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Getting Started With Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Author: Tatiana Morand
May 22, 2020
🕑 15 min read

If you were told to raise $5,000 by the end of the month, could you do it?

This was the challenge Laini Brown of the Hilltop High School Football Booster Clubfaced.

She needed to raise an extra $5,000 to purchase new football helmets for her club by the end of the month.

It was a daunting challenge. Her club had never raised that kind of money in such a short time. A friend of hers who was successful at raising money suggested holding a peer-to-peer fundraiser.

In this post, I’ll detail how Laini used peer-to-peer fundraising to raise money for her club, as well as the following:

What is Peer-to-Peer Fundraising?

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising (or P2P for short) is a fundraising strategy that uses the networks of your existing supporters to raise money on your behalf.

You may already be familiar with peer-to-peer fundraisers: Fun Runs, Movember, andThe Ice Bucket Challengeare all classic examples.

The graphic below shows how one supporter can rally their network to donate much more money than they could on their own — and why peer-to-peer fundraising can be so effective.


Peer-to-peer fundraising is a great choice for many nonprofits because it’s a low-cost, low-effort way to raise funds. It relies on your supporters’ existing relationships and leverages them to help spread the word about your cause.

Peer-to-peer fundraising might be perfect for your organization if:

  • You have a large group of donors who are very engaged and enthusiastic about supporting your cause
  • You have a specific case for support that can be easily communicated and will resonate with the general public
  • You’re willing to provide your fundraisers with ready-to-use tools to help them solicit donations, such as a peer-to-peer fundraising platform, marketing materials and messaging
  • You have a set time period to run the peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, such as a giving day or a period leading up to an event

If you’re struggling to think of the perfect time to try out peer-to-peer fundraising, think of the events you’re already planning to host and see if you can incorporate a peer-to-peer fundraising aspect into them.

Almost any event can benefit from the extra revenue and excitement that come with a well-executed peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. Some events that work well includeruns or walks, game nights, golf tournaments or any other event that requires active participation from your supporters.

Peer-to-peer fundraising also works extremely well when donations are solicited in honour or in memory of someone. Your fundraisers can set up a custom page and share the story of someone special to them and their network of family and friends.

And don’t forget to leverage the power of social media! Peer-to-peer fundraisers don’t necessarily have to revolve around an event or a story. Some of the most successful peer-to-peer fundraisers have a fun social media challenge at their centre and do well by challenging more and more people to participate and share their experience.

Laini decided to give peer-to-peer fundraising a shot. Here’s what she did:

  • She gathered the whole club and made a short video stating their need (new helmets) and their goal ($5,000).
  • She asked the 100 club members to email the video out to at least 10 contacts and ask for donations.
  • She set up peer-to-peer software to collect donations from her supporters.

As soon as the emails were sent, over 1,000 people heard about the club’s fundraising goal. On top of this, many of her members posted the video to social media, where it was shared a lot more.

Donations began pouring in. By the end of the month, Laini had raised more than $8,000 dollars, far surpassing her goal.

That’s the power of peer-to-peer fundraising. Nonprofits who give their supporters tools to share with their networks, just like the video that Laini gave to her members, are able to exponentially increase the amount of people who hear about their cause and end up donating.

If this sounds a little like crowdfunding, which is another fundraising strategy you may have heard of, there are some fundamental differences between crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising. Check out this post to learn about their differences and determine which one is right for your organization.

And if crowdfunding sounds more appropriate for what you’re trying to achieve, here’s how to get started with it and what tools to use.

If you’ve decided to try peer-to-peer fundraising after all, here are the steps you’ll need to take:

  1. Set a goal: How much money are you hoping to raise?
  2. Set a theme: Will your event revolve around an event, a powerful case for support, a tribute or a challenge?
  3. Set a time frame:How much time do your fundraisers have? Providing a deadline gives donors a sense of urgency and encourages more donations.
  4. Determine how you’ll spread the word about the campaign: Will you be sending an email to your existing donors? A letter in the mail? Will you post about it on your website and on social media?
  5. Create marketing materials and messaging to share with your fundraisers: The goal is to make it as easy as possible for them to tell their networks about your cause. The easier it is, the more shares you’ll get.
  6. Set up a peer-to-peer fundraising page or website and make sure your supporters have everything they need to create and customize their own fundraising pages.
  7. Start fundraising! Be sure to provide frequent updates and stay in touch with your supporters to keep them motivated and engaged.
  8. Say thank you: As new donors join your community, be sure to keep track of their information and send them a personalized thank you message.

