Peer-to-peer fundraising (also called P2P or social fundraising) has quickly become a major part of the nonprofit fundraising world.
This decentralized fundraising method puts your supporters in the driver’s seat. It gives them new ways to spread the word about your mission and raise donations on your organization’s behalf. This kind of deeper engagement with supporters, along with the rise of social media, has made peer-to-peer fundraising an extremely effective choice for organizations of all sizes.
At OneCause, we’ve worked with countless nonprofits to support their peer-to-peer efforts, so we’ve seen firsthand the impact that a well-executed strategy can have both on-the-ground and in the virtual space. We’ll dig into the extensive benefits of peer-to-peer fundraising and examples of successful campaigns below, but for now, let’s start with the basics.
|Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Basics||Launching a Peer-to-Peer Campaign|
|Peer-to-Peer Fundraising FAQ||Best Practices for P2P Fundraising Campaigns|
|How Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Works||Peer-to-Peer Events and Examples|
|P2P Fundraising vs. Crowdfunding||Peer-to-Peer Software Features to Look For|
|Benefits of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising||Considerations Before Choosing P2P Software|
Peer-to-peer fundraising enables your donors and supporters to raise funds on your nonprofit’s behalf by setting up individual or team campaign pages. They’ll promote these pages to their own networks of friends, family, and colleagues to raise money for your nonprofit.
P2P campaigns typically fall into a few general categories, including:
Learn more about each of these variations of peer-to-peer fundraising with these breakdowns from OneCause.
Organizations of all sizes can succeed with peer-to-peer fundraising! When planned well, these campaigns are easy and cost-effective, meaning nonprofits, schools, churches, and any other organization can make use of them. The key is to carefully adapt your plans to your unique audience and to actively support your fundraisers along the way.
We recommend starting with the right peer-to-peer fundraising software, which will enable you (and your supporters) to create individual donation pages. Dedicated software will be the foundation of your entire campaign, as it helps with the planning process, facilitates donations, and provides useful performance insights. Once you have your peer-to-peer capabilities in place, you’ll then need to think through a few additional questions.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a flexible method of raising support and engaging donors that your nonprofit can customize to meet its unique needs. However, every campaign still follows a few core steps:
Just like any other fundraising campaign, you should adapt your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign to meet your needs. Before you start rallying supporters, determine how you want your campaign to work. Will you tie your fundraiser to an event? Should your campaign be open-ended or within a set time frame? Will you recruit ambassadors, or allow anyone to launch their own giving page? Will you leverage DIY events to accelerate your campaign?
Additionally, it’s imperative that you define your fundraising goals from the beginning. Determine an exact dollar amount to aim for by taking into account your campaign’s length and your organization’s overarching fundraising strategy. If possible, break down your financial goal into concrete benchmarks to hit during set time periods within your campaign. This will give you a solid way to track your performance and course-correct during the campaign.
The right fundraising software is essential for any peer-to-peer campaign, as it makes it possible for your organization and your supporters to set up fundraising pages and collect donations. There are a number of peer-to-peer platforms available, so make sure you find one that matches your goals and needs without going over budget. We’ll discuss P2P software and how to choose a platform in a section below.
Peer-to-peer fundraising relies on your supporters to take the reins, so you’ll need to start actively recruiting them. This could take a number of forms based on the specifics of your campaign. For most campaigns, you’ll need to identify your target audience, the supporters who’ll be most likely to want to get involved. These are your social donors. This guide walks through the essentials of identifying and targeting this valuable audience.
Once you’ve determined who you want to get involved, you’ll have to start spreading the word. Promote your P2P campaign and explain what it means to fundraise via email and social media, adapting your approach as needed based on your campaign’s specifics. Challenge campaigns and runs, walks, and rides should be promoted with different messaging than a DIY-style campaign, for instance.
In some contexts, like P2P campaigns leading up to major annual events (whether virtual or in-person), it may be a good idea to get even more strategic with your recruitment efforts. If you’ll actively recruit a smaller set of fundraising ambassadors to drive your campaign, get them involved early. Look for individuals with a proven history of deep engagement with your organization, such as donors, volunteers, event attendees, and board members. Additionally, consider their personal connections in the community. A passionate supporter with extensive ties to friends, family, and colleagues in your area (or even across the country!) will make an ideal ambassador.
Take some time now to outline how you’ll support your ambassadors or peer-to-peer fundraisers during the campaign, as well. Develop training materials and a library of templates and graphics that they can use to promote your campaign online and accurately reflect your mission.
