Peer-to-peer fundraising. It’s one of those phrases that gets thrown around all the time, but can be a bit tricky to understand. It’s an incredibly powerful way to extend your reach and raise more money with less work. Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns tend to raise twice as much as standard online fundraising efforts, thus you'll want to learn how to use them at your non-profit.
A strong peer-to-peer fundraiser can excite your supporters with the opportunity to fundraise for you, but it’s also a chance for you to build a strong relationship with those supporters by giving them strategies and information.
Do you want to know how to make it happen? Here’s your guide to peer-to-peer fundraising with all the details you’ll need to run a campaign. By the time you’re done, you’ll be ready to launch your first campaign.
What is Peer-to-Peer Fundraising?
Peer-to-peer fundraising is any fundraising effort that relies on your supporters to fundraise on behalf of a cause.
What does that actually mean? Well it could be something as class as a walk or run. Your runners ask their friends and family to donate to support their run, and your organization benefits. But there are also plenty of creative ways to put peer-to-peer fundraising into play. With a little bit of creativity, almost any event can become a peer-to-peer fundraiser.
Here are the components that make up a peer-to-peer fundraiser:
Main campaign site: A page created by the organization that shows the funds raised, shares information about the organization and the campaign, and allows you to make updates throughout the campaign.
Team page (optional): This is where groups of individuals can come together to fundraiser for a nonprofit. It will show their team total as well as list out the individuals on the team. Best used for events like walkathons, etc.
Personal page: Individuals set up their own page with their picture, fundraising goal, and written appeal. This is the page that individual fundraisers will send out to family and friends.
Check out some of our favorites peer-to-peer fundraisers:
Traditional Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
VisArts raised over $100,000 with a classic peer-to-peer fundraiser. They asked their top supporters (think board members, consistent donors, or super volunteers) to create fundraisers.
The campaign focused on surviving through COVID. One of the strongest elements of their campaign was that their fundraisers wrote personal, heartfelt messages on their fundraisers. Their stories reached donors and made a huge difference.
The UnGala or Virtual Gala
If you’ve historically run a gala event, but you’re not sure how to proceed when you can’t gather in person (or want to do a national event without making people travel), here’s the solution: the virtual gala. This is one of our favorite virtual peer-to-peer fundraising events because it cuts the costs of an in-person gala significantly and allows your guests to fundraise for you.
Invite your top supporters to act as virtual table hosts who will do peer-to-peer fundraising for you. Then set up a virtual livestream for the event itself.
To make things even more fun, you can add creative elements that mimic an in-person events. Share a menu for your participants to make, ask people to dress up, or create a signature cocktail for the evening.
A walkathon or 5k is one of the most classic forms of peer-to-peer fundraising. You can even run them virtually and run your fundraising online. Your participants will create fundraising pages to support their walk or run, and you can offer prizes, registration tiers, and more to help incentivize them. For example, here's the page for a marathon run by Meat Fight, a charity devoted to helping people who live with MS:
Identifying And Recruiting Peer-to-Peer Fundraisers
One hurdle that many organizations face is how to recruit peer-to-peer fundraisers. On the surface it doesn’t make sense: why would people put in time and effort to fundraise on your behalf? Do they know how to fundraise? How do you support them?
What surprises many nonprofits is how many people are excited to support them. Taking the time to ask your community to fundraise, then arming them with education and skills is an incredibly successful formula. But asking just anyone won’t yield the best results.
You want to focus on your most loyal supporters: your board, your volunteers, your current donors. You could even look at those who have benefited from your services.
Each of these potential fundraisers has strengths that will help your organization. The best potential fundraisers will have multiple strengths. Think about how large their networks are, how familiar they are with your organization, and how comfortable they are with fundraising. Target people who can reach a lot of people, speak easily about your work, and who aren’t afraid of making an ask.
Once you have your list of potential fundraisers, the best way to reach them is with a personal ask. It doesn’t hurt to send email or ask through social media, but it’s much harder to say no when you’re on the phone with someone one on one. That personal touch can make a big difference, even if you only have time to call 20 possible fundraisers.
