Modern fundraising calls for innovative, technological ideas and methods. Even though trying something new may be daunting to some organizations, the potential results of peer-to-peer fundraising are undoubtedly worth it.
Simply put, peer-to-peer campaigning puts the responsibility of fundraising on your supporters. During these campaigns, supporters create their own fundraising pages that they share online with their personal networks. Their friends and families will visit those pages and donate to your cause. Overall, each volunteer fundraiser is aiming to help contribute to a part of your aspirational (yet attainable) goal by a specific deadline.
While this generates revenue for your cause, it also serves as a proven donor retention strategy. With the right campaign tailored to your audience, you’ll rally support and build enthusiasm for your cause. By taking charge and raising the funds themselves, participants will feel much more vital to your cause.
Here at Snowball, we aim to provide nonprofits with the professional-grade tools and advice they need to reach their fundraising goals. We understand that peer-to-peer fundraising is often accompanied by major confusion, especially for nonprofits without professionals to guide them. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of our top tips and tricks that work for any nonprofit—no matter its size. To enhance your fundraising efforts through peer-to-peer campaigning, explore these helpful insights:
A peer-to-peer fundraising campaign can be a standalone fundraiser, but for optimal results, coordinate it with a large event. This is an effective way to boost results and keep energy high for your cause.
As with any campaign, you need a central focus that compels volunteers to participate and donors to give. Take time when crafting your next event idea. It should motivate involvement and build momentum for your cause. People should want to share your mission and not just do so because you ask them. However, finding new, effective ideas can be challenging. To kick off your efforts, review the following peer-to-peer fundraising ideas that work for any cause.
Races are a classic fundraising idea. They’ve been used time and time again, because they work. Everyone loves the opportunity to stretch their legs and get some fresh air, so why not turn it into a peer-to-peer fundraiser? Make sure your event is family-friendly, so more people will be motivated to participate. Pick a unique theme and get rolling. Make sure to invite sponsors to set up tents with water, sports drinks, and refreshments for racers.
How to Pull It Off: Plan out your event like you would for any race. Then, invite supporters to set up their personal fundraising pages. From here, they’ll share their pages with their social networks. They should encourage them to donate or to register to participate. For a few extra bucks, sell commemorative t-shirts and encourage participants to line up sponsors.
Cycling is another great way to get supporters up and moving. With charity bike rides, you can either have a set amount of miles or coordinate it as a bike-a-thon, where participants ride as long as possible. Stay tuned to learn more about “thon”-style events (which are highly effective peer-to-peer fundraising ideas) in the next section. Every cyclist will need to register, so leverage dedicated registration software to easily account for everyone in attendance.
How to Pull It Off: Set up a course, recruit volunteers, and line up sponsors. Remember to set up water stations along the route. Every mile or so will do. Then, encourage cyclists to create and share their P2P fundraising pages with their friends and families. This could be a great opportunity to make use of dedicated pledge tools. Participants rally up support from their social networks. Then, depending on your cycling event’s style, donors can pledge to donate a specific dollar amount per mile cycled (i.e. bike-a-thons) or pledge a certain amount for the entire race. Once the event wraps up, the pledges will donate their promised contributions to your organization.
Nonprofits typically host “thon”-style events, because they’re great for rallying support and generating funds quickly. With these events, participants collect pledges, and then do the designated activity for as long as possible. For instance, you’ve likely heard of a walkathon, the most popular “thon”-style event. For walkathons, participants collect pledged donations for each mile walked. The further they go, the more money they raise. Once the event wraps up, donors pay their pledged amount. In addition to the classic walkathon, there are several options for “thon”-style events. The possibilities are endless, but only if you get creative:
How to Pull It Off: The above peer-to-peer fundraising ideas represent another great opportunity for using pledge software. When setting up your “thon”-style event, encourage participants to create their fundraising pages and share them online. They should do this well in advance of the event, so they’ll collect the most possible pledges. Don’t forget to pick an engaging theme that’s sure to build momentum in your community, too!
Depending on the time of year, choose a relevant theme. For instance, if Halloween is approaching, have a party featuring a costume competition spooky snacks. If December is approaching, host an ugly sweater party with festive music and Christmas cookies. Get creative and advertise well in advance. If your fundraiser is a success, consider turning it into an annual event. Watch as support grows as donors come to look forward to your holiday party each year!
