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Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Primer For Nonprofits

What’s the big deal about peer-to-peer fundraising? Why do organizations swear by it, and supporters love it? And why are we at CauseVox so darn excited about it?

Because when you do it right, peer-to-peer fundraising really works.

Every day at CauseVox, we see organizations use peer-to-peer fundraising to raise more money than they ever have while spending less time than ever on tedious admin. 

We see them rallying communities, building new networks of donors, and activating their supporters to become advocates and fundraisers. This means that they can do more good, with less frustration. It’s pretty exciting. 

Succeeding with peer-to-peer fundraising doesn’t require a huge budget or a large development team. You don’t have to be a tech wizard, or already have a million supporters. You just need the right fundraising platform, some supporters who are enthusiastic about your cause, and a little know-how

What Is Peer-to-Peer Fundraising?

First, let’s clarify our terms. Peer-to-peer fundraising is any fundraising effort that relies on peers reaching out to each other on behalf of a cause. 

Your supporters fundraise on your behalf by reaching out into their social networks. Also known as social fundraising, personal and/or team fundraising, or p2p fundraising, peer-to-peer fundraising enables nonprofits to increase their reach, find new donors, and build deeper connections with their existing supporters. 

Peer-to-peer fundraising is not an entirely new idea; fundraising runs and walks have operated on peer-to-peer principles for ages. But the Internet has made peer-to-peer fundraising simpler and more powerful for nonprofits. 

If you think back to elementary school, you’ll find a powerful example of a peer-to-peer initiative: Charlotte’s Web. That’s right, E.B. White’s classic children’s novel which taught us all about friendship and loss also holds a lesson about peer-to-peer fundraising. 

A quick refresher for the folks who are fuzzy on third-grade read-alouds: Wilbur the pig was the runt of the litter, saved by a compassionate farm girl named Fern. Still, as is the way of farm life, after he grows he is destined to be slaughtered until his friend Charlotte the spider takes action. 

She starts writing pro-Wilbur messages in her web. Her web attracts attention from the larger community, and everyone comes to understand that Wilbur is special. (And also something very sad happens, but let’s not get into that.)

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Oh, Charlotte. 

The characters rally round Wilbur, but the real story isn’t strictly about him. It’s about all the characters working together to protect him. Charlotte gets help from Fern and various barnyard friends to save Wilbur. It’s a peer-to-peer effort.  

Likewise with your campaign. Your cause is noble and compelling, but until you’ve woven your metaphorical spider web proclaiming why it’s special, and enlisted your community, you won’t get far. Like Charlotte and friends, you have to tell your story so people can work together for your cause. 

Peer-to-peer fundraising catapults your supporters and donors into your organization’s narrative; it is powerful and increasingly popular because the fundraisers become the heroes of the story.

Download your peer-to-peer fundraising planning guide below

What Are The Benefits Of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising?

Peer-to-peer fundraising is a powerful technique that features three main benefits:

Peer-to-Peer Builds Upon Existing Relationships

Traditional fundraising like grant writing and major donor relations require significant investments of time and effort. You have to build trust and cultivate relationships over time, which can be frustrating when you need to raise money immediately. 

Peer-to-peer fundraising helps scale relationship-building by tapping into your current supporters’ networks—their friends, family, and colleagues. You’ve built relationships with your existing supporters, and they’ve built the relationships in their respective circles. 

Your supporters vouch for you, which works as a kind of shortcut to trust with their networks. 

Peer-to-Peer Multiplies The Impact Of Limited Resources

As a nonprofit organization, you’re all too familiar with the challenge of working within time and resource constraints.

Peer-to-peer fundraising helps you make the most of what you already have by raising up an army among your current supporters. We typically see organizations raise twice as much with peer-to-peer fundraising than they do with traditional or crowdfunding techniques.

These advocates are your organization’s booster squad; they’ll augment your ongoing fundraising efforts by raising funds on your behalf – and in some really creative ways.

Peer-to-Peer Grows Awareness Organically

When your team of advocates champion your cause and raise funds, they’ll start with their family, friends, and colleagues. 

As they do, they’ll spread the word and share your story and along the way, which will carry your message and mission to new audiences in one of the most effective forms of marketing—word of mouth.

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Consider the results the Asian American Arts Alliance had with their very first peer-to-peer fundraising campaign with CauseVox: 94% of their donors were brand new to the organization.

What Are The Different Types Of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising?

Peer-to-peer fundraising comes in many forms. From online campaigns to marathons and birthdays, peer-to-peer fundraising can adapt to your organization and your needs. 