A successful campaign will rely on both your nonprofit’s main fundraising page and your fundraisers’ individual pages. While you can help your supporters customize their pages to share why your cause is important to them, your organization is responsible for designing a main fundraising page that serves as the hub of your peer-to-peer campaign.
Add a compelling description, high-quality photos and videos, and as much information as you can about why your fundraising campaign is important. Don’t forget to provide event details if you’re hosting one alongside your campaign! A large-scale P2P campaign anchored by a major event might also warrant a complete microsite to host all of its elements, including its virtual event center.
Since your supporters will be taking on much of the legwork for this campaign, you’ll need to make sure they’re well-equipped for the task at hand—bringing in donations and raising awareness for your cause! Most of your P2P participants will likely be long-term supporters of your nonprofit, but it’s still important to support them and provide materials to help get the word out. Plan ahead to regularly check-in with your ambassadors or fundraisers, and designate a primary point of contact at your organization to serve as the main support for P2P fundraisers.
There are a lot of moving parts that make a peer-to-peer campaign successful. From individual progress, event participation, and overall fundraising momentum, you’ll need to track all the components of your campaign to ensure you accomplish your goals.
Your peer-to-peer platform should provide various reporting tools to help you measure your success at every stage of your campaign. Check-in on your progress at least once a week to see what parts of your strategies are working well and which need to be adjusted. Then, take the opportunity to course-correct or provide extra support to your volunteers as needed. If you’ll be hosting one or more events during your campaign, make sure they’re fully planned in advance and ready to launch when the time comes.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is often compared to another popular online fundraising method, crowdfunding. While both tactics rely on the power of your online networks to raise support and awareness, there are major structural differences between these two types of campaigns.
Peer-to-peer fundraising involves empowering supporters to fundraise independently on your organization’s behalf using individual donation pages.
Your organization uses specialized P2P fundraising software to equip supporters with the tools to raise funds on their own, with all donations going back to your organization.
In a crowdfunding campaign, both the organization and individuals use a single crowdfunding page to promote the campaign or project online.
Anyone can set up a personal crowdfunding campaign for any project, cause, or need they choose. Fundraisers keep all the money they raise, minus platform and payment processing fees.
In many cases, the broader reach of a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign makes it the smarter online fundraising strategy, while very specific, smaller-scale projects could be better suited to a crowdfunding campaign.
There are several major benefits to hosting peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns for both nonprofits and donors alike. If you’re on the fence about planning a P2P campaign, here are a few top benefits to keep in mind:
Peer-to-peer campaigns boost engagement with your supporters by providing a fun, interactive way to get involved with your cause. Plus, when you add elements like events and gamification, your donors will be even more excited to participate.
You can empower your supporters to fundraise on your behalf for all types of missions, audiences, and goals. P2P campaigns can come in all shapes and sizes thanks to this method’s high level of flexibility, especially in today’s virtual landscape.
Since fundraisers share their campaign pages with their own networks, an effective peer-to-peer campaign can raise awareness with tons of new supporters! This increased visibility means you’ll broaden your audience and draw in more donors than you’d reach on your own.
A peer-to-peer campaign isn’t just easy to launch—it can be highly cost-effective, too! Given how many new supporters you’ll be able to reach, peer-to-peer is one of the most efficient fundraising strategies available today (when it’s backed up with the right tools and tactics).
Peer-to-peer fundraising enables donors to show their friends why your cause is important to them on a personal level. Most platforms allow fundraisers to customize their pages by adding their own stories, photos, and videos.
For some nonprofit supporters, clicking the “submit donation” button is the extent of their involvement. With a peer-to-peer campaign, donors can see a different side of fundraising by actively engaging with a cause they care about.
During a campaign, donors share their pages on social networks and in-person with friends and family. Getting to share a cause they love with everyone they know makes fundraising more exciting than ever!
For a deeper dive into these tips and more, check out our complete list of peer-to-peer fundraising best practices.
Next, let’s walk through a few essential best practices that can help any peer-to-peer fundraising campaign succeed, starting with our top three tips:
As decentralized campaigns that put your supporters in the driver’s seat, P2P fundraising can be logistically complex. You’ll need an effective way to plan the campaign, provide a seamless giving experience, and track both your overall performance and the performance of individual fundraisers. Dedicated software will give you the top-down, detailed views you need. We’ll explore features to look for in a section below.
DIY-style campaigns in which any supporter can launch a giving page are effective in many contexts. However, if your peer-to-peer campaign has lofty fundraising goals or is intended to generate support leading up to a major event, taking an ambassador approach is often the smarter choice. Actively identify and recruit ambassadors who can help you achieve your goals, and then support them throughout the entire campaign.
