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How the P2P Professional Forum highlighted the importance of community

The GivePanel team recently attended the P2P Professional Forum in Atlanta (if you follow us on Twitter, there were a few photos!) where they joined hundreds of nonprofit professionals to network and explore the future of fundraising.

Megan Rouse, GivePanel’s Senior Vice President of Strategy and Development for North America, gives a breakdown of one of the third sector’s biggest events and what her key takeaways were.

 

What is the P2P Professional Forum?

If you aren’t familiar with the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum, please allow me to give you the Megan Rouse simplified explanation of exactly what it is…

It’s a place where the top peer-to-peer fundraising nonprofits in the world (mostly North America) come together to learn from each other. The P2P Forum, which started in 2007, provides resources such as its annual conference, monthly webinars, timely data and information, and a vibrant online community that helps peer-to-peer fundraisers gain access to best practices and support.

The mission is simple: Provide producers of peer-to-peer fundraising programs with the information, connections and inspiration they need to improve their performance.

David Hessekiel, President of the P2P Professional Forum, has created a safe place for the leaders in the nonprofit industry to share information. The belief that we all win when one of us succeeds is firmly embedded in the event’s culture. There are no competitors at P2P when it comes to the amazing nonprofits that attend – just those that are ready to learn and those that have a few lessons to teach. 

 

GivePanel across the pond

This year, David’s team led by Marcie Maxwell hosted the annual forum in Atlanta, Georgia. GivePanel was a proud sponsor, and my teammates flew in from across the pond to attend. 
 
Excitement levels were at an all time high as many of us in the US were gearing up to attend our first conference since the world shut down in 2020. Coincidentally, for many of us, the last conference we attended was the 2020 P2P Forum hosted in Austin, Texas, just days before lockdown. 
 
And if you saw our photos on Twitter, you’ll realize we are a sociable bunch! 
 
Photo of the GivePanel social event as part of the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum. People in a bar with drinks

While many amazing things took place during the conference – new relationships formed, notebooks of learnings filled, the top 30 shaken up a bit – I can’t stop thinking about the one overall theme I witnessed and experienced while in Atlanta with hundreds of my peers (and closest friends). Everyone was seeking CONNECTION. I know that sounds simple and may not be all that surprising after almost two years of virtual everything, but people seeking community and meaningful connection was absolutely overwhelming. 

 

What did we present?

As well as proudly sponsoring the event, I had the honor of co-presenting with the amazing Ashly Alberto, Senior Director of Individual Giving & Foundations for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

Our session, “How Can I Create Hyper-engaged Social Communities That Achieve Breakthrough Fundraising Results?” focused on AFSP’s first Facebook Challenge of ‘Walk 50 Miles with Your Dog’. You’ll probably have heard us mention Facebook Challenges once or twice (or three times, maybe) but if you’re not familiar with them, you can read about why we’re pretty passionate about these events in this blog

 

Social media graphic advertising GivePanel's Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum Presentation

 

AFSP’s challenge raised over $290K, and we were excited to share how the amazing community that was created in this Facebook group led to that fundraising success. 

Don’t worry if you missed that session as we’ll be hosting a webinar about it very soon so keep your eyes peeled! In the meantime, you can read our guide on how to plan the perfect Facebook Fundraising Challenge in 2022 so you can start seeing similar results! 

Screenshot of AFSP's Facebook Challenge Group banner image

Again, the sense of community was deemed important as our session ended up having standing room only because our room was full of attendees ready to learn and asking lots of great questions. We focused on how to create a meaningful group by focusing on starting your community off on the right food. This involves utilizing key “champions” to nurture the culture, allowing members to own the group and letting supporters know that they are smashing fundraising revenue goals.

 

Building a community

As you can imagine, the content in a group of thousands of people supporting a mission around suicide was not only incredible, but also very sensitive. The community banded together and there were hundreds of posts each day as they walked their miles, shared their connection to the mission and supported one another.