Here are a few common types of peer-to-peer fundraising:

Online Peer-to-Peer Campaigns

A traditional online peer-to-peer fundraising campaign is created by the organization, and supporters join it. These campaigns run for a fixed period of time and have an overall fundraising or impact goal. 

Fundraisers participate by setting a personal fundraising goal towards the overall goal and share their personal fundraising pages with their friends and family. 

An online campaign can run for a single giving day, like #GivingTuesday or a longer period of time. It can supplement or take the place of an existing campaign, like a year-end fundraising appeal. It can lead up to an in-person event or take place entirely online. Supporters may work alone or form teams.  

The Asian American Arts Alliance raised 15% more than their fundraising goal with their first peer-to-peer CauseVox campaign.

DIY Fundraising

DIY fundraising reverses the traditional campaign–instead of the organization being in charge, the fundraiser is. An individual chooses to fundraise for an organization, often dedicating a birthday or other milestone. 

They may simply raise money, or undertake a personal challenge, like running a marathon or climbing a mountain. 

If you’d like to add a peer-to-peer initiative to your fundraising calendar, but don’t have the time or resources for a full, organization-run campaign, consider creating opportunities for DIY fundraisers. Your supporters can do them on their own schedule, with minimal oversight from you.  

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61 DIY fundraisers have raised $185,048 to help Endure to Cure support children with cancer. 

Peer-to-Peer Events

These are often the first activities that come to mind when considering peer-to-peer fundraising: runs, walk-a-thons, bowl-a-thons, golf outings. Supporters fundraise in order to participate in the event.

Taking your peer-to-peer event online boosts its fundraising power. It makes it easy for supporters to share their campaigns, and simpler for you to organize. 

By putting event registration, fundraising, and donation processing all in one place, you’ll save time and effort on admin, and be able to run your campaign more smoothly. 

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Mercy High School raised more than $100,000 to renovate its library with its peer-to-peer walkathon.

Team Fundraising

Team fundraising works with any peer-to-peer campaign, but it’s a particularly good fit for events. Individual fundraisers join together to work towards a goal. 

CauseVox makes team fundraising easy–participants can join a team in a couple of clicks. 

How Do I Start Peer-to-Peer Fundraising?

Unlike so many other fundraising methods, getting started with peer-to-peer is both simple and affordable (well, when you use CauseVox, anyway). It’s a little bit of art, with a smattering of science, and it can even be fun. 

Here’s how to begin:

Set Up Your Platform

For any online fundraising campaign, you’ll need a fundraising site to serve as a hub for all your activities. This central platform is where you tell your story, so your fundraisers can draw from it in their personal campaigns. 

This is also the place where everyone keeps track of overall progress and fundraisers can form teams to fundraise collaboratively.

Look, we don’t want to trash talk other platforms, but we’ve heard some horror stories. Harrowing accounts of days spent trying to help supporters set up fundraising pages, and hours lost forever to clumsily transferring data between applications. 

Terrifying tales of clunky software that drove innocent development professionals to the brink and wasted all their time. Suffice to say, the peer-to-peer fundraising platform you choose matters. 

The best peer-to peer fundraising platform offers: Look for a peer-to-peer fundraising platform that has:

Effortless Administration

Your fundraising platform should make it easier to raise money, not harder or more tedious. Skip anything that requires you to take a class or learn to code to be able to use it. CauseVox offers effortless administration because we know that neither you nor your supporters have time to waste. After a quick one-on-one walk-through, you’ll be ready to go. 

You can set up your CauseVox campaign in about 10-15 minutes (plus some time for writing content). Your supporters can make their personal fundraising pages with a couple of clicks.

We’ve made the dashboard intuitive, so you won’t need to call in your IT person to manage your campaign. And if you do need help, our customer support folks are there for you. 

Makes Participants Happy

Your volunteer fundraisers want to raise money for you, not wrestle clunky software. Make them happy with an easy-to-use platform. CauseVox makes it easy for your supporters to join your campaign, create their personal fundraising page, and start raising money in a few minutes. They can customize their pages, add text, join teams, update their supporters, and share their progress easily with their self-service dashboard. 

Gives You Control, But Not Complexity

Your organization is unique, and your fundraising campaign should be, too. Look for a platform that doesn’t lock you into a cookie-cutter campaign that doesn’t match your brand or aesthetic.

With CauseVox, you can choose your own colors, add your logo, and make your own decisions about how you want your campaign to look. You can add any text, image, or video content you like, without being a graphic designer. 

