Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Best Practices: 12 Essentials

Peer-to-peer fundraising (also called P2P or social fundraising) has seen a huge resurgence during the pandemic, as nonprofits needed to find new, innovative, and online ways to reach and motivate supporters. In fact, it’s now considered a standard online fundraising method for organizations of all sizes. This social peer-groups based strategy empowers supporters to fundraise on your behalf, and it can be adapted to fit any nonprofit mission.

If you’re new to P2P fundraising and want to review the essentials, start with our complete crash course. It covers frequently asked questions, how this fundraising method works, examples of successful campaigns, and more.

If you’re already familiar with peer-to-peer fundraising and want to learn how to take your campaign to the next level, we’ve got you covered.

At OneCause, we specialize in all things online fundraising and donor engagement, and we’ve equipped countless nonprofits with the tools and tips they need to exceed their peer-to-peer fundraising goals. This guide covers the important tips, steps, and strategies that we recommend to nonprofits planning peer-to-peer campaigns. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Table of Contents

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Best Practices for Before Your Campaign

Effective peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns have a lot of moving parts. From the very start of the planning process up to campaign kick-off, there are many steps you can (and should) take to maximize your results. These are some of the most important considerations to keep in mind as you prepare and plan your next P2P campaign:

1. Start Planning Your Peer-to-Peer Campaign Early.

You’ve already decided to host a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign (great choice!), but how do you get started planning it? Since these campaigns can be fairly complex, we recommend starting planning your campaign months in advance. The elements that you’ll need to consider include:

  • Setting goals and guidelines for your campaign
  • Choosing and implementing peer-to-peer software
  • Developing a theme and visual brand for the campaign
  • Recruiting and equipping fundraisers
  • Creating a marketing plan
  • Planning events that will take place during or immediately after your campaign
  • Building a plan for tracking results and recognizing participants

We’ll cover each of these elements in the best practices below. But before we dig in, remember that peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns need plenty of forethought and strategy to succeed. You’ll also need to make sure your fundraising page and event registration options are live on your website well in advance of your event or campaign kick-off.

Before you get started, you’ll also need to determine exactly what type of peer-to-peer fundraising campaign you’ll run. These can take a number of forms, including DIY-style campaigns (in which anyone can launch their own giving pages), virtual campaigns (online only), Giving and Awareness days, and more targeted Ambassador campaigns (in which you actively recruit a smaller group of fundraisers).

Within the Ambassador approach, your campaign might incorporate challenge elements, awareness-centric marketing, virtual engagement techniques, and grand finale events like signature events, runs, walks, and rides. Understanding the general shape of your campaign will be essential as you begin planning its specifics.

You’ll also need to set specific goals, such as a main revenue goal for the campaign. From there, consider other engagement targets such as:

  • New donor acquisition
  • Previous donor retention
  • Social shares
  • Event attendance
  • Web traffic to a main landing page

Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns are all about generating online engagement, so setting these types of goals will give your strategy structure and boost overall impact.

2. Choose the Right Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Software.

As online fundraising campaigns, peer-to-peer fundraising is heavily reliant on technology. If you don’t yet have a peer-to-peer fundraising solution, you’ll need to select and invest in one early in the planning process. There are a ton of options available today for easy-to-use and customizable peer-to-peer software, so find one that will scale with your organization. Here are a few top features to look for:

  • Full customization options for giving pages
  • Social media and mobile-friendly features
  • Virtual-friendly tools for remote engagement and events
  • Integration capabilities
  • Recurring donations and match capabilities
  • Intuitive and robust back-end functionality
  • Gamification tools

For a deeper dive into these features plus other considerations to keep in mind, check out this section of our complete peer-to-peer fundraising guide.

The right software should help you acquire, motivate, and empower supporters while also simplifying the fundraising process for you and your team. For complex P2P campaigns that involve virtual or on-the-ground events, you can drive increased value by choosing software that comes as part of a broader suite of nonprofit fundraising tools. To see these kinds of features in action, check out the OneCause peer-to-peer fundraising platform:

Choosing the right software is a fundamental peer-to-peer fundraising best practice.

Above all else, make sure that your peer-to-peer fundraising solution prioritizes and simplifies the participant experience. Your social fundraisers will rely on your software to reach their networks and drive your campaign forward. Your donors will engage with the campaign through online channels. A clunky experience will make it much harder to keep audiences engaged and reach your goals.

