Are you trying to raise money for your nonprofit with minimal resources and limited time? If so, you’re not alone. When it comes to fundraising, these are just a couple of the hurdles nonprofits face regularly.
Although fundraising has evolved and arguably improved over the past decade, it’s common for nonprofits and charitable organizations to rely on tried-and-true fundraising methods like direct mail to raise money.
If you deal with these common fundraising obstacles and haven’t yet branched out to community-driven methods like peer-to-peer fundraising, there’s no better time like the present to get started.
A Quick Recap Of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
You give $50. You share the campaign with your friend, and she gives $100. She recruits someone who gives $30, and another who gives $20.
Now, the organization has $200, and four supporters. That’s more than each donor would give alone, and a lot more impactful than each gift by itself.
That’s the premise behind peer-to-peer fundraising; smaller gifts raised individually by go-getters (aka personal fundraisers) combine to make a bigger difference for a cause.
This fundraising technique is an effective way for a nonprofit to raise money, build awareness, engage supporters, and get in front of a new audience of potential donors. And when you add a fun, event-element to the traditional online peer-to-peer campaign, you can engage your community on a whole other level.
Whether you’re a peer-to-peer pro or just getting your feet wet, it’s helpful to look at what other organizations do to rally their supporters. Check out these 12 successful and creative peer-to-peer fundraising event examples, and see if you can try any at your organization.
12 Peer-to-Peer Campaign Ideas + Examples
1. Honorary Fundraiser
There are limitless reasons why your supporters may want to raise money to honor someone. It could be their birthday or a special holiday, or it may be in memoriam for someone who lost their life.
Honorary fundraisers are often organized on your supporter’s schedule (often called a DIY fundraiser), and, in many cases, a nonprofit or charity suggests the event type, such as a symbolic gesture or race (more on these below).
For example, The Painted Turtle encourages donors, volunteers, and other supporters to donate their birthday by running their own birthday FUNraiser.
Similarly, The Testicular Cancer Foundation also encourages peer-to-peer fundraising for events such as “Cancer-versaries,” where the supporter chooses to participate in a symbolic gesture such as not shaving over a one-month period.
Entire fundraising events can also be in honor of a person or a group, such as people dealing with a life-altering illness.
Pro Tip: Giving your supporters the option to fundraise any time they want helps make the process more accessible.
Each year, Junior Achievement of Greater Washington organizes around 25 bowl-a-thons in their community. The organization partners with local businesses, professional organizations, and corporations, to rally employees, friends, and family members to raise money and participate.
To help manage the sheer number of donors, participants, and bowling teams, Director of Development and Events Lauren Meltzer, relies on CauseVox’s event-friendly fundraising software.
Regardless of how large or small your bowl-a-thon efforts are, it’s clear that 1. people love bowling and 2. there’s a potential to raise a lot of money.
After dozens of successful bowl-a-thons, Junior Achievement of Greater Washington estimates that they bring in between $4,000 and $65,000 per event! Jackpot!
Pro Tip: Encouraging participants to join bowling teams increases their accountability.
3. Polar Plunge
Jumping into a freezing body of water in the middle of winter; why not? Polar Plunges are an innovating and exhilarating way to get your supporters outside and active in the middle of winter.
Check out what Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Inc. did in 2019.
Over the month-long fundraiser, the organization engaged 2353 donors through 38 teams and 265 plungers, ultimately raising over $140,000.
An event of this magnitude takes the 3 P’s: preparation, permits, and a touch of patience, but the energy you’ll experience is priceless.
Pro Tip: Create a personal fundraiser toolkit to support your plunger’s fundraising efforts.
Walk-a-thons can be localized, such as a local high school service group, or nationwide, occurring simultaneously in many cities. Like other activity-based events, supporters raise a set amount of money to participate.
In 2018, Hope Worldwide organized an Atlanta-based walk-a-thon to raise money for orphans in Africa and powered their fundraising efforts using CauseVox’s peer-to-peer fundraising software.
Pro Tip: Add options to increase buy-in, such as a Fun Run or a 24-hour relay.
5. Work Out for Water
There’s no denying the popularity of Crossfit. There’s a chance many of your supporters are already getting their fitness fix at the local Crossfit studio, so a WOD-inspired peer-to-peer fundraiser may work for you.
Take Neverthirst’s lead and organize a Crossfit event (or more) at a nearby gym where participants have the opportunity to compete and raise money for a good cause.
Neverthirst loved that they could monitor each personal fundraiser’s progress from a central website while giving them the autonomy to share their personal story. In the end, Neverthirst felt like this event helped expand their reach “like never before.”
Oh, and they raised over $200,000 in the process!
Pro Tip: Some of your personal fundraisers will need guidance, while others will want creative freedom. Be ready to offer creative guidance or prompts to help your supporters tell their story.