How to Pull It Off: There are a couple of ways to pull off a holiday party as a peer-to-peer fundraiser. For instance, use it as an incentive for reaching a peer-to-peer campaign goal. Alternatively, encourage participants to “sell” admittance to the holiday party. They’ll share their fundraising page (decorated for the occasion, of course), where their friends and family donate in exchange for a ticket. For a few extra fundraising dollars, advertise your organization’s text-to-donate number, too!
Throw a classy gala as your next peer-to-peer fundraising event. Leading up to the gala, volunteer fundraisers should raise money on your behalf. Then, recognize and reward outstanding participants and donors at the event. Coordinate an auction to make it even more immersive. This represents a great opportunity to line up local sponsors to donate auction items. Think gift certificates, getaways, and local products. Make sure to leverage the idea that it’s great advertising for their businesses, too!
How to Pull It Off: Similar to a holiday party, you can have participants sell admittance to the gala. In exchange for a donation, donors will be able to attend the event. Make sure to set a minimum donation amount, so you set reasonable expectations from the get-go. Use gamification features (like fundraising thermometers and leaderboards) to your advantage to invoke some friendly competition. Remember, each guest will need to register so that you don’t overbook (or drastically underbook) available space. To simplify the registration process, look into event management software with ticketing capabilities. This way, you can ensure your event goes off without a hitch by accounting for each attendee.
Pub crawls are a great way to cultivate relationships with donors and bring everyone together. Depending on your audience, you may choose to do a coffee or dessert crawl instead. Ask businesses ahead of time if they can offer discounts for your event. Chances are, they will, because you’ll be bringing in a ton of business.
How to Pull It Off: Add a peer-to-peer element to this fundraiser by using the pub/coffee/dessert crawl as an incentive for participation. Set a fundraising goal and an end date and watch the fundraising dollars roll in. Take the friendly competition to the next level by implementing prize categories. Think “top fundraiser,” “top team,” “most creative fundraising page,” and so on. Then, announce a new winner at each location during the event. Offer each winner a free beverage or food item at one of the stops on your route.
People of all ages enjoy street festivals, they have a ton of fundraising potential. Feature delectable treats as well as interactive games (like a balloon pop or a ring toss). Make sure to give your festival an engaging theme. Think seasonal, music-based, and even food-centered.
How to Pull It Off: Use the festival as an incentive for raising funds. Set a date for the street festival and line up vendors. Make sure to get all of the appropriate permits, too. Leading up to your event, volunteers will raise money on your behalf. Encourage them to strive to do their best by going above and beyond the fundraising goal. Your goal should be well above what’s needed to fund the event. Then, you’ll generate additional revenue at the event itself thanks to food and ticket sales. You can keep track of progress using a donation tracker, which will fill in as you steadily progress toward your goal. Use leaderboards showcasing top fundraisers to spark competition even further.
Put a craft fair at the top of your list of peer-to-peer fundraising ideas. To host a successful craft fair, encourage local artists to create unique pieces to be sold at your event. Allow them to take home part of the money for their hard work. Many supporters will jump at the opportunity to buy quality products made in their own community. Plus, local artisans will enjoy showing off their handiwork for a good cause. From knitted blankets to pottery, the possibilities are endless!
How to Pull It Off: Turn your craft fair into a peer-to-peer fundraiser by encouraging your volunteer vendors to raise the most funds. They’ll do this both by selling items and accepting donations. This is yet another excellent opportunity to use a fundraising thermometer. Each time an item is sold, fill in the thermometer. Watch as your donations skyrocket! Then, as your fair wraps up, announce your top volunteer fundraisers and offer them prizes (like gift certificates).
Who doesn’t love buying delectable treats for a worthy cause? Challenge the best bakers and chefs in town to whip up their favorite recipes for a friendly competition. Encourage cooks to create recipes that are healthier, gluten-free, and low in sugar, too. This way, everyone can get on the delicious fun. Any food that’s leftover can be sold to donors who can’t get enough!
How to Pull It Off: Encourage local cooks to sign up for booth space at your event. Ensure you set ground rules well in advance. For instance, perhaps each participant needs to whip up a certain amount of food to be eligible. Guidelines need to be expressed well in advance. At the event, attendees can vote for their favorite bakers or chefs using their dollars on their peer-to-peer pages. $1 equals 1 vote.
Another effective peer-to-peer fundraising idea is a sports tournament. This is particularly effective for sports teams and for your more athletic supporters. Your tournament can be anything from charity basketball to golf. If you’re part of a sports league, ask other teams to participate. If you’re not, ask volunteers to sign up in teams to participate. Then, add any stragglers to a team that’s short on members. In any case, set up a bracket, pitting teams against one another for a good cause.
