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Why peer to peer events are here to stay

by Dan Geaves, Strategy Director of Marlin Communications

Like many sectors, fundraisers have accelerated the speed of adapting digital practises because of the pandemic. Many Australian charities showed resilience by shifting from in-person events to virtual ones.  But many more have taken this opportunity to launch something entirely new. 

Surges in fundraising products are nothing new. Precedents include the rise of virtual gifts and premium based appeals. Fear of missing out on a good opportunity is fuelled by seeing the rise of events that are started from scratch and grow to become multi-million dollar fundraisers within a few short years. 

As the co-creators of a few of those challenges (with massive credit to our awesome client partners), we are beginning to get asked whether the bubble will burst. 

I am usually wary of making crystal ball predictions, but there’s three special things about “peer to peer” or “virtual event” fundraising that encourage me to share my view that it is here to stay:

  1. They help people address their own lifestyle needs, whilst doing good for a cause. 
  2. It is relationship-based, not transactional.
  3. The genre still has room to grow.

People seek out ways to meet their own needs, and sometimes this intersects beautifully with a charity’s offer.

Australians are humans living their own lives.  

  • When their wardrobes get full, and they want to alleviate the feeling of guilt that comes from buying new clothes… charity shops are there to help them.
  • When parents want to ensure their children aren’t growing up without perspective of their privilege, showing them a sponsored girl or boy helps provide a frame and regular conversation starter. 
  • And when they are worried about living a sedentary lifestyle… fitness challenge events are there too.

McCrindle’s research report “Australia towards 2031”1 has revealed that 3 out of 5 Australians are worried that their own lifestyle is too sedentary.  It goes on to reveal that 83% are making an effort to prioritise their health and wellbeing, and 76% are making an effort to avoid a sedentary lifestyle.

In this context, another running, cycling or swimming event doesn’t seem foolhardy. Especially if the link between your cause and the challenge can be made, as examples such as May 50k’s “Leave your limits behind” or Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia’s “He’ll be here for the long run if you are.” 

Whilst participation may be one off, commitment is still a factor.

I was thrilled when my colleagues described to me the number of Gifts in Wills leads that had been generated from post-event relationship communications. It cemented for me the feeling that P2P events are a little like an appeal.

In some hands these events are treated as transactions. In the right hands they are handled as a relationship.

The relationship approach is of course what pulls someone from interest through to activation. When we see events achieving fundraiser activations as high as 65%, we can see that as well as being committed to the rewards of participation, but also to the mission for which funds are being raised.

As a sector, we don’t ask ourselves whether appeals have saturated the marketplace. We expect to push ourselves to develop something relevant, meaningful and engaging for our audience. The same is likely to be true for P2P.

One of the most relevant factors in P2P is the audience’s pursuit of happiness. 

While having meaning present in one’s life is associated with greater happiness, searching for meaning may be associated with less happiness. 

The paradoxical secret to finding meaning may be to not look for it. The most satisfying forms of meaning may blossom not when we pursue them directly, but when we instead seek beauty, love, justice, or “a cause greater than oneself.”

And this is exactly what P2P offers. The chance to participate in something bigger. 

There are a number of environmental factors that play to the advantage of P2P events including:

  1. There is an emerging generation of givers who are seeking out opportunities to see themselves actively doing something in support of a good cause.
  2. The social platforms that offer us the increased ability to show our friends, families and even the old frenemy from high school that we are good people doing community-driven things, are a fabric of present day life.
  3. The rise of technologically enabled targeted comms and platforms reduces the friction associated with participating in something and so enables charities to offer something that is both fun and socially rewarding – making this product type even more appealing to people who are busy.

As technology keeps improving we can and should reduce friction… by increasing relevance and boldly investing in growth.  Because… deep down every human stands to feel happier if they have meaning in their life. 

The Marlin team has been fortunate to create many events from scratch such as May 50k, The Long Run, Rescue Run and The Better Challenge, as well as be awarded responsibility for some much loved events such as Sleep Under the Stars, Dance for Sick Kids and Dry July

Our services run from investigation through to implementation of every SMS, email and social post, and our reporting dashboards are a dream come true for working with stakeholders such as finance Directors, CEOs and Boards. If you’re considering an agency for your event, you should consider Marlin. Please get in touch