6. Virtual Running Event
Finally, there’s a solution for supporters who want to run in an organization’s charity race but don’t live close enough to participate!
Virtual running events resemble a traditional 5k/10k/marathon with participants raising money to be a part of the race, all of which rolls up to the nonprofit organization’s main goal. However, there’s one caveat: instead of running together, each personal fundraiser runs at a specific time or date on their own.
A great example of this comes courtesy of Operation Jack Foundation. Back in 2016, the Operation Jack Foundation organized a virtual marathon to help raise funds for autism awareness initiatives and got the attention of 15 runners and 119 donors in the process.
Pro Tip: Create a cohesive feel by posting updates from runners on the day of your virtual event.
7. Live Crowdfunding
Live crowdfunding combines the power of peer-to-peer with that of social media. This technique builds off of an in-person fundraising event by reaching out to those unable to attend and asking them to give during a set period during the event.
This can occur during a typical gala-type event, or at any other type of in-person fundraiser, as long as the results can be tracked and reported to the crowd in real time.
VisArt’s Visibility Arb Lab Campaign used a Live Crowdfunding format, complete with live updates and a thermometer!
Pro Tip: If you don’t have a large screen to display your real-time results, use a fun stand-in prop such as a thermometer or a jar of jelly beans.
8. Outdoor/Active Events
Do your supporters live on the wild side? If so, a simple walk-a-thon may not offer enough excitement. Why not try a more active outdoor activity such a hike, climb, or skydiving session?
The Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois’ Over the Edge for Girl Scouts event built on this idea by asking supporters to challenge themselves or their friends to rappel over a building. They encouraged fundraisers to test the limits of their comfort zone while making a difference. “No prior ropes experience is necessary, just a drive to make a difference,” noted the organizers.
Consider your local options, gauge supporter interest, and get to work planning an event everyone will remember.
Pro Tip: Encourage friendly competition, such as the Girl Scout’s “Toss Your Boss” challenge, where coworkers create a company team and fundraise to send their boss rappelling.
9. Trivia/Game Night
Game and trivia nights are almost guaranteed to reach another part of your supporter base. Plus, they’re a surefire way to bring a touch of competition and strategy to your fundraising event.
The Gauntlet, a fundraising event organized by for the Mox Boarding House and other area nonprofits by ENGAGE and Card Kingdom, engages teams of tabletop game players for a fun and strategy-filled afternoon. Since 2013, the charitable drive has raised nearly $480,000!
Pro Tip: Take Card Kingdom’s lead and set up a live-feed during the event.
10. Symbolic Gesture
Symbolic gesture peer-to-peer fundraisers bear a second mention because they’re extremely effective whether supporters are DIY or group fundraising.
Junior League’s Little Black Dress Initiative is a prime example of an event where participants do an activity that’s symbolic to the campaign. For this example, LBD fundraisers wear a black dress every day over a week-long period to raise awareness about generational poverty.
Whether it’s growing a mustache, shaving a head, or wearing a silly hat, a simple gesture may be more than enough to get a donor’s attention.
Pro Tip: Ask supporters to document their “gesture” and share them on your social media handles and main fundraising website.
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, volunteers are twice as likely to become donors than those that don’t volunteer. Tap into this charitable subset with a work-a-thon, which brings your community together through sweat equity and fundraising.
By connecting your supporters to your cause, not just through your story, but through action, you’re creating a stronger bond and helping with future retention.
The Grapevine Faith Christian School held a fun and fruitful Work-a-Thon, and raised nearly $100,000. According to their website:
Work-A-Thon is an annual event where Grapevine Faith students and staff serve others in our community. Similar to a walk-a-thon, we are raising funds for our school as we serve our community.
Pro Tip: Offer multiple options for participants so that there’s equal opportunity to participate. For example, you don’t want to recruit a bunch of grade school children to clean using harsh chemicals, but they could probably be excellent paper-towel runners.
Do you remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? That fundraising event took the internet by storm and got the wheels turning at many nonprofits. If you don’t recall, it was a social-media driven fundraiser where nominees were asked to either dump a bucket of ice water over their heads or donate $10 to the ALS Association.
Although the jury is still out whether or not a challenge of this magnitude will ever be replicated, it also gives some excellent guidance about how donors want to engage.
Brainstorm ways you can challenge your own supporters, such a fast or new habit challenge. If your challenge relates to your mission, that’s even better!
Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask supporters to “nominate” others to participate. A friendly push can have a big difference.
Did you happen to notice a similar theme in most of these fundraising events?
When you add a fun, funky, creative element, people come out of the woodwork to participate.
Take these ideas and incorporate them however you see fit to extend your reach and meet your goal. To use a cliché, you’ll be successful if you keep the “fun” in your fundraising.