When you combine beautiful fall colors on the shores of Lake Ontario, a Toronto Blue Jays baseball playoff game and a magnificent downtown venue – it can only mean one thing! It is the first ever Peer to Peer Forum held in Canada focused specifically on the latest in Canadian peer to peer fundraising.
The centerpiece of the day-long event was the release of the Peer to Peer Fundraising Top 30 for Canada. Amy Milne, Co-founding Partner at Beyond, presented the data from this inaugural study which revealed a small decline in the total amount fundraised by the top 30 programs in 2015, but also demonstrated a vibrant, creative industry with less traditional activities such as sleeping in the cold or rappelling down the face of a building. In fact, Amy cited Blue Sea’s Philanthropy’s Coldest Night as the fastest growing peer to peer campaign of 2014. You can download the report here. 

Jeff Shuck from Plenty was the next speaker to take the stage to discuss how changes in the way we communicate, interact and share information require peer to peer fundraising organizations to adapt their programs and strategies. Jeff suggested that this presents significant opportunities for the organizations that can embrace and leverage these changes.

The breakout sessions during the middle of the day were filled with presentations from industry experts, consultants, event coordinators and leaders. With topics including Recruiting, Independent Fundraising, and how to leverage Challenge Programs such as marathons and other challenge events – it was hard to choose which session to attend!

The Blackbaud team led by Shana Masterson, Tammy Radencic and myself shared insight into Participant retention in a Good News/Bad News format. The good news is that returning participants are much more productive fundraisers than first timers, but retention across all types of events is a challenge. Shana dove into the psychology of retention, while Tammy identified strategies and tactics that organizations could employ to drive better retention results.

One of the highlights of the day was the Cash, Sweat and Tears Award presented by Blackbaud’s Chris Geady. The recipient of the award, Lovisa McCallum, delivered a moving speech chronicling her journey from new parent of a child born with Cystic Fibrosis to an All Star Fundraiser. As she wove stories about her son throughout her presentation, her approach to rallying her friends, family and co-workers to donate was an inspiration to all in attendance.

From the constant chatter of conversation and networking, to the sight of attendees snapping shots of slides and the activity on the conference twitter thread, it was clear that the appetite for cutting edge peer to peer best practices and strategies was high. With that in mind, here’s hoping that this first Canada Forum will be remembered as the 1st Annual Forum.