What is Peer-to-Peer Fundraising? Your Questions Answered

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Peer-to-peer fundraising is a fundraising technique in which your supporters raise money on your behalf by sharing campaign pages with their friends and family. It has quickly become one of the most popular fundraising styles among organizations and donors alike because it’s so engaging.

When planned and executed well, these campaigns are powerful tools for expanding your nonprofit’s reach, engaging new networks of donors, amplifying your cause, and growing new fundraising streams. You’ve probably already heard of these campaigns, and maybe you’ve even already begun implementing peer-to-peer-style fundraising techniques into previous campaigns. If you want to learn even more, though, you’ve come to the right place!

For those who are new to peer-to-peer fundraising or simply need to brush up, you probably have a few questions. Let’s walk through a few of the most common questions that nonprofits have about this campaign style:

Use the FAQ above to navigate between questions, or start with us from the top. If you already know the basics of peer-to-peer fundraising and are ready to get started, jump on over to our P2P buyer’s guide to learn more about the tools to look for.

Ready to have your peer-to-peer questions answered? Let’s dive in.

What is peer-to-peer fundraising?

1. What is peer-to-peer fundraising?

Peer-to-peer fundraising is an online fundraising technique in which individual supporters fundraise on behalf of a larger cause or organization. These fundraisers promote the campaign to their own networks of friends and family online. 

Think of it like a network with three distinct layers of individuals. Around the outside are online donors. In the middle are your fundraisers, and in the center is your nonprofit’s mission.

The peer-to-peer fundraising structure is different from more traditional campaigns in which an organization directly asks its supporters and online audience for donations. The more indirect approach of peer-to-peer fundraising allows the organization to reach much larger audiences and boost its online visibility in an organic way.

Here are a few common terms you'll encounter around peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.

Here are a few common peer-to-peer fundraising terms you might encounter:

  • Peer-to-peer fundraising is also sometimes called P2P, social, or team fundraising.
  • Volunteers who fundraise on your behalf might also be called fundraising ambassadors depending on the nature of your campaign.
  • The tools you use to plan and manage your campaign might be called peer-to-peer software or a peer-to-peer platform.

How do peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns work?

2. How does peer-to-peer fundraising work?

Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns can be relatively complex to plan and execute. This is because there are a few extra moving parts as compared to a more traditional fundraising campaign, but it’s also because the potential return in both donations and donor engagement is higher.  Most successful peer-to-peer campaigns use fundraising software to both simplify the planning and maximize fundraising efforts.

Here are the basic steps for planning and then executing a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign:

These are the steps for planning and hosting a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.

  1. Determine your campaign’s structure and goals.
  2. Find the right peer-to-peer fundraising platform for your campaign.
  3. Create your central campaign web page and begin promoting it.
  4. Develop a campaign timeline and plan additional engagement opportunities.
  5. Recruit your peer-to-peer fundraising team and train them for the campaign.
  6. Kick off your campaign and begin tracking donor engagement.
  7. Direct the momentum of the campaign and give your volunteers a boost when needed.
  8. Focus the campaign’s energy for the grand finale.

Let’s walk through each step in more detail to guide you through the process:

What are your goals for your peer-to-peer fundraising project?

1. Determine your campaign’s structure and goals.

By structure, we mean the general purpose and strategy of your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. Many nonprofits host peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns in the run-up to a major charity event, like a 5K or bike race, although more open-ended campaigns are effective, too.

It’s important to determine your campaign’s goals in advance. They typically include both financial and engagement goals. How many individual donations do you want to secure? How many attendees do you want at your grand finale event?

What kind of peer-to-peer fundraising tools will you need?

2. Find the right peer-to-peer fundraising platform for your campaign.

Next, explore your software options, and consider your campaign’s main goals when comparing features. The platform you choose will play a huge role in the campaign, since it’s what connects your overarching strategy with your volunteer fundraisers and their wider online networks.

Dedicated peer-to-peer fundraising software is typically the best bet for nonprofit organizations. It will give you more customization options and fuller control over your campaign data in a way that many web-based platforms don’t.