Virtual events have made it easier than ever to engage supporters. They’ve proven to be cost-effective and highly flexible options for nonprofits, making them the perfect addition to a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. For example, you might host casual virtual gatherings throughout the campaign to check-in with supporters. Many nonprofits wrap up their P2P campaigns with exciting virtual auctions and galas to celebrate their mission and campaign’s success.
While social media and email are the most common marketing methods for peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, traditional methods like direct mail can be highly effective, too. The more you diversify your promotions, the more likely you are to appeal to a wide range of donors!
Your fundraisers work hard to promote your cause during your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, so don’t let their efforts go unnoticed. You should always thank fundraisers (and donors) personally, but you can also show your gratitude publicly by highlighting fundraisers on your social media pages and during your events.
Everyone’s a winner during a P2P fundraising campaign, but that doesn’t mean you can’t liven up your campaign with some fun and games. Tools like leaderboards and fundraising thermometers will inspire fundraisers to go the extra mile, and you can amp it up by offering rewards to the highest fundraisers and ambassadors.
Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns are all about connecting with others through a shared support of your cause. On your campaign page and fundraising materials, make sure you’re telling the story behind your campaign to show potential donors how their contributions will impact the world around them.
Your fundraisers might need that extra push to keep their fundraising efforts going strong, and merchandise can be an effective incentive! As fundraisers hit campaign milestones, reward them with branded t-shirts or other products. You can also set up an online storefront or merchandise table at your events.
You can maintain engagement with your fundraisers by taking an active role in your campaign. Offer donation request templates, provide campaign support, and acknowledge your fundraisers’ success. By staying active online and updating supporters on overall progress, you’ll demonstrate that you value their help.
For a deeper dive into these tips and more, explore our complete list of peer-to-peer fundraising best practices. With the right strategies in place from the start, you’re sure to exceed your fundraising goals and reach broader audiences.
Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns pair well with a wide range of events, both in-person and virtual. Since these fundraisers depend on social interaction, your events should help to foster a sense of community for both your fundraisers and broader audience of supporters. If in-person gatherings are feasible for your community, active events like walks, rides, and runs are classic choices for peer-to-peer campaigns.
These campaigns are also often used to help generate excitement and support leading up to major annual events like galas and auctions. For these campaigns, recruiting ambassadors to lead the charge is definitely a smart choice.
And don’t forget your virtual event options! The rise of virtual events have made it easier and more cost-effective than ever to launch gatherings during the campaign itself and then wrap up with a virtual event as the main attraction. Popular virtual events for peer-to-peer campaigns include:
Peer-to-peer fundraising has proven to be one of the most flexible ways for nonprofits to engage supporters and raise donations both during and long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few examples of how OneCause users have succeeded with virtual peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns and events:
The US Ski & Snowboard Foundation, which raises money for the US Olympic Ski and Snowboard teams, needed a way to keep up their fundraising momentum despite the challenges of 2020. To hit their fundraising and engagement goals, they tried peer-to-peer fundraising (for the very first time!) using the OneCause P2P platform. The results were amazing:
The Hill Country Ride for AIDS has been an iconic annual cycling event in Texas for more than 20 years. With in-person gatherings no longer feasible during the 2020 season, they needed to pivot their peer-to-peer event to virtual quickly. Using a range of challenges, gamified competition, and team and individual fundraising, they were able to create a unique event by alternating fundraising and physical challenges.
The HCRA raised over $430,000 for their mission in 2020, drastically boosting participation and engagement along the way. Plus, they learned some invaluable virtual tricks that will continue to be useful into 2021 and beyond.
The Human Rights Campaign is a national nonprofit and advocacy organization that focuses on LGBTQ issues. Their annual gala is a major event that regularly draws thousands of attendees, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant they needed new strategies. Using OneCause peer-to-peer tools and ambassador strategies, they quickly exceeded their goals:
Right to Play, a nonprofit focused on child welfare and empowerment through active play, faced the unprecedented challenge of taking their annual gala virtual in 2020. Without slowing down or losing any crucial momentum, the organization quickly adapted to the virtual world by launching a virtual challenge fundraiser leading up to their online gala. Their “Play it Forward” campaign involved a 14-day challenge to keep families active and promote the value of play.
Using P2P challenges, awareness campaign strategies, and social media ambassadors generated 4.6 million social impressions and raised $61,600 (Canadian dollars) through 204 participants and 38 fundraising teams!