Design decisions, data collection, and reporting are all simple with CauseVox. 

Mobile-Friendly

How does your campaign look on a smartphone? How easy is it to give? Giving via mobile device keeps going up, with no sign of stopping. Make sure your campaign works as well on mobile as it does on desktop, that’s non-negotiable these days. 

Time-Saving Integrations

If your fundraising platform doesn’t integrate with other software, you’re going to spend time transferring data from place to place. This is both a pain in the neck and a tremendous waste of time and effort. Choose a platform that will seamlessly connect with the rest of your fundraising software, so that data updates across platforms automatically. 

CauseVox easily connects with your favorite tools, including Zapier, Salesforce, Kindful, MailChimp, ConstantContact, Google, ConvertKit, Quickbooks, and more. That means you’ll spend more time actually fundraising, and less managing minutiae. 

Be Creative And Tell A Story

Your fundraiser should be fun, engaging, and reflect the personality of your nonprofit – the possibilities are endless. You can choose a theme for your campaign based on your mission, or the specific impact you’re hoping to make. 

20 Liters hosts a walk to raise money for clean water access in Rwanda. Participants carry water as they walk to call attention to the issue. 
Look What SHE Did! launched their campaign during Women’s History Month to raise money for their show about notable women. 
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The Testicular Cancer Foundation ran a “Beard Patrol” campaign. 

Once you decide on the type of peer-to-peer fundraiser you want to run, choose a central story you want to tell about how donors will make a difference.

Nonprofit storytelling fuels fundraising. It’s what inspires action and helps donors understand why your cause matters. Stories stick in people’s memories, activate their empathy, and foster deeper connections to your cause.

Check out this story from Neverthirst’s CauseVox campaign. It centers the donor, shows the impact they’ll make, and helps the audience understand why clean water is so important.

Your nonprofit story should demonstrate a change that donors can help make, introduce your cause, and engage minds and emotions. 

Get your guide to Nonprofit Storytelling here.

Coach Your Fundraisers

When you’re running a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, you’re not the quarterback–you’re the coach. Your volunteer fundraisers are out on the field making the plays and scoring the touchdowns, while you draw up the game plans, help them play to their strengths, and cheer them on. 

Help your team get the most of our their campaigns by:

Giving Them Tools And Resources

The easier you make it for people to fundraise, the more they’ll do it. In addition to giving them an easy-to-use, frustration-free fundraising platform, give them a fundraising toolkit that includes:

  • A campaign overview
  • Brand guidelines
  • Images and logos
  • Fundraising email templates
  • Canned social media posts to copy and paste
  • Thank you and recognition tools
  • Fundraising tips 

While some people will want to customize their personal fundraising pages and emails, others will not have the time or desire to create their own content. CauseVox makes it simple for you to create. They can customize as much or as little as they want. 

This volunteer fundraiser customized her personal fundraising page, as well as using pre-established text.

Keeping In Touch

Fundraising is probably not the only thing going on in your supporters’ lives. If you don’t engage them, it’s easy for peer-to-peer fundraisers to lose steam or kind of forget about their campaigns after the initial launch. Stay in contact with updates and encouragement. Consider sending a weekly email to rally the troops and let them know how the campaign is going, and what actions you need them to take. 

Caption: The First Tee of Southeast Wisconsin uses CauseVox’s update feature to easily alert their community of fundraisers and donors as their campaign progresses. 

Celebrate Every Win

As well as the coach, you’re also the head cheerleader. Celebrate every single win to keep enthusiasm high. 

Reach out to your fundraisers to cheer them on. CauseVox’s dashboard alerts you when someone makes a donation and makes it easy to check in on individual campaigns. Reach out to congratulate your fundraisers when you see they’ve reached a milestone like getting their first donation or reaching their fundraising goal. 

You can celebrate wins in the overall campaign, too. Reaching your fundraising goal is cause for celebration, of course, but don’t overlook smaller opportunities, too. You can shout-out reaching a significant dollar amount, like your first $1,000, or a certain number of fundraisers or donors.

This builds excitement with both your fundraisers and donors. 

CauseVox Helps You Raise More With Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

CauseVox is here to help you streamline and tidy up your online fundraising, making it more effective and less of a headache. No clunky software, endless contracts, or needless complexity. 

With CauseVox, peer-to-peer fundraising is less complex for you and your fundraisers alike, helping you raise more with less effort.

Learn more about how CauseVox can help you raise 2x as much with peer-to-peer fundraising.

UPDATED 9/18/19

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