What all should you include on a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign website?

3. Create your central campaign web page and begin promoting it.

Your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign’s online elements will include a central page and your volunteers’ individual pages.

The main web page should serve as a central hub for the campaign, providing an authoritative place for volunteers to direct donors who want more information. This page should include:

  • Information on your mission and the campaign’s goals.
  • Details on the project or event the campaign is supporting.
  • Plenty of pictures and videos to tell your nonprofit’s story.
  • Event registration details and tools, as necessary.
  • Additional information on your organization.

Once you have this page set up, begin promoting it online. This is a good way to start recruiting volunteer fundraisers and preparing your core community of supporters for the campaign.

What kind of timeline should your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign follow?

4. Develop a timeline and plan additional engagement opportunities.

If your campaign will end in a main event, finalize its date and develop a campaign timeline that leads up to it. For more general peer-to-peer campaigns, go ahead and pick an end date now. Your final timeline should include:

  • A training period for volunteers.
  • A campaign kickoff date.
  • Staggered check-in dates for your team to review performance and make adjustments.
  • One or two additional engagement opportunities for volunteers and donors.
  • An end date/the date of your grand finale event.

Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns tend to perform well when interspersed with extra engagement opportunities. Volunteer events like extra training sessions or check-ins are a good idea. Extra donor-facing opportunities like small fundraising events or parties and social media contests can help maintain energy across your broader audience, too.

How do you recruit a peer-to-peer fundraising team?

5. Recruit and train your peer-to-peer fundraising team.

Next, recruit volunteer fundraisers to participate in your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. Your approach might depend on the structure of your campaign:

  • For any campaign, reach out to your most dedicated group of supporters first.
  • For campaigns that end in a major event like a 5K or bikeathon, you might encourage registrants to form their own fundraising teams.
  • Campaigns leading up to a gala or auction often rely on well-connected ambassadors. Explore our guide here for more detailed advice on this method.

Since your volunteer fundraisers will be taking on a lot of the campaign’s legwork, it’s your responsibility to properly prepare them! Schedule plenty of time before the campaign kicks off to train them, explain the campaign’s process, and get their fundraising pages up and running.

How should you track engagement with your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign?

6. Kick off your campaign and begin tracking donor engagement.

Once the big day arrives, kick-off your campaign with a fun public event or special online announcement. Send out an email blast to your supporters to make sure everyone has a chance to get involved. Your volunteer fundraisers should now begin making their own posts, sending emails, and directing their friends and family to their fundraising pages.

All the donor and supporter engagement data generated by peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns is part of what makes this such a high-return fundraising style; start recording and analyzing from day one!

If you’re using dedicated peer-to-peer fundraising software to manage your campaign, it should automatically track key data points. Use this information throughout the campaign to recognize top fundraisers and identify trends.

How can you best guide and direct a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign?

7. Direct the momentum of your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.

Even if you’re not doing on-the-ground fundraising, it’s important that your organization actively manages the campaign as a whole and plans events as needed. During this stage, regularly analyze your campaign’s performance data to ensure you’re making steady progress.

This is when additional engagement opportunities can be very useful for reinvigorating your audience. Create online contests to motivate your volunteers, or organize a special matching gift period with a local business and promote it to donors. There are all kinds of creative ways to make sure everyone stays engaged!

What kind of peer-to-peer event will you host as a grand finale?

8. Focus the campaign’s energy for the grand finale.

As the peer-to-peer fundraising campaign draws to a close, it’s important to end it on a high note. This applies to any campaign, not just ones that will end in a major event like a walkathon or major party. 

Ratchet up the energy in the campaign’s final week by offering incentives, creating new challenges, and heavily promoting the campaign. If yours does end in an event like a race, walkathon, gala, or auction, now’s the time to make sure everyone’s had a chance to register. Once the campaign officially ends, it’s time to begin analyzing your data and thanking all your participants and donors.

What are the benefits of peer-to-peer fundraising?