3. Recruit Your Peer-to-Peer Participants Carefully.

If you’re hosting a DIY-style peer-to-peer campaign, anyone can launch their own giving pages to fundraise via friends and family. This option is an easy and effective way to engage new donors and reach a wider audience. If you’re taking a more targeted approach (like in an Ambassador campaign), you’ll need to think about exactly who to recruit and how to promote your campaign online.

When recruiting peer-to-peer participants, we recommend looking for these qualities in ideal candidates:

  • History of engagement with your organization
  • Past donation history
  • Connections in the community and other philanthropic activities
  • Corporate or business connections
  • Social media presence and reach

For a truly comprehensive approach, try identifying your social donors and creating specific personas to help target specific segments. This exercise can be invaluable for future campaigns, as you can continually refine your personas over time as you conduct additional fundraising campaigns.

If you’re planning a large-scale peer-to-peer fundraising campaign leading up to a major (virtual, in-person, or hybrid) event, we also recommend leveraging ambassador fundraising. This style takes the idea of recruitment even further, involving a smaller group of well-connected individuals who can fundraise on your behalf and spread the word about your event far and wide. Check out our complete guide to peer-to-peer ambassador fundraising to learn more.

4. Actively Train and Equip Your Participants.

Once you recruit your peer-to-peer fundraising participants or ambassadors, it’s not enough to simply let them loose to start promoting your campaign. For the best results (both for your campaign and your relationships with participants), you should actively train and equip them for fundraising success. After all, even the most excited participant might not know fundraising tips, so giving them guidance and resources sets a foundation for success.

We recommend setting up a virtual training and orientation session for your participants before the campaign begins. You can explain your campaign, goals and timeline, any events or additional elements of the campaign, and how to use your P2P software.

It’s also a good idea to develop a library of campaign resources for participants to consult and use. You can create a page in your fundraising site to house the tools. This library could consist of:

  • Campaign information packets and one-pagers
  • A brand or style guide explaining how to discuss your mission and listing relevant statistics
  • Design and multimedia collateral, including graphics, videos, and social media post templates
  • Example fundraising email templates and impact statements
  • List of links where participants should direct readers to learn more about the campaign and mission

Providing participants with resources can help build confidence, save fundraisers’ time, and boost campaign results. The best part: they don’t need to be overly-complicated. Here’s an example of an easy email template that you can provide your peer-to-peer fundraisers:

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Email Template

Hi [recipient],

As you know, I’m passionate about [your organization’s mission]. This issue has affected our community by [specific problems your organization seeks to combat].

That’s why I’m so excited about [your organization]’s newest campaign: [the name of your campaign].

As a [friend, neighbor, colleague] who understands the far-reaching impacts of this problem, I wanted to invite you to get involved. [Your organization] works tirelessly to [specific mission-related programs or initiatives] and has already helped to [statistics or examples of your impact]. Let’s take it even further!

Please consider donating to my giving page here: [a link to the participant’s giving page]. Your donation of [suggested amounts] will [specific impacts of various giving levels]. Plus, it’ll help me reach my own goals! If I secure [a number of donations or total value of donations] by [date], I’ll receive [reward] – an added bonus for helping support a cause I love.

To learn more about this campaign and [your organization]’s work, explore their website [link] or reach out to me with any questions.

Thank you!

P.S. You’re also invited to [your organization]’s grand finale event – [event name] – on [date]. You can learn more about the event here: [link directly to your event’s web page].

Hope to see you there!

Templates like these can be invaluable for your peer-to-peer participants by taking the guesswork out of asking for donations. Just be sure to remind each participant to fully customize their messages and giving pages so they feel personal and human. Personal stories, passion, commitment to the mission and reasons to give will not only captivate supporters’ attention but also help to motivate donors to give! Ask participants to say in their own words what your mission means to them so that they can make their messages as impactful as possible.

