It’s not an overstatement to say peer-to-peer is the fundraising future.

Peer-to-peer fundraising has changed the fundraising game. You may call it “crowdfunding” or “social fundraising,” but the general principle remains the same: People use technology to reach out to others in their networks and communities to raise funds for good causes.

This is a departure from traditional fundraising, which centers on institution-to-people interactions. Peer-to-peer fundraising empowers supporters to be fundraisers and reach out, focusing on person-to-person connections. It relies on existing social networks to broaden an organization’s reach.

This kind of fundraising is getting more and more popular for organizations of all sizes–but is it right for yours?

What’s So Great About Peer-to-Peer?

Adding another activity onto your already full plate might not immediately sound too enticing. At CauseVox, we don’t recommend peer-to-peer fundraising because it’s trendy. We recommend it because it works. We believe human-based fundraising is the wave of the future because:

1) It harnesses the power of community

You know that theory that everyone in the world is connected by six or fewer degrees of separation? Peer-to-peer fundraising helps you reach out to many more people, via the people who are already connected to you.

Your supporters are connected to entire networks and communities outside of your organization.They’re members of churches, and block clubs, and book clubs. They’ve got friends, and families, and coworkers, and maybe even wealthy uncles. Simply put, they know people you don’t, and peer-to-peer fundraising introduces you. It’s the fundraising equivalent of meeting a friend of a friend.

2) It cuts through the noise of endless pitches and appeals

People are busy, and they’re subjected to a lot of advertising. The average adult in the US is exposed to about 360 advertising messages a day. Of those messages, only 100-150 are really noticed, and fewer are remembered. Your charitable appeal can easily become just another unnoticed or forgotten message.

Peer-to-peer fundraising skips over the chatter because it’s based in relationships. While it’s easy to ignore appeals from an organization, it’s harder to ignore your friend who’s doing a good thing.

peer-to-peer fundraising

3) It is personal instead of transactional

Authenticity is hard to come by, but it’s one the most important priorities for Millennials. Simply writing a check in response to an appeal is simply not their style. Knowing this makes sense to adapt your fundraising in a way that is more personal.

Peer-to-peer fundraising invites donors to do several things besides give money, including:

  • Support a friend
  • Make a difference
  • Be part of something important
  • Be a part of a community

These personal actions foster a deep connection to your organization.

How Do I Know We Can Do This?

Peer-to-peer fundraising clearly has benefits, but is it a good fit for your unique organization? Is adding another fundraising endeavor to your plate more trouble than it’s worth? Let’s work through some questions.

1. Who Might Fundraise For You?

Think over your board, your volunteers, existing supporters, and donors. Would some of them be excited to participate in a fundraising campaign? If you’re not sure, go ahead and ask them, whether by casual conversation, or a more formal survey.

Here’s a few ways to get started and recruit peer-to-peer fundraisers for your campaign:

  • Start with your most loyal supporters
  • Reach out to recent donors
  • Leverage your community on social media
  • Email segments of your list with a propensity toward advocacy

2. Do You Have A Specific Project In Mind? Is It Peer-To-Peer Friendly?

For your first peer-to-peer campaign, think of something short and reasonably concrete to raise money for. While you could do a more general support type of campaign, peer-to-peer really shines with short-term campaigns (30-60 days) with very specific goals.

Look for a project or program that has a compelling story to tell about your mission. Human-based fundraising requires a story that people connect to on a human level.

This means a story that has:

  • Emotional content
  • Specific characters the audience can relate to
  • A clear story structure that demonstrates a change taking place

peer-to-peer fundraising

Caption: World Bicycle Relief tells the story of their impact on specific people. This gives us characters to relate to.

3. What’s The Goal?

Very successful peer-to-peer campaigns can vary a lot in style and dollars, but they all have one thing in common: They are crystal-clear and laser-focused on the goal.

Pensacola Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build program has a literally concrete goal–they’re trying to build a house. Teams of women raise money to build a house for a member of the community, and then the team actually builds it. It’s a short-term project with long lasting results and easy to understand, making it perfect for peer-to-peer fundraising. No wonder they exceeded their fundraising goal.

peer-to-peer fundraising

Caption: While your goal does not have to involve physical construction, the impact must be just as clear.

4. Do We Have The Time And Resources To Run A Campaign?

Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns can alleviate some of the burden on your staff, but they do still take a good deal of planning and organization to succeed.

You will need someone to choose an online fundraising platform, wrangle your fundraisers, update them on the campaign’s progress, and keep things running smoothly. You’ll still need a donor retention strategy, messaging, and someone to keep an eye on metrics.

Think about:

  • Who will do these tasks? One person? A team?
  • What else is going on in your schedule? When is a good time?
  • What else is going on in your organization? Any volunteer efforts that could draw potential peer-to-peer fundraisers away?

Ready To Give It A Go?

Trying something new can be daunting, but the potential of peer-to-peer fundraising is too great to skip over without considering how it might work for your organization. If you have people who will fundraise on your behalf, a specific project, a story to tell, a clear goal, and are able to run a new campaign, peer-to-peer fundraising may be a good fit for you. If you’d like to learn more about running your first peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, I’d encourage you to watch the recording of this webinar I hosted to break down all the steps to get started.

The Art & Science of Digital Donor Retention

Noah Barnett

Noah Barnett

Growth Marketing Lead at CauseVox
Noah Barnett is the Growth Marketing Lead at CauseVox. Prior to CauseVox, Noah spent six and half years in fundraising and marketing leadership roles at World Help and The Adventure Project. He knows firsthand the challenges nonprofits face, and is passionate about equipping them with the resources and insights they need to rally people around their cause.