How to Pull It Off: Leading up to the tournament, participants will encourage friends and family to pledge their support using dedicated pledge tools. There’s a number of ways you can go about this. For instance, perhaps pledges promise to donate a certain amount per game played or perhaps it’s based on time participated (e.g., $X pledged per half hour).
Viral challenges and online contests have become practically synonymous with peer-to-peer fundraising. Challenge fundraising all started with successful campaigns like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge back in 2014. This challenge in particular made a whopping $115 million in just one summer. Year after year, peer-to-peer challenges continue to raise substantial funds for organizations just like yours. So why wouldn’t you want to join in on the fun?
Turning your peer-to-peer campaign into a challenge is one of the smartest ways your organization can gain traction in the fundraising space. This allows you to appeal to new marketing heights as you reach wider audiences and spread the word about your cause. The general idea behind these campaigns is to create an engaging, interesting challenge that invokes a philanthropic spirit in those who encounter it.
For each of these peer-to-peer fundraising ideas, supporters will share their donation pages, encouraging others to contribute. Before getting started, it’s imperative that you create organized donation pages, have an optimized website ready to go, and display clear instructions so that people can quickly find the right way to donate.
Let’s start with a P2P fundraising challenge you’ve likely encountered: a viral video challenge. With this peer-to-peer fundraising idea, you challenge supporters to complete a specific action that represents your cause. For instance, if your organization works to end homelessness, challenge supporters to spend a night sleeping on the floor. Then, they’ll record a short video or snap a quick pic and will tag 3 or so friends to participate. Those who accept the challenge only have to donate a small gift; those who don’t have to donate even more! The cycle continues as they tag the next 3 challengers.
Alternatively, challenge them to do something crazy (yet safe), like dance a goofy jig or sing a silly song. You can see how this challenge can quickly gain traction as more and more people are challenged.
Here’s one of the few times quitting is encouraged! Invite supporters to participate in a give-it-up challenge. Each participant will select their favorite beverage or food item that they consume regularly. Then, each time they go to purchase it, they donate the money to your nonprofit instead.
Add an extra layer to it with pledge tools. Participants’ friends and family will pledge their support depending on how many days they last. Make sure to set a time frame (like 5 weeks), so challengers (and pledges) know what they’re up against. Kick bad habits and raise money for your cause all at once!
Challenge supporters to face their wildest fears with a fear factor challenge. Poll the community on their biggest nightmares and bring them to life. For instance, fill a kiddie pool with worms and have squirmy participants take a quick dip. Have acrophobic challengers climb a rock wall. Get creative!
To turn it into a peer-to-peer fundraiser, encourage challengers to rally up support using dedicated pledge software. Their friends and family will pledge donations for each activity completed.
Getting in the recommended daily number of steps can be difficult—especially after a hard day at work or school. Encourage supporters to get up from their desks and make a positive, healthy change with a 10,000 steps challenge. Choose a time frame, such as 1 month. Each day, challengers will attempt to walk at least 10,000 steps. Encourage them to use their smartwatches or download a free pedometer app to track their progress.
Participants will create their campaign pages and share them online. Then, their social networks will donate whatever they see fit for each day they complete the challenge. As an added incentive, feature your top walkers on your social media pages. Even if your cause isn’t health-oriented, this is an excellent way to promote a healthy lifestyle (and raise some fundraising dollars)!
Charity head shaves have been around for quite a while. They’re great attention grabbers and easy to organize. Gather your bravest (and not-easily-embarrassed) supporters set up their peer-to-peer pages and share them on social media, promising to shave their heads in exchange for donations. Build momentum around the fundraiser by setting a deadline. Once that deadline hits, participants will shave their heads and share it on their personal pages.
Oftentimes, you see head-shaving challenges coordinated with organizations whose missions focus on those with cancer, but this can work for any cause. Make sure your donation website is ready to go, because you’re sure to generate some support for this whacky, unique fundraiser.
Challenge supporters to brace the cold with a polar plunge fundraiser. With this peer-to-peer fundraising idea, your bravest supporters will take a dip in icy-cold water. Incentivize participation with live music and hot beverages. To rally up the most support, host it around the holidays. If all goes well, make it an annual event where you’ll draw a larger, more festive crowd every year.
To generate revenue, challengers will share their peer-to-peer fundraising pages where they’ll take donations for participation. Make sure to set an aspirational fundraising goal. Alternatively, friends and family can pledge their support on a per-minute basis. The longer participants endure the chilly water, the more money they raise!