5. Plan a Multi-Channel Marketing Approach.

As digital-centric campaigns, peer-to-peer fundraising naturally involves multi-channel marketing. This strategy helps you reach potential supporters across a variety of digital outlets, building engagement and excitement towards the ultimate goal of securing donations. An effective peer-to-peer marketing strategy will involve these digital outlets:

  • Social media. Posts by your organization and your participants will likely be the first place that many new supporters encounter your campaign, maybe even your cause. Encourage your fundraisers to leverage campaign templates, resources, and guidance, and make sure that social posts always have calls to action or links to take them back to the main or individual fundraising pages.
  • Your participant giving pages. Make sure your fundraisers can customize their pages to explain what your cause means to them. The majority of your campaign’s donations will flow through these pages, so they need to be impactful, simple to give through, and have consistent branding with the main campaign.
  • Your website. As your campaign generates engagement, you’ll see increased traffic across your website. Give your campaign a dedicated page of its own or a complete microsite (especially for more complex campaigns). Use your campaign pages to clearly explain its goals, your mission, and the impact that your success will have on the community.
  • Email. Beyond social media, email can be another effective way to reach potential supporters. Your participants can use email templates to broaden their reach. Your organization can also send campaign announcements and appeals to broader segments of your donor base to give everyone the chance to donate to your cause.
  • Direct mail. Traditional mail can still be an extremely effective way to engage audiences and spread the word about your campaign. Especially now, when so much of fundraising is focused on digital channels, direct mail can help your cause stand out. It’s especially useful for announcing and explaining any events that you’ll host as part of the campaign.

Of course, the main idea of peer-to-peer fundraising is that your supporters will take the lead with spreading the word and securing donations. Even with your digital reach, you’ll need a concrete marketing plan to maximize fundraising. The most effective P2P campaigns supplement their participant strategy with comprehensive multi-channel outreach and promotions plans.

Take time during the planning process to outline which marketing methods your campaign will use, what you’ll need for each one, the audiences that each method will target, and when they’ll come into play.

6. Consider Your Peer-to-Peer Event Logistics in Advance.

Many P2P campaigns culminate in major events like virtual or in-person galas, auctions, and marathons. Check-in events or small virtual parties to reiterate your campaign’s goals and track progress are also commonly held during the campaign itself. Every event requires advance preparation to succeed, so make sure you give your team plenty of time to plan. We have a few recommendations for ensuring the event planning process runs smoothly:

  • As you begin planning your peer-to-peer campaign, clearly lay out which events you’ll host and when.
  • Establish an event planning committee as part of your broader P2P fundraising team. Specifically define for them what each event needs to entail and when they’ll occur.
  • Consider in advance how you’ll integrate the events into your campaign marketing strategies.
  • For in-person events, consider all necessary logistics like venue, food, schedules, entertainment, and first aid (for walks and runs).
  • For virtual or hybrid events, make sure your tech stack is equipped with a virtual event center that can help you facilitate a seamless virtual program.

Invest in virtual event software if you'll host one during your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.

Planning large-scale virtual or hybrid events is a fairly new undertaking for many organizations. We definitely recommend doing research beforehand and understanding what’s needed for virtual success. Use this OneCause guide to virtual events for a crash course.

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Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Best Practices for During & After Your Campaign

Once you’ve planned your peer-to-peer campaign, it’s time to kick off your fundraising!

Even though your participants will be the ones driving the campaign forward and collecting donations, your team needs to play an active role from start to finish. You’ll need to support your participants, track progress, promote the campaign, prepare logistics for your event (if you have one with the campaign) – so it pays to be prepared. Use these best practices to make the most of your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign from start to finish:

7. Maintain Cohesive Branding Across Your Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaign.

First, consider the vibe and branding of your campaign. Your participants should be able to customize their giving pages with text and images that tell their unique story and why your mission matters to them. However, these pages should clearly represent your organization and mission. These elements should stay consistent across your campaign’s donation pages:

  • Your organization’s logo
  • Colors and overall visual style
  • Campaign name and tagline or slogan
  • Any hashtags used on social media
  • Impact statements
  • Concise text explaining the campaign and your mission

Consistency is key for ensuring that everyone who visits your campaign and fundraising page (many of whom might be meeting your organization for the very first time) understands what they’re giving to and why. This will build stronger relationships for future engagement once your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign ends.

You might choose to keep your organization’s standard branding for the campaign, although many nonprofits opt to brand their campaigns with unique themes, logos, and styles. Consider the approach that makes the most sense for your campaign and larger fundraising plans. Here are two examples:

Peer-to-peer fundraising best practices involved determining the exact branding of your campaign.

Separate branding can be a good choice for campaigns leading up to a signature event, like in this example branded solely to the community organization’s upcoming “Black & White Ball.”

This gives the event a distinct identity to get supporters excited about, and it clearly connects the pre-event ambassador fundraising campaign to the event itself. When supporters land on these giving pages, they immediately understand that the campaign is part of the upcoming event.

This example takes a mixed approach to peer-to-peer fundraising campaign branding.