7 Peer-To-Peer Fundraising Best Practices

Chances are you’ve already run a peer-to-peer fundraiser, because simply asking a friend to tell their friends about your cause is the most simple version of one.

However, if you want to raise thousands of dollars like Laini, there are seven key strategies that will help make your next peer-to-peer fundraiser the best success:

  1. Use the Right Software to Make Donating Easier
  2. Empower Your Supporters to Increase Donations
  3. The Best Way to Brand Your Peer-to-Peer Fundraiser
  4. Distribute Tools to Increase Promotion
  5. Create Friendly Competition
  6. Double Donations with Corporate Match Programs
  7. Nurture New Relationships

Read More:How to Prepare a Nonprofit Fundraising Plan

1. Use the Right Software

Do you know if your current donation software will work with a peer-to-peer fundraiser?

I’ve seen some nonprofits jump into a peer-to-peer fundraiser without the right donation software only to find that they’re leaving a lot of money on the table.

Take, for example, the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver. They held a cycling event (a type of peer-to-peer fundraiser) to raise money for homeless shelters.

Most people wanted to give money on behalf of individual cyclers, but their generic donation page didn’t allow for this. They set up a makeshift process to accommodate this, but it was so cumbersome that many people gave up trying to donate. On top of this, the whole thing became an administrative nightmare to manage.

What the Catholic Charities discovered was the main difference in a peer-to-peer fundraiser: people donate to other people, not to the organization. That’s why it’s important for your fundraising software to let your supporters take the lead in three ways by:

  1. Giving your supporters an individual donation page and allowing them to tailor the message.
  2. Making it easy for supporters to receive donations from their network.
  3. Making it easy for your supporters to transfer funds to your organization.

Luckily, the Catholic Charities used peer-to-peer fundraising software the next year. Not surprisingly, their donations increased over 100%.

In the next section, I’ll go over some of the top fundraising software options you can use.

2. Empower Your Supporters

If you’ve never run a peer-to-peer fundraiser before, there are two management tactics to avoid.

One is sending your supporters off, free to do as they please without any management.

The other is micromanaging their every move.

Both actually decrease your fundraising potential. Part of running a peer-to-peer fundraiser is trusting your supporters to do their best, but also knowing when to give them tools, encouragement, and friendly reminders to help them meet their individual goals.

From my experience, here are some management practices that can help your supporters raise more money in a helpful way:

  • Send reminders about registering for your peer-to-peer event the week of and the week before the event.
  • Update your donor database with new information gleaned from your supporters’ participation in the fundraiser.
  • Offer support to individual fundraisers who are struggling to meet their goals.
  • Send regular updates about the overall progress everyone is making.
  • Provide your most dedicated supporters and donors with additional opportunities for engagement, such as membership programs.
  • Offer information packages or webinars to train your supporters in setting up their donation pages and asking for donations.

Doing these activities can not only help you increase donations by helping supporters meet their individual goals, but also help build long-term loyalty with them.

Additionally, you have to remember that for some people, lack of tools or knowledge isn’t the problem.

They might be very excited to set a goal and fundraise on your behalf, but after a few rejections to their ask for donations, they lose motivation and interest.

To avoid this, here are some ways to keep your fundraisers motivated:

  • Encourage them to set smaller goals. Better yet, provide suggested amounts that they can select from and make sure they’re all reachable. Once achieved, smaller goals can actually provide a boost of motivation and inspire your supporters to keep fundraising and see how much they can surpass their original goal. Bigger goals can seem too daunting and cause people to procrastinate or lose interest altogether.
  • Give them the option to create teams. It’s a lot easier to retain motivation when you feel like you’re a part of something larger and your personal success directly affects how successful your team will be in the end. Fundraisers will feel accountableto their team members and will be less likely to give up before the campaign is over. Plus, teams are usually groups of friends or co-workers, so it’s not unlikely that they’ll create a sense of friendly competition among themselves and naturally motivate each other.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate milestones. Send a note to your fundraisers when they’ve hit a new milestone, such as surpassing 50% of their goal, to congratulate them and encourage them to keep going. Many peer-to-peer fundraising platforms also allow you to post a leaderboard and acknowledge your most successful fundraisers. This provides recognition to the top fundraisers and creates a sense of competition for the others.
  • Remind them about the cause. Sometimes, people get so caught up in what they have to do that they forget why they wanted to do it in the first place. Remind your fundraisers about why their help is so important, what the raised funds will support, and what impact they’re helping to create.

Read More:20 Online Fundraising Ideas Perfect for Any Cause (Social Distancing Approved!)

3. The Best Way to Brand Your Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaign

Donations made on a branded donation form are, on average, 38% larger than contributions made through generic pages. Plus, when a supporter gives through a branded page, they are nearly 70% more likely to make a second contribution. The main reason is that branded donation pages appear more trustworthy and make a donor feel more comfortable about their donation going to the right place.

When you allow your individual supporters to customize their own donation pages, you will still want to hold on to some branding. Here are some simple ways to ensure a consistent message and design across all your supporters’ pages.

  • Provide Suggested Copy: Not every supporter will want to write out their personal story (and who could blame them? Sometimes it’s hard to know the right thing to say). Your organization should provide templates with suggested copy for donation pages, emails, and social media posts. The copy should be easy to customize to an individual so that your message is consistent, yet personal.
  • Design a Template: Most peer-to-peer software will allow your organization to create a template or design scheme for each individual donation page. Ensure that the colors and fonts you choose reflect your nonprofit. Most importantly, make sure that your nonprofit’s name and logo are integrated into the template.
  • Focus on Your Cause: To really empower your supporters while staying on-brand, you’ll need to provide them with toolkits that detail how this fundraiser will help your cause. Include at least one high-quality photo of the recipients of your nonprofit’s aid, as well as a specific story of how your nonprofit will help them. Supporters can use this material when they ask for donations.

Branding is about more than aesthetics; it’s about building recognition and trust between your organization and your donors.

And while you’re at it, make sure your own donation page is branded in the best way with these 28 best practices you can follow.

4. Distribute Tools to Increase Promotion

Imagine half your supporters ask for donations on Facebook, while the other half ask for donations over the phone.

Wouldn’t you want everyone to do both?

The best way to encourage your supporters to ask for donations in as many ways as possible is to make it easier for them to do so.

Unfortunately, some people don’t feel very comfortable when it comes to asking for donations in certain ways.

Imagine, for example, that you get tongue-tied asking for donations on the phone, so you try to avoid it. However, you might give reading a prepared script a try if it was provided. In the same way, you can provide tools to your supporters to encourage them to ask in different ways:

  • Write a suggested script for phone calls that supporters can reference
  • Create a hashtag so that supporters can easily consolidate posts across multiple social media channels
  • Write up an email template that supporters can fill in with their information
  • Create an “about” page for the fundraisers that supporters can link to when they need to share more info
  • Write out tweets that your supporters can use
  • Give your supporters images that they can share on Facebook

By giving your supporters peer-to-peer fundraising tools, you help them hit the ground running in whichever channel they choose.

Fundraising event checklist download

5. Create Friendly Competition

To keep your supporters motivated and engaged throughout your fundraiser, try creating friendly competition. Here are a few ways to do just that:

  • Create a leaderboard, which displays the top fundraising individuals or teams in real time.
  • Create fundraising badges, which supporters can earn for reaching certain fundraising milestones and display on their personal donation pages.
  • Recognize on social media your most dedicated supporters for their service to your cause.

In all these strategies, it’s important to note that the rewards are based on showcasing supporters’ accomplishments. Just be cautious of rewarding fundraisers with tangible gifts or flashy prizes. You don’t want prizes to overshadow your cause.

6. Double Donations with Corporate Match Programs

Many companies will match the amount of money that one of their employees raises through a peer-to-peer fundraiser.

