Peer to Peer Fundraising: What It Is and How to Make it Successful for Your Nonprofit

Digital Fundraising

When nonprofits activate individual supporters to set up fundraising pages or campaigns on behalf of the organization, it’s called peer-to-peer fundraising (also known as P2P). It’s also the perfect way to get your social followers, online and offline supporters, friends, and family to become more involved in your fundraising process. Even if they have already donated or can’t donate what they want to donate, peer-to-peer fundraising allows your supporters to increase their individual impact.

How is peer-to-peer fundraising different from crowdfunding?

A crowdfunding campaign can be set up by both individuals and nonprofits. It’s officially defined as the process of funding a program or task with donations from a large number of people. Typically, both individuals and nonprofits run crowdfunding campaigns to support their own specific projects — such as production costs for a film, venue fees for an event, etc.
Peer-to-peer fundraisers, on the other hand, are a technique used by nonprofits in which they enlist their supporters to fundraise on their behalf. Nonprofits invite and incentivize supporters to set up the campaigns, and then allow those supporters to execute and market the fundraiser themselves.
One example of a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign would be charitable marathons: The runner posts a campaign page asking their friends to contribute to their campaign that just so happens to support a chosen cause. Whole Whale client Concern Worldwide does this every year with their New York Marathon charity run.
Another example would be Facebook birthday fundraisers: Facebook prompts individuals to set up a fundraiser on their birthday to support one of 750,000 eligible nonprofits. The nonprofit just needs to be registered with Facebook, and the birthday human takes on the task of running the fundraiser (with a few push notifications from Facebook).
For both kinds of fundraising, most platforms charge a nominal fee. Facebook remains the exception to this rule since Giving Tuesday 2017.

Why should you use peer-to-peer fundraising?

Obviously, our first answer is to increase funds that can be used for impact. But what are other reasons for hosting a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign?

Peer-to-peer activates your supporters

As mentioned above, peer-to-peer fundraising allows constituents who have already donated, or who cannot donate (or cannot donate as much as they’d like to) increase their individual impact. It also allows them to show their support for a cause that matters to them, and can encourage them to become loyal ambassadors down the line.

Peer-to-peer multiplies the impact

Peer-to-peer fundraisers can easily be done with very few resources. They immediately grow your development and marketing team with little-to-no onboarding! When you have more hands helping you to communicate your organization’s needs and work, you are able to multiply the impact of your campaign.

Peer-to-peer increases reach

P2P fundraisers put your organization in front of new audiences that are highly likely to convert. Many people donate to peer-to-peer fundraisers thanks to social proof, often because they want to support an individual friend or family member, or because they share similar interests. Regardless of motive, peer-to-peer fundraisers have a high likelihood of drawing in new leads — and getting your nonprofit’s mission out to the people that are most likely to support your work.

How to use P2P fundraising at your organization

Below are some best practices to make P2P fundraising successful for your nonprofit.

1. Design a compelling campaign page

Be sure to set up a compelling peer-to-peer campaign page that not only encourages individuals to host campaigns, but also gives them plenty of resources to use on their own campaign pages. Include statistics that make your impact tangible, human stories, and a fundraising video alongside instructions for running a campaign.  

2. Time your fundraiser well

Have a fundraising campaign, event, relevant holiday, or awareness month coming up? Take advantage of your cause or organization being top-of-mind and launch your peer-to-peer campaign to coincide with the time of year. 

3. Set up teams and challenges

Gamify the campaign to motivate your constituents. Consider including awards and incentives for different achievement, such as most money raised, most donors, or most creative pitch. While this wasn’t a P2P campaign, our friends at once promised to put former CEO Nancy Lublin and then-COO (now CEO!) Aria Finger in a dunk tank if they $1 million for their annual Giving Tuesday fundraiser. Spoiler alert: They did. And we’re still talking about it.

4. Share your campaigns on social media and email

The only way to get supporters to set up campaigns is to tell them how and when to do it! Share the campaign and easy instructions over social media and email. You can also feature top fundraisers or the winners of the awards mentioned above to add incentive. People love to be featured, and it will mix up the promotion content from direct asks to fun storytelling.

5. Say “thank you”

Speaking of features, be sure to thank your fundraisers and donors on social media. Thanking through public posts is another way to increase promotion for the campaign. It is also always appreciated when organizations thank donors through comments directly on their posts or campaigns. These comments resonate as authentic appreciation and recognition.

6. Follow the campaign data

Whether you are using hashtags, campaign tagged links, or a platform with reporting, be sure you have a means to track the many peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. This will allow you to identify the winners of your challenges, what made them successful, and how you can improve the campaign next time.
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