This example takes a more mixed approach to campaign branding. The organization, Well Aware, launched a challenge-based awareness campaign called #ShowerStrike.

The main campaign page is clearly branded to the unique campaign but also includes the organization’s logo to help reinforce the connection. For nonprofits looking to expand their online reach with peer-to-peer fundraising, using a distinct campaign brand plus links back to your main website is a smart choice.

For fully DIY-style peer-to-peer fundraising, in which anyone can launch their own giving page at any time, sticking with your organization’s standard branding will be the better option.

Whatever the exact approach that your organization takes, the main idea is to be consistent and cohesive with your branding. Your giving pages, main campaign page, and marketing materials should tell the same story. This will help to foster stronger connections between donors, your campaign, and your organization.

8. Offer Incentives to Your Peer-to-Peer Fundraisers.

While supporting your organization and your mission is rewarding in and of itself for many donors, a little incentive never hurts!

Providing motivation via external rewards applies to everyone who engages with your campaign, including your fundraising participants and the supporters they reach online. However, take a different approach for rewarding these two audiences:

  • For your peer-to-peer fundraising participants, actively incentivize them with prizes and awards. For example, you might recognize and award your top fundraisers during a special ceremony as part of your campaign’s grand finale event. Offer online badges (more on this below) via your fundraising software or prizes when fundraisers reach their goals at specified benchmarks. Incentives could range from special shout-outs to free event tickets to lavish gift baskets for your top performers.
  • For your campaign’s donors, thank-you gifts like t-shirts, water bottles, and other branded merch can go a long way to incentivize donations. Just be sure to offer these rewards in a tiered structure, like a t-shirt for a $50 donation, a t-shirt plus a water bottle for a $75 donation, etc. On your giving pages’ donation forms, try suggested preset donation levels that mention the perks for each giving level.

Incentivizing engagement with gifts and awards is an effective tactic because, simply put, many people like to win and reach goals. Just remember to adjust your incentive strategy to your unique campaign and audience, and don’t forget to get creative.

9. Gamify Your Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaign.

Gamification involves adding competitive elements to your peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. Engaging contests to see who can raise the most donations lend themselves very naturally to peer-to-peer fundraising, so gamification has become a standard tactic for many organizations. It’s invaluable for keeping up the energy during your campaign and drawing more attention to the various incentives offered to participants and donors.

There are a number of ways to incorporate gamified elements, but most encourage participants to secure as many donations as possible by a certain deadline. Here a few tried-and-true ways to include this kind of challenge into your campaign:

  • Use campaign leaderboards to track participants’ fundraising performance in real-time. This can motivate your fundraisers and potential donors who’ll want to help their loved one reach the top of the board!
  • Give badges or other incentives for significant milestones. Tying your incentives to fundraising performance is a smart way to boost the energy around your campaign. For a lower-cost option, offer special badges to your dedicated fundraisers as they reach their benchmark goals.
  • Display a fundraising thermometer or other tracker on your main campaign page. A real-time tracker showing progress towards goals can be an excellent motivator for donors.
  • Create special fundraising challenges. Prizes and awards can motivate your fundraisers to give it their all, but what about potential donors? Create funny challenges for participants to complete if they reach a certain donation goal. Their loved ones will love the chance to see the participant doing a funny dance or getting pied in the face. Amid the shift to virtual events, many organizations have their participants pre-record themselves completing the challenge and then share the clips during a grand finale livestream event.

Above all, be flexible with your gamification strategy. Consider the types of challenges and incentives that make the most sense for your unique audience and mission. The main idea is to motivate participants and donors to stay engaged with the campaign from start to finish.

For the best results, look for peer-to-peer fundraising software that includes built-in gamification tools. This will ensure that you can hit the ground running with leaderboards, badges, and thermometers from day one of your campaign.

10. Proactively Track Your Performance Data.

Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns generate a lot of engagement and donation data. After all, one of the biggest benefits of these campaigns is that they can result in a huge influx of new supporters engaging with your website and making donations. If you don’t actively collect, track, and analyze the data generated by these interactions, you could be missing out on critical insights that can strengthen your current and future campaigns.

Before your campaign, ensure that you have a process in place for collecting engagement and donation data. Ideally, your peer-to-peer fundraising software will integrate with your database or CRM so that incoming data can be immediately reported and organized. If your platforms don’t integrate, make sure that you’re able to cleanly export your campaign data in intuitive reports.