Here is one of my favorite posts from the group:

Screenshot of a Facebook post thanking others for their support

Everyone showed up in this group authentically, as their true selves, including the AFSP staff that were participating in the challenge. Along with the cute pictures of dogs, updates on miles walked and stories of connections shared, we also saw posts where people were directly reaching out for immediate help around their mental health. The AFSP team handled these requests with urgency and care, but all of this connection seeking further drove home GivePanel’s philosophy to me – human-to-human authentic interaction is key to these communities success and any correlating fundraising revenue goals. 

I absolutely cannot imagine any type of bot (no matter how sophisticated) replacing me in the interactions I had at P2P or in the AFSP Facebook Challenge Group. In both scenarios, there was authentic interest, empathy, support and connection. To me and the GivePanel team, each of these is just too special to leave to automation, and risk the chance of an incorrect or ill-timed message being delivered. 

At GivePanel, we are obsessed with our customers and we believe to the core that nonprofits should be obsessed with those who support their mission, share their personal stories and raise money to further the mission. To us, it is worth the time and investment to build these relationships and communities – because again, you just can’t beat authentic, human-to-human interaction. And let’s face it, our world is in 100% need of it. 

On top of all of this, the other surprising thing to me was how sought after the GivePanel team was the entire conference. “Where are you sitting for General Session?”, “What breakout are you attending?”, “Where will y’all be for dinner?”, “Can we come to Happy Hour with you?”, “I want to go where your team is going tonight.”

I mean, don’t get me wrong, we are a very fun group, and 3 out of the 4 of us have really fun accents, but what was this all about? We kept hearing “we just can’t believe how much you guys like each other, let alone have fun together.” Honestly, this was us in our truest form. We showed up authentically and it was well received. In fact our sponsored Happy Hour lasted over 5 hours and had twice as many people as we originally planned – everyone was welcomed and celebrated.

The Great Resignation is further proof of people seeking out this deeper connection and meaning – wanting to be part of something that is bigger than themselves. People want to do something meaningful with their time and make an impact, whether that be your staff or volunteers. Creating and providing a space where people can find others like them and further connect with your cause will only strengthen your organization.

All of this was very reassuring to me because again, GivePanel is absolutely obsessed with being the leaders in Social Fundraising and ensuring nonprofits raise the most money possible so they are able to do amazing work. That being said, after witnessing the increased importance of community and showing up authentically at P2P, I would not have left any of the conversations and connections we made up to automated technology or even mass communication. We pride ourselves on being customer obsessed and no one knows our customers the way we do. We feel like this is how nonprofits should look at their work as well.

 

What did we learn?

Like I said at the beginning, when you attend the P2P Professional Forum, you show up ready to learn. My key takeaways from this awesome event are: 

  • Even in this virtual age, people are seeking connection so never undermine the value of community! 
  • Interest, empathy and support can only come from humans – no bots, please!
  • People want to do something meaningful with their time and make an impact. Creating and providing a space where people can find others like them and further connect with your cause will only strengthen your organization.
  • Invest time into your community. Engage with your supporters and the results will follow, trust me.
 

At the end of our time together in Atlanta, it was clear that we had all needed this time to come together. 2022 will be another big year and the hybrid and virtual event approaches are not going anywhere.

Here at GivePanel, we will be hyper-focused on helping our customers create the most meaningful and impactful social communities not only because it will help organizations around the world raise more money, but because our constituents are demanding this experience and it is the right thing to do.

The P2P Forum was an invaluable event not only because of the content shared, but also because it highlighted the importance of connection to all of us in attendance. So finally, here’s a little homework…

I challenge you to take a minute to stop and reflect on your nonprofit’s community experience. Could it be improved so as to help support the critical mission your organization funds? How can you build on your existing community and engage with your supporters? 

 

Connect with us

We’re passionate about providing support and connecting with nonprofits to help them supercharge their fundraising. Book your 30 minute demo with one of our awesome Facebook Fundraising specialists today to see if GivePanel could help you to take your fundraising supporter stewardship to the next level. 

 

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