Encourage supporters to get goofy with a funny costume contest. Start by encouraging participants to create and share their P2P fundraising pages. Their friends and family can use their dollars to designate what costume they’d like them to wear. All they’ll need to do is leave a comment with their vote. The idea that raises the most money wins! Then, they’ll show up to their workplace dressed in their goofiest garments. Remind them to document it and post a picture online.
Alternatively, this is a great add-on to your nonprofit’s peer-to-peer fundraising events, especially fun runs and walkathons. Create categories for the most creative, the most eco-friendly, and even the penny-pincher. For the best results, host it around Halloween, when people are already planning their costumes.
Encourage home cooks to put their kitchen skills to the test with a recipe challenge. A recipe challenge works for any organization. Supporters don’t need any experience to participate. Best of all, it requires minimal funding on your end. All you’ll need to do is invest in peer-to-peer tools and motivate supporters.
Pick a difficult recipe that’s sure to challenge people. Alternatively, maximize participation by allowing participants to pick their own difficult recipes. However you go about it, your amateur chefs will need to encourage their social networks to donate to show their support. Once the deadline hits (or they reach a certain donation amount), they’ll post a video of them attempting the recipe with their followers. Participants will share their peer-to-peer pages, rack up dollars, and learn a thing or two about cooking or baking with this fun challenge.
Get supporters up and moving with a workout challenge. Set a timeline. Four to six weeks should do. Then, encourage active supporters (and those who want to become active) to build their peer-to-peer pages and encourage their social networks to show their support. You can even turn it into a pledge fundraiser, where supporters promise to donate a certain amount for each day the challenger lasts. Simply have participants do their best to work out every day, or get creative with your approach. You’re sure to generate some fundraising dollars with these challenges:
Explore more creative fitness challenges here. You’re sure to find something to engage supporters.
Ask your supporters to donate their time to your organization with a volunteer challenge. Your most passionate supporters won’t want to pass up this opportunity. For the best results, turn it into a pledge fundraiser. The longer they volunteer, the more donations they raise. Encourage participants to create peer-to-peer pages to share online, where they’ll raise funds for each hour or day they volunteer. Even your donors will want to participate as this is a great change in pace from their typical contributions. After all, providing multiple forms of giving is a powerful donor retention strategy.
This fundraiser challenge is a win-win-win. Your organization receives the vital financial (and volunteer) support it needs, and volunteers get to support their favorite cause while their social networks support their charitable efforts. Don’t forget about maximizing your dollars with volunteer grants, too!
Every effective campaign starts with a central compelling idea. Establishing this from the get-go enables you to plan a powerfully effective fundraiser with minimal hiccups. Once you’ve selected your central structure, you can build upon it and tailor it to your particular cause or community. Brainstorm and experiment with additional ideas and quirks (like those listed above) to make it even more engaging.
Let’s take a closer look at a few common core structures seen throughout the peer-to-peer campaign space.
If you host an annual gala or some other large event, this is the perfect opportunity to hold a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.
Encourage volunteers to set up their personal fundraising pages and share them among friends. Leading up to the event, volunteers will raise money and work toward your fundraising goal. Then, the event itself will serve as a celebration! Make sure to recognize top donors as well as fundraisers (and maybe even reward them for their valiant efforts).
Alternatively, experiment with live crowdfunding. During the event, ask event attendees to reach out to those who were unable to make it. This works for any type of in-person fundraiser so long as the results can be tracked and shared with attendees in real-time. For instance, you can display progress with a donation thermometer on the big screen at the event.
DIY-style fundraising is quickly gaining popularity. For these, you’ll need to give donors the ability to launch their own campaigns for their birthdays, memorials, weddings, and so on.
Chances are you’ve come across these campaigns online before. For instance, perhaps you’ve noticed a friend or two asking their social networks to donate to their favorite charity on their birthday. Supporters will love the freedom to openly express their support by sharing their P2P pages when it makes the most sense for them.
Pledge-style campaigns (like those mentioned earlier) are usually centered around endurance events. As a quick refresher, during these campaigns, participants collect pledged donations and raise. With “a-thon”-style events in particular, participants collect pledges and then they do the designated activity for as long as possible. The longer they last, the more money they raise. These pledges serve as the bulk of revenue on top of traditional registration fees.
Traditional pledge-style campaigns may include:
Don’t be afraid to get creative in your approach. The sky’s the limit! Just make sure you’re backed by dedicated pledge tools so that you can boost funds and engagement without frustration.