Next, create (and stick to) a set of protocols for keeping incoming data organized. Elements to consider include:

  • Ensure incoming donations are automatically associated to existing donor profiles or brand new ones as needed
  • Determine which data points to save for each new donor, such as which participant’s giving page they donated through
  • Standardize data entry specifics, like how you’ll format dates or abbreviate address details
  • Set a cadence for reviewing, cleaning, and studying your data throughout and after the campaign

As the data rolls in, you should begin getting a clearer image of your campaign’s performance over time. Are you meeting your overall benchmark goals? Are certain types of donors or fundraisers driving the most revenue? Are any groups underperforming? Gathering these insights in real-time can be invaluable for course-correcting during the campaign. For instance, if you see that giving is down among previous donors, you could quickly create a new email campaign targeted specifically at engaging them with your fundraiser.

Your data is also extremely useful once your campaign ends. With comprehensive engagement records, the process of following-up and stewarding your supporters is drastically simplified. Sort donors by donation amount or other markers to help prioritize and organize your efforts. Then, with a concrete plan in place, you data can  be used to improve the value and effectiveness of future fundraising campaigns.

11. Regularly Check-In With Your Peer-to-Peer Fundraisers.

Your generous participants donate their time and attention to help your campaign succeed, so the last thing you should do is let them feel unsupported during your campaign. Spend time during the planning process to flesh out your fundraiser touchpoints, updates, and outreach that your team will do to make them feel special, connected, and inspired to keep on fundraising. Then take the time to calendar in either one-on-one or group check-ins during the campaign, too!

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Proactively identify potential issues by looking at real-time data during the campaign. If some of your participants are falling behind, reach out to offer extra encouragement and support before the campaign reaches the final stretch.
  • Schedule regular check-ins throughout the campaign. Use these meetings to review progress towards your goals and allow fundraisers to share their own challenges and tips.
  • Create a sense of community for your fundraisers. A group chat or Facebook group just for your volunteer fundraisers makes it easy for them to encourage one another and hold each other accountable.
  • Offer matching donations as a motivation and rallying point in-campaign. If you have matches, use them to galvanize your fundraising and help your participants increase the impact of their efforts in real-time.
  • Be available to support your fundraisers whenever they need it. Designate a team member to serve as the primary coach or guide for your participants. Have them head the initial recruitment and training process, host the check-in meetings, and stay accessible via email throughout the duration of the campaign.

It’s not enough to simply recruit your fundraisers, explain your campaign, and then let them loose. Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns only exceed their goals when their volunteers feel truly empowered and supported, so it pays to go the extra mile for them. Plus, this will create a much more engaging and positive experience for them, increasing the chances that they’ll volunteer for future campaigns and stay involved with your organization for years to come.

12. Acknowledge Everyone for Their Help.

Once your campaign is over, it’s time to thank everyone for their help.

If your campaign includes a grand finale event, consider setting aside some time during it to publicly recognize and thank your participants. This is also the time to present awards and prizes for your top participants and ambassadors. Afterwards, keep following up to express your gratitude and explain the impact that they’ve had. Let them know that you met or exceeded your goals because of their help!

Your peer-to-peer fundraising software should be able to send automatic thank you messages once a donation is made, but taking the time to send personal social media messages or thank-you cards once the campaign is over is a recommended best practice for deeper engagement.

Additionally, since peer-to-peer fundraising can put you in touch with many new donors at once, it can also be a good idea to prioritize your follow-up messaging based on gift size. For instance, those who went above and beyond to support your campaign could receive more personalized messages, gifts, and event invites. Lower-level donors could be looped into an email stream that explains the impact of donations made to your peer-to-peer campaign and highlights other ways to stay engaged with your organization.

Remember, following up after a campaign is all about showing your gratitude and laying the foundation for continued engagement. Your supporters gave to the campaign because your mission resonated with them and they wanted to support their social network, friends, or family. Don’t let those valuable connections go to waste!

Wrapping Up

The tips and best practices outlined in this guide will set your campaign up for success and help you exceed your peer-to-peer fundraising goals. To sum up the key takeaways:

  1. Start planning early. These campaigns can be quite complex!
  2. Devote plenty of time and attention to supporting your participants.
  3. Encourage engagement at every turn through support, incentives, contests, and events.
  4. Make the most of the new connections generated through your campaign.

These are just a few important peer-to-peer fundraising tips to keep in mind, but don’t stop here. Keep exploring with these additional resources: