The viral phenomenon of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has reminded us that your peer-to-peer supporters are having all sorts of experiences with your brand. In some cases those experiences come in the form of a large group of people, gathered in the same location, wearing the same color t-shirts, waving the same color flags, doing the same activity. In these cases, you have a high degree of control and can leverage the experience to impact what your supporters feel, think and do. In other cases, the experience is grown at the grassroots level, with very little input from you. The experience can be anything from a cheering station and support tent along the marathon course, to a bake sale, to a soccer tournament, to dousing yourself with a bucket of ice water and passing on the challenge.
An impactful experience is essential to encouraging repeat participants, generating word of mouth buzz for next year and representing your brand. You have the opportunity to create a positive experience for your constituents through every touch-point, from the first time they learn about the program, to their first visit to the website, or the first email you send them, all the way through the event and beyond. Every interaction should reinforce the objective of your program, reflect your mission and remind your supporters of the part they play in fulfilling it.
Some things that used to be unique are now bare-minimum experience must haves: a user-friendly website that functions intuitively; online and e-mail communications that are clear, well-written, engaging, encouraging and useful; recognition and stewardship programs that recognize people based on the door they came in through and bring them into the larger organizational family. If your peer-to-peer program has an event component, people need to be able to find parking, a drink of water and a porta-pottie. Sharing the layout of the site and the shade on the route can make a big difference.
However, getting these things right is now expected by peer-to-peer participants. And unfortunately, meeting expectations no longer sets you apart from every other walk, ride, half-marathon, mud run, bake sale, lemonade stand or Ice Bucket Challenge.
John Vranas, the Chief Marketing Officer at Make-A-Wish, summed it up perfectly for me when he said, “The experience is our brand brought to life. It is the way we tell our story.” It is the most tangible and communal channel through which to communicate your mission, generate a sense of connectedness, convey the importance of impact, and create lasting inspiration for your participants.
The first question we ask when we do a participant experience audit is: Were the cause and organization we are supporting completely clear? If someone didn’t know what the occasion was, how long would it take them to figure it out? We want to make sure that our participants and guests are immersed in your organization’s unique mission.
The other questions we ask help us answer the first question:
Was the mission well integrated into the ask, the program, the announcements and the branding?
Was there a communal mission-moment when we were inspired or moved enough that we got the chills? Did the hair on the back of our neck stand up?
Were supporters recognized in meaningful ways for their connection to the cause and for their fundraising contributions?
Was there something that affirmed that we were a valuable part of making a difference in something important?
When we can answer “yes” to these questions, we know that the organization has succeeded in telling its story and in creating a memorable experience. This creates a stronger connection and commitment to mission, brings people back in subsequent years, and makes them want to bring their friends.
Any organization can put on a walk. Any organization can ask you to watch a video. And any organization can ask its supporters to pour ice-cold water over their heads. What distinguishes ground-breaking, successful experiences from everyday activities is meaningful interaction with your cause. The impact you’re making is your differentiation point. It’s the only thing your competitors can’t replicate. Be sure you’re creating an experience that capitalizes on the only thing that is uniquely yours: your mission.
[Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks, we’re looking in more detail at the Seven Success Factors, the evaluation framework we use to help our clients optimize their peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. We use this framework to identify opportunities for growth as well as spot weaknesses or misalignments that are impeding performance.]
Download the complete Seven Success Factors E-Book today to learn more about evaluating and improving your peer-to-peer program!