3. What are the benefits of peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns?

Peer-to-peer fundraising has become a popular strategy for nonprofits of all sizes for a few reasons. Many of them have to do with the general structure of these campaigns, which taps into the power of online networks and social media in a powerful way. There are two huge benefits to conducting a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign:

  • It offers a more engaging and personal experience for donors.
  • Its decentralized model boosts your nonprofit’s visibility online.

These main benefits combine to create campaigns that offer high returns on investment for nonprofits. Let’s walk through these benefits in greater detail:

More Engaging and Personal Donor Experiences

Nonprofits have always known that the more personal an ask, the more likely that supporter will be to donate. That’s why organizations work hard to develop and maintain their relationships with existing donors. However, nothing can beat an ask made by a supporter’s own friend or family member. In our comprehensive study of social donors, we found that personal relationships are an important driving factor in several of the top motivators for first-time donors:

Donors to peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns are motivated by a number of factors.

Increased Online Visibility for Your Cause

This networked structure, where your supporters ask their own friends and family to donate to your cause, means that you’ll reach new audiences in a more organic way. Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns are a highly efficient way to grow your community and raise more support. Compare the peer-to-peer fundraising structure to the simpler crowdfunding model to see what we mean:

Peer-to-peer fundraising allows you to reach more donors in a more efficient way.

Unlike peer-to-peer fundraising, crowdfunding limits the number of new donors you can reach.

Peer-to-peer fundraising allows you to reach more donors and dramatically boost the visibility of your cause because it’s decentralized. More traditional fundraising models, like crowdfunding, funnel all engagement through a single outlet, in this case your campaign page. This can limit your ability to grow your online audience. You can learn more about the differences between these two fundraising models here.

Peer-to-peer campaigns can offer a highly-engaging, more personal experience than traditional online campaigns. They get supporters actively involved to support your cause beyond simply making a donation. Engagement like this goes a long way to help build stronger, long-term relationships.  

What are some peer-to-peer best practices to follow?

4. What are best practices for peer-to-peer fundraising?

Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns are very flexible. It’s easy to customize this fundraising technique to suit any audience, mission, timeframe, or goal. However, as with any fundraising campaign, there are a few best practices you can follow that will help ensure you raise as much support as possible. Familiarize your team with these strategies:

Market across all channels.

Market your campaign across all possible channels.

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 individuals!

Focus on telling a story.

Tell a story with your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.

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 and showing potential donors how their contributions can impact the community or world around them.

Add merchandise to the mix.

Offer merchandise throughout your peer-to-peer campaign.

Your fundraisers might need that extra push to keep their fundraising efforts going strong, and merchandise can be a fabulous incentive! As fundraisers hit campaign milestones, reward them with branded t-shirts or other products. You can also set up a merchandise table at your event to sell items that promote your cause.

Encourage some friendly competition.

Encourage competition among your peer-to-peer fundraising volunteers.

Everyone’s a winner during a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, but that doesn’t mean you can’t liven up your campaign by incorporating 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.

Take a hands-on approach.

Take a hands-on approach to your campaign for the best results.

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 work.

What are some peer-to-peer fundraising examples?

5. What are examples of peer-to-peer fundraising?

We’ve already mentioned some of the most common contexts in which nonprofits host peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. Let’s walk through a few of them in greater detail to give you a sense of how all the moving pieces fit together:

Walks and runs are some of the most popular peer-to-peer fundraising examples.

Runs and Walkathon Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaigns

Fun runs, 5Ks, and walkathons are very popular examples of peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns anchored by a grand finale event. Bikeathons are also increasingly popular choices for many nonprofits; explore our more detailed P2P bikeathon guide for more information on these unique events.

Typically, registrants for the big event will be encouraged to create their own fundraising pages for themselves or for their team of walkers or runners. These campaigns work well because they’re so community-oriented and give participants plenty of opportunities to get involved.

