win while they help a good cause: at registration, in follow up communications, etc. Also take advantage of your incentives to spur non-fundraising participants to give it a try and send those first emails.
  2. Personalize Rewards don’t have to be large or expensive, they just have to be meaningful. The more connection you can create between your organization and the rewards, the more meaningful and sought-after they’ll be.
  3. Set ‘Em Up for Success The first couple rungs of your fundraising ladder should be small and easily reachable, say $25 and $50. (Some good analysis of an average gift size from last year’s event can be useful to determine this.) Encouraging even a small percentage of your non-fundraisers to hit those first lower levels can have a huge impact on your fundraising total.
  4. Acknowledge at Every Step  Remember, acknowledgement can be its own reward. Feels pretty sweet to be the Mayor of Small Town Coffee Shop, am I right? Remember to capitalize on that winning feeling! Badges, emails, acknowledgement via social media; milestones give you and your participants a way to celebrate all successes, big and small.
  5. Post-Event Follow Up After your event and after all of the rewards have been given, include some questions about the gamification aspect of your peer-to-peer program in your usual post-event survey and discussion. You’re sure to find new ways to reward your participants for the following year!

Have you used this type of gaming aspect in your peer-to-peer programs? What did you learn?  What are you planning to try next? Join the conversation by posting a comment below.


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