At their core, online campaigns embody the essence of peer-to-peer fundraising: spreading your organization’s reach as far as possible via social media. All your volunteers will need to do is create their peer-to-peer pages and share them with their personal networks.
Take it to the next level by incorporating viral elements or challenges. This isn’t for the faint of heart, though. With this type of campaign structure, you’ll challenge your supporters to complete a brave task, such as shaving their heads to raise awareness for cancer. Then, your courageous participants will collect donations online. For the best results, either set a deadline or set a fundraising goal for each individual. Once the deadline hits or they reach their personal goal, they have to complete the challenge. Then, they’ll challenge a few of their followers to participate.
Take notes from these viral online campaigns that have generated ample support over the years.
Peer-to-peer campaigns can make a powerful difference in your fundraising strategy but only if you go about it the correct way. Whether you’re brand new to social fundraising or a P2P master, you can always benefit from refreshing your strategy.
Let’s dive into some of the peer-to-peer fundraising best practices so you can make the most of your campaign.
Make sure your website and donation tools are ready to go before launching your campaign. Invest in the right donation tools that make the pledge process as fast as possible. If your tech doesn’t streamline the process, pledges may get frustrated and abandon their contributions altogether.
Speaking of social media, these platforms are the driving force of peer-to-peer campaigns. As such, you’ll need to develop an actionable social media strategy. This goes beyond the data analytics listed above. To extend your reach via social media, you need to garner followers’ attention with consistent progress updates, feature your most involved and passionate participants, and overall spur engagement.
Note that for large-scale campaigns, you’ll need to recruit a core team of volunteers and train them on these fundraising best practices ahead of time. Once you’ve established actionable goals and strategies, you can launch your campaign with confidence!
From the start of your campaign, you’ll need to kick things into high gear instantly. You want to build momentum around your fundraiser and keep motivation high throughout the campaign. To do this, use effective design and storytelling techniques in all of your communications and marketing materials. On that same note, you’ll also want to give volunteers the ability to customize their peer-to-peer pages with their own stories. That way, you can encourage them to share personal stories to invoke a philanthropic spirit in their followers.
Make sure to line up sponsors or community partners whenever possible, too—especially for large events. Leverage the idea of positive public relations and an increase in business, and you’re sure to land more partnerships. Take corporate social responsibility to the next level, and further pledges’ and volunteers’ impact by checking into corporate giving opportunities.
As the initial enthusiasm surrounding your campaign wears off, you’ll need to get creative to keep energy high. Do this by implementing rewards (think gift cards and local sports tickets) as a part of your gamification strategy. Incentivize participation with innovative gamification tools such as:
Don’t forget about the KPIs you set before launching your campaign. Make sure you proactively track data and organize it effectively all throughout the campaign so that you can measure progress. Keep volunteers updated regardless of whether you’re on track or not. If you’ve fallen behind, they’ll appreciate the honesty and will know to step up their efforts to generate more funds.
Even though your campaign has wrapped up, it’s not over. You’ll need to review your data and see where you landed with your goals. Analyze any gaps in your fundraising plan and brainstorm ideas to improve results for your next campaign.
Above all else, make sure you follow up with donors and volunteers. This is a key part of the peer-to-peer process but is often written off as unimportant or forgotten entirely. Thank volunteers for their time, and let donors (or pledges) know how impactful their gifts truly are. Chances are you’ll retain a few (or many) new supporters.
With their focus on reaching wider audiences, peer-to-peer campaigns are extremely valuable for both raising money and expanding your nonprofit’s reach. These campaigns provide a way for nonprofits to follow up and keep in touch with new supporters who they may not have otherwise encountered. To maximize your potential, you’ll need to plan a careful online strategy, prioritize the donor experience, and (more generally) create a fun campaign!
As you get started organizing your campaign, you may find you need some (or a lot of) help. Creating your campaign, maintaining momentum, and fulfilling your fundraising goals can be challenging work—especially if you’re brand new to P2P fundraising. To streamline the process, use professional-grade tools for collecting donations and tracking key data. Luckily, these kinds of tools are more accessible by smaller organizations than ever before, so you won’t miss out on any revenue regardless of your organization’s size!
With the right strategies, tools, and engaging ideas, your peer-to-peer campaign will be a game-changer for your nonprofit.
Ready to capture supporters’ attention, reach new audiences, and boost donations?
The P2P fundraising world is expansive. Make sure to read up on more peer-to-peer fundraising best practices and enhance your campaigns with these useful resources:
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