Assigned Affinity

Ian Gruber - 02.06.2009 Follow me on Twitter

I just joined Ted Hart’s People to People Fundraising group on Linked In. It is a lively and growing place with discussions covering everything from explanations of God’s presence on Facebook to analyzing the success of Barak Obama’s presidential campaign.  Poking through Ted’s profile I noticed a slide titled “How People to People Fundraising Works

With an intriguing diagram, but no text, the slide egged me on: Can you describe what makes peer to peer (P2P) fundraising work? Can you come up with a model that suggests ways to tune your approach and maximize your results?  After some reflection, I think “Assigned Affinity” could be an important part of such a theory for explaining why peer to peer fundraising is effective and how you can make it better. What I mean by ‘assigned affinity’ is this: If A likes B and B likes C it doesn’t follow that A likes C. (That would be great though! The resulting ‘transitive affinity’ would make peer to peer fundraising go like a brush-fire.) However, there does seem to be something almost as fortuitous at work in P2P fundraising: Some of A’s affinity for B can be ‘assigned’ to C … if B asks nicely?

Looking at P2P fundraising from this perspective:  Assume we can give every event participant an organization-affinity score (1 being highest 0 being lowest) that captures the person’s affinity for the nonprofit organization and its cause.  I imagine that the distribution would look something like this:


The donors, many of whom have low organization-affinity, give because P2P fundraising effectively leverages the high affinity they have for their respective Team Leaders and Superstar Fundraisers who asked them to, in essence, assign some of their personal affinity for them, to the organization.

Here’s another example of ‘Assignable Affinity’ that just came up in my personal life: Car shopping with my wife. The diagram below captures our relative affinities for one-another and each of our affinities for the two finalists in our car buying endeavor:

Based solely on my affinities, I would have purchased a truck (.85 > .70) However, my wife, assigned some of my absolute affinity for her (1.0) to the SUV. Modeling that process with “affinity-multiplication” we see that my assigned SUV affinity is .9 (=1x.9); greater than my direct affinity for purchasing a truck. Needless to say, there is an SUV sitting in my driveway right now.

As I see it, engaged P2P fundraisers intuitively include assignable affinity in their calculations as they decide which of the people in their personal network to solicit; only folks with high enough assigned affinity are expect to donate so the P2P fundraiser focused their efforts on them:

Undoubtedly, additional considerations matter as well. For example, P2P fundraisers probably consider the chances that a given prospect has a direct affinity for the cause and comingle that factor with their expected ability to assign affinity when allocating recruiting effort. Another topic touched off by this discussion is the temporary nature of assigned affinity and the challenge it creates for nonprofits: How do you convert the temporary good-fortune of “assigned affinity” into the lasting value of direct affinity?

But even without further development, the concept of assigned affinity alone yields some interesting suggestions for developing nonprofits’ approach to P2P fundraising:

Direct Affinity Focused Fundraising:

Assigned Affinity Focused Fundraising:

  • Keep your message simple
  • Provide a rich medium for high affinity participants to tell their story
  • Provide convenient opportunities for individuals to increase their involvement
  • Make it easy for high affinity participants to reach people within their network
  • Create an engagement communication plan for new individuals that have shown interest; the plan must tell your story
  • Template your message so it can be sent by high affinity participants and provide opportunities for them to make it their own
  • Use multiple communication channels to further engage people who have demonstrated interest. For example, call individuals who have set high goals.
  • Provide guidance on P2P fundraising best practices and etiquette; a recent survey of more than 2,000 participants suggests 20% of participants desire more of this information*
  • Be transparent about how donors’ investment (time or $) is used and the social impact generated by your organization



Time to Share your Secrets:
What methods have you used successfully or unsuccessfully to increase direct or assigned affinity within your fundraising events?

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