Why Friends Give, the Power of a Relationship

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Megan Rouse, a passionate, highly energetic, and successful nonprofit consultant with over 11-years of experience in peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising.

I have known Megan for a while and hold her in high regard. She is committed to the causes she supports and has worked with and created significant revenue growth for Team In Training’s Marathon Program (LLS) and Susan G. Komen. At Komen, she was a National Race Revenue Manager and later oversaw SGK’s national DIY fundraising efforts. In the first nine months under Megan’s leadership, SGK grew its net revenue for the DIY program by $500,000 YOY to $1.4M.

Megan’s fundraising days started as early as elementary school where she was the top cookie seller in her Girl Scout Troop two years in a row. The highlight of her personal fundraising career was in 2015, the 20th anniversary of her father’s passing, where she completed 20 endurance events across the country and raised over $155,000 with Team Rooster for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Given Megan’s success and expertise in P2P fundraising, I knew sharing my recent conversation with her about the power of a relationship in fundraising would be invaluable to anyone involved in P2P fundraising.


In your experience as a fundraiser, what have you noticed about your friends who give?

Whenever I fundraise, I am always surprised by the people in my network that show up for me. The people I think can make large donations don’t, and the people I expect maybe $25 from absolutely blow me away with their generosity. I am always reminded to ask everyone because you just never know.


What does the power of a relationship have to do with P2P success?

People give to people. Imagine you were raising money for pink spotted panda bears in Oregon. Although they sound pretty awesome, these magical animals may not be something I really am passionate about helping. But, at the end of the day, I would make a donation to help these bears because I care about you. The key to fundraising success is focusing on the relationships you have, sharing your “why”, and asking for support.


What sort of things get in the way between fundraisers being successful in this aspect of P2P fundraising?

Fear – People are scared to ask for money, but once they get that first donation is it like a dose of courage they needed to really go for it.


No one cares about the cause – Nope, they care about you. Right now, I am raising money for a mission I don’t normally support as a part of a client’s campaign, but I’m connecting my network into the fundraising activity (step challenge) knowing my network cares about me and fitness more than the organization’s mission.


Don’t feel comfortable asking people for money – Get over it! You care about this organization and it needs dollars to fulfill its mission. I guarantee you it is easier to ask your friends and family for donations than it is to be the beneficiary of that organization’s help.


Lack of persistence – Listen, we would all be crazy awesome fundraisers if we could just send out one email or post on social media one time and get a donation from every single person in our network, but it doesn’t work that way. While you may be 100% focused on your fundraising, your friends and family members have lives, they are busy. So, you have to ask, ask again, ask some more, and probably find one more different way to ask. 


Don’t know how to get started – Look around at all of your friends currently fundraising on Facebook – there is always someone fundraising for their birthday. You just have to dive in and go for it – remember, you can make just as much of a difference for the cause you care about if you give it your all. It is important to remember that you are probably more valuable to an organization as a fundraiser versus a donor (unless you make WAY more money than me) because you are reaching out to your network and bringing in lots of dollars. Just start!


Not having the right technology – There are tons of P2P platforms out there but many of them are very old and very clunky. These old platforms certainly don’t make it easy for fundraisers and primarily just provide a way to develop a customized donation form to advertise a campaign. P2P fundraisers are being asked to do more than even these days – it’s important that nonprofits equip their P2P fundraisers with great tools to make is as easy and convenient to fundraise as possible. 


What success stories have helped you find solutions to these sorts of things that get in the way?

I am more of a ‘let me get my hands dirty and learn that way’ type of person. I am constantly trying new things and copying other tactics I see from my fellow fundraising friends on social media. At the end of the day, fundraising isn’t brain surgery – you can totally do it and have fun doing it.


There are success stories all around us: from the little boy that raised $100 at his lemonade stand in honor of his mother who is battling breast cancer to our local weatherman who raised over $100,000 to participate in the Ironman Championship in Kona. If you are in need of fundraising ideas or examples, a quick Google search will give you more than you could imagine.  


What tips and tricks could you offer P2P fundraisers for improving their connections with friends when doing a fundraiser?

Every time I fundraise, I follow the same type of plan (you can find in my most recent article, Peer to Peer not Peer to Peers Fundraising: The real personal touch). The gist of it is: ask your network personally, share your “why”, offer multiple ways to give, and publicly thank them.


What advice do you have for nonprofit professionals to help their fundraisers be more relationally successful in their P2P fundraisers?

Teach them! Build toolkits, offer tips and advice, and provide personal outreach to fundraisers. Model it for them. Treat your P2P fundraisers how they should treat their donors. Remember, every person is the busiest person I know, so you really have to make it fun, easy and engaging for them – don’t make them go search for information on how to be successful. 


Any resources you could point fundraisers to for a better understanding of why friends give/the power of relationships?

a. The P2P Forum: https://www.peertopeerforum.com/resources/best-practices/

b. Blackbaud – 2016 Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Study

c. Classy – The Anatomy of a Successful Fundraiser

d. Donor Drive – Creating an Amazing Fundraiser Experience 


I hope you enjoyed this interview with Megan as much as I did. If you have additional questions you would like to see Megan answer, you can send them to @boodleAI over on Twitter.