Choosing Your Peer-to-Peer Platform
Your final step in preparing for fundraisers is choosing your technology. Most peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns select an online platform that allows fundraisers to create a personal page. Donors can go directly to each individual’s page and make a donation.
Choosing the right technology makes a big difference in your overall success. First, it should be easy for your fundraisers to use. If they spend their time fighting with technology, they’re not going to want to fundraise for you. Second, the donor process should be quick and easy to convert more donors. Finally, you want software that’s mobile optimized, with plenty of customization options for your branding.
Once you’ve started to recruit your fundraisers, you want to take the next step: helping them be successful. That means sharing resources and information so that they feel comfortable asking for donations. There are a few ways you can do this, but one of our favorite tools is the peer-to-peer fundraising toolkit.
What is a peer-to-peer fundraising toolkit? It’s a way for you to share all the knowledge that you have about fundraising with your supporters. You can create a PDF, a Google Drive, or a website that shares information about your organization and the fundraiser.
We recommend including:
- Brand guidelines
- Graphics and logos
- Suggested fundraising timeline and strategies
- Templates for social posts and emails
- Information about the event and the cause
You can share this toolkit with all of your fundraisers. It’s a great way to help them feel more comfortable with fundraising, and to let them know that you’re on their side. Another way to support them is to help illustrate the impact of the funds they’re raising. Stories are at the heart of nonprofit fundraising, and peer-to-peer campaigns are no exception.
Throughout your campaign make sure you’re sharing impact stories, whether that’s through social media, email, or personally with fundraisers. You can even add an element of that storytelling to your donation page by adding donation tiers that illustrate how each donation is making a difference. It’s a great way to increase gift size.
Here's an example from a successful fundraising campaign:
Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaign Launch Tips
You’re ready to go! It’s time to launch! Now is the time to ensure that you start your campaign strong. To really give your campaign some oomph, a good strategy is the soft launch. You can use a soft launch to introduce your campaign to a smaller group before you put it out to all your channels.
You could share it with your board, your best fundraisers, or with volunteers. Choose some of your strongest supporters and ask them to join or donate. It’s important to make them feel like it’s an exclusive honor (because it is). The ideal time frame for your soft launch is about two weeks. The goal is to add some donations and fundraisers to your page. That helps show other donors that other people support you.
You can even get feedback on your language, graphics, and campaign from the soft launch. It’s a great tool to build up your campaign before your proper launch.
Quick Optimization Tips to Help You Raise More
Now that you have an idea of what a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign is, it’s time to make sure that you’ve got the best practices under your belt. Here are the strategies that we’ve used to create successful campaigns.
Optimize your website. Your website is the first introduction most people will have to your organization. If you’re running a fundraiser, you want it to be easy to navigate (with a prominently featured donate button). It should also give some information about your organization while establishing the look and feel of your brand (which then carries over to your fundraising page).
Share stories. Remember when we said stories are the heart of peer-to-peer fundraising? We meant it. If you can create an emotional connection with your donors and fundraisers, they’re far more likely to buy in to your cause. Use personal stories to make that connection.
Keep in touch. When a donor makes a gift, that’s the beginning rather than the end. Continuing your relationship with that person makes them more likely to give again. Make sure they get a prompt thank you, but also consider sharing emails with information about your organization and how to get involved.
Use donation tiers. This might seem like a small thing, but if you look at the statistics you’ll see that it’s incredibly important. We see gifts increase 82% when organizations use a custom form with donation tiers.
Improve your donor velocity. If your donation form is long, confusing, or frustrating, donors will leave without making a gift. By making it shorter and giving donors the option to save payment methods, you’ll help them move through the form faster. That means more donations for you.
Try a matching gift. Matching gifts are a great way to inspire your donors to give more. Ask your board, a local business, or one of your strongest supporters to offer a match.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a fantastic way for your non-profit to raise money and build better relationships with your donors. Why not try a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign this year?
About the Author
Candace Cody is the Manager of Success + Education at CauseVox.