Once it’s time to begin exploring your peer-to-peer fundraising software options, how do you know where to start? There are a few essential features that you’ll need in your toolkit. Here are our top recommended features to keep in mind as you explore your options:
Your platform should make it easy to create a campaign that’s entirely your own. From your goals to the look and feel of your fundraising page, your peer-to-peer campaign should reflect your nonprofit’s mission and brand.
Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns are inherently social and increasingly mobile-centric. Without the ability to quickly share individual campaign pages across social media or engage with your campaign on mobile devices, it would be significantly harder to spread awareness or encourage donations.
Your peer-to-peer software should ideally come as part of a broader suite of virtual fundraising tools. Virtual fundraising events can make excellent additions to your peer-to-peer campaign, so look for software that can bring it all together in user-friendly ways.
With each donation, you’ll be collecting important donor data. When your peer-to-peer software integrates with your nonprofit CRM, all the information you gather will seamlessly flow into your donor database with no additional effort required.
Peer-to-peer campaigns are unique in their ability to inspire friendly competition among your supporters. Features like leaderboards, personal fundraising thermometers, and team pages can all enhance the excitement surrounding your cause.
If you’re new to the world of nonprofit software, weighing all of your options can feel overwhelming at first. Start by understanding the must-have features (like the ones listed above) that you’ll need in your peer-to-peer tools. Then consider other functionalities that will help take your campaign to the next level.
Take the time to explore other types of platforms that will help build out your nonprofit’s toolkit. Our roundup of top nonprofit fundraising software providers can give you a good sense of the range of options available.
As with any new investment, it’s important to think through a few considerations before choosing new peer-to-peer fundraising software. As you research your options, ask these questions about each platform you’re considering:
You want all of your fundraising software to grow with your organization, and peer-to-peer fundraising software shouldn’t be an exception.
Make sure that your platform not only fits your fundraising needs now, but can continue to do so in the future. Search for software that accommodates as many fundraisers as you anticipate for your current campaign, with room to grow for future peer-to-peer fundraising projects too.
An ideal platform will also come as part of a broader suite of fundraising tools. For instance, if your chosen peer-to-peer vendor also offers robust virtual event capabilities, it’ll be easy to expand your toolkit and ensure a more seamless user experience without needing to cobble together completely separate solutions.
Today, mobile-friendliness is essential. Without easy, intuitive ways to engage with your campaign on a range of devices, you’ll likely lose out on a lot of engagement from participants and donors alike.
Look for software that prioritizes the user experience on all levels. A mobile-first approach will be best, especially in today’s virtual fundraising environment. Take the software for a test drive yourself to see how it performs on screens of various sizes and for different users, including your own team, participants, and donors.
Social fundraising relies heavily on communication, which help you sustain momentum throughout the entire duration of your campaign. Make sure that your P2P software includes robust communication features that actively encourage engagement, not get in the way.
When exploring software, check out its messaging tools and ask questions like: Can our social channels and sharing tools be integrated into the user experience? Can participants easily invite others and make donations through social media and email? Are their built-in tools for fundraisers to thank their donors? Does the software send automatic notifications to recognize interactions, milestones, and other activities? Are these notifications customizable?
As with any software, a peer-to-peer fundraising platform will require an initial investment from your organization. That being the case, you’ll want to set a reasonable budget before you start shopping around.
While most platforms will cost an initial fee, watch out for other down-the-line expenses as well. Transaction fees, training costs, payment processing charges, and other fees may impact the total amount you ultimately spend on your software.
Keeping up with your fundraising campaign is a task in and of itself, so make sure you find a platform that will help you manage your progress during and after your campaign.
Look for software with comprehensive reporting features that can help you track progress across a number of different metrics, including overall progress towards both your goal and individual success.
Any time you accept online donations, security should be a top priority. With peer-to-peer fundraising, your donors will be sharing their fundraising pages with everyone they know. Make sure that your platform provides them with a positive, secure giving experience.
Ask potential vendors about their payment processing solutions so that you can ensure they’re maintaining the highest standards of security and have tools in place to detect and prevent fraud.
Some peer-to-peer fundraising software will be more user-friendly or easier to learn than others, so make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before making your final decision.
Ask for a demo of the software to see what the user experience is like. Additionally, ask your vendor what training and support they offer should you encounter any learning curves or issues.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a powerful way for nonprofits to raise support, engage donors in new ways, and reach much larger audiences than they’d be able to on their own. By putting your supporters in charge, you’ll drastically expand your reach and open up all kinds of flexible ways to make your campaign stand out.
This guide walked through all the essentials, but don’t stop here. There are tons of valuable resources and nonprofit success stories to learn from, so keep exploring!