For instance, even if a supporter doesn’t want to run in the 5K, they can still contribute in a huge way by making donations on their friends’ pages and helping to promote the event. If a walkathon participant is excited for the main event but can’t commit to hosting their own fundraising page, they can still join a fundraising team with their friends and help to share it online.

Use peer-to-peer fundraising software that lets your participants choose how they'll engage with the campaign.

Give participants more choice in how they engage with the peer-to-peer fundraising campaign – whether as an individual or as part of a team. Recognize your top volunteers, and offer plenty of engagement opportunities. These are all surefire ways to boost engagement across the board.

Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns with community events should offer exciting engagement opportunities.

Just make sure you’re using robust peer-to-peer fundraising software that supports these strategies and allows for complete customization of your campaign! Learn more about social fundraising for runs, walks, and rides with our downloadable guide.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaigns for Annual Events

Recruit well-connected peer-to-peer fundraising volunteers for your annual events and campaigns.

By annual events, we mean the types of major fundraising and donor appreciation events that many nonprofits host for their donors every year. Annual galas and silent auctions are classic examples.

A peer-to-peer fundraising campaign can be a great way to generate extra revenue and excitement in the lead-up to this type of event. Unlike for more events where registrants will raise money during the peer-to-peer campaign, annual events like galas and auctions require a slightly different approach to volunteer recruitment.

You’ll need to recruit fundraising ambassadors – well-connected super-supporters – to help your campaign succeed. 

Fundraising ambassadors might be board members or particularly dedicated volunteers or donors. Equip your ambassadors with powerful peer-to-peer fundraising tools, and then use additional event-specific tools, like mobile bidding software, to completely streamline the event itself. This kind of coverage offers donors and guests a seamless and highly-engaging experience with your nonprofit’s event, from weeks before to the night of.

Ambassadors serve as a crucial link between your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign and the event itself.

Your peer-to-peer ambassadors will essentially serve as the link between the pre-event campaign and the campaign itself. Think of it like having an actual person from the community boost the event and ask for donations rather than just a marketing campaign. This strategy goes a very long way to increase engagement before and during the event.

Check out this success story from the Alamance Regional Charitable Foundation to see how they grew their donor pool by 146% percent through ambassador fundraising techniques. Or study up with a few tips of our own for maximizing the impact of ambassador fundraising campaigns.

Offering year-round and DIY tools are other popular peer-to-peer fundraising examples.

Year-Round and DIY-Style Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaigns

Many nonprofits choose to provide peer-to-peer fundraising tools to their supporters year-round, not just in the context of a particular campaign or event.

Peer-to-peer fundraising or social fundraising can be used all year.

Year-round peer-to-peer fundraising is also more generally referred to as social giving. It involves using integrated web tools to give supporters the option to join a fundraising challenge.

It’s an easy way to expand your audience, reach new donors, and raise more for your mission without needing to invest in planning a full-scale campaign. Look for P2P tools that can be adapted for year-round or web-integrated DIY style campaigns.

DIY peer-to-peer fundraising is another way you can empower your supporters to raise money for your mission. It involves giving your supporters the ability to quickly launch their own campaign pages, which they then promote and share online.

One increasingly common example of DIY-style fundraising is when a supporter donates a special occasion to their favorite organization. You’ve probably seen friends promoting their own mini-campaigns online around their birthdays, for instance. This peer-to-peer fundraising style is extremely effective for strengthening your bonds with supporters, all without requiring intense campaign planning on your part.

Plus, these campaigns will seriously enrich your organization’s web presence, boosting visibility and creating more content for supporters to engage with.

Peer-to-peer fundraising can seriously enrich your organization's web presence.

And there you have it – the ins and outs of some of the most engaging and effective fundraising campaigns today. Peer-to-peer fundraising can be a game-changer for organizations that adopt the right tools and then get creative to develop the perfect campaigns.

If you’re ready to start planning your first peer-to-peer fundraising campaign or want to implement peer-to-peer fundraising tools in your organization’s website, start by exploring your options and building out a strong toolkit. Don’t forget to continue your research with a few additional resources, too:

Supercharge Your Peer-to-Peer Fundraising with OneCause