It’s an easy way to double the amount of money you raise.

Make sure your supporters ask their employers if they match donations, or send them a tool (like the matching gift tool displayed here) so they can conduct a search for their company on their own.

7. Nurture New Relationships

Many nonprofits skip this last strategy and end up leaving a lot of money on the table.

The problem is that many first-time donors in a peer-to-peer fundraiser don’t know very much about your organization, and they’re not in a mindset to keep giving. They only donated to support their friend.

But don’t let that discourage you. With the right approach, you can welcome these new people into your organization and nurture them into a position where they’re ready to give again.

Here are three easy tactics to engage these people from day one:

  • Email new donors a personal welcome message: Invite them to your website, or give them your contact details to learn more. You can even send them a link to your membership application to sign on those interested right away.
  • Use donation receipts as engagement opportunities: Once donors confirm their gifts, direct them to additional opportunities for engagement right on their receipts. One common approach I’ve seen is to invite them to participate in an event, or another fundraiser.
  • Invite donors to follow your social media channels: With social media, you can recognize donors for their contributions and showcase your organization at the same time.

The key is to engage donors so that they don’t vanish once your peer-to-peer campaign ends. Show them that they’re valuable partners to your organization, and you want to work with them.

5 Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Software Options

If you’re looking to implement peer-to-peer fundraising software, here’s a list of the most profitable ones.

Just make sure that the option you go with makes it easy for your supporters to take the lead by allowing them to:

peer-to-peer fundraising small nonprofits

  • Write out their own personal story and their connection to your organization.
  • Show a fundraising thermometer of their individual goal and progress.
  • Upload any relevant videos or photos.
  • Add social media sharing buttons to make it easier to connect with their network.

1. Qgiv

Qgiv makes peer-to-peer fundraising more fun with leaderboards, badges and progress thermometers. It includes an email platform, an event builder and integrates with Facebook fundraisers. Qgiv also has text-to-give options and a handheld kiosk for in-person fundraising.

Demo/Trial:Demo available upon request
Pricing:$229/month and4.95% + $0.30 per transaction


2. Fundly

Fundly is a platform designed specifically for peer-to-peer fundraising. It makes it easy for both nonprofits and individuals to quickly set up a website and start fundraising. Fundly also provides lots of resources on how to run a successful campaign.

Pricing: Free to set up and 4.9% (Fundly platform fee) + 2.9% (credit card processing fee)+ $0.30 per transaction


3. Donately

Donately aims to be the simplest donation platform out there. Participants can customize their fundraising pages to tell your organization’s story, as well as include a personal touch. Donately also has a text messaging platform to allow participants to communicate easily with donors.

Demo/Trial: N/A
Pricing: Free starting plan + 4% per transaction


4. OneCause

OneCause takes peer-to-peer fundraising to the next level with integration with social media platforms and social listening. It also uses gamification features to motivate and engage participants. It makes it easy to get started with different campaign types, whether the fundraiser is run alongside an event, as a tribute or as a social media challenge.

Demo/Trial: Available upon request
Pricing:Available upon request


5. SalsaEngage

SalsaEngage has everything you need to get started with a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign: donation page templates, an event builder, an email marketing platform and fundraising dashboards. It also integrates seamlessly with SalsaCRM to help you keep track of your new donors.

Demo/Trial:Available upon request
Available upon request


3 Examples of Creative Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaigns

Looking for additional inspiration for your campaign? Here are three we’ve seen and appreciated lately.

1. Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks invites people to participate in a classic walk, with dozen of events all across the country. Something they do really well is sharing participant stories and reasons why they choose to walk.

2. Vision Aid Overseas

Vision Aid Overseas

Vision Aid Overseas held a virtual fundraiser over a period of 3 months, inviting participants to run, walk, cycle or swim a set distance. They did a really great job of motivating their fundraisers with a wide variety of rewards and provided set goal targets, including information on what exactly those donation amounts would support.

3. Global’s Make Some Noise

Global’s Make Some Noise

Global’s Make Some Noise is hosting a fun social media challenge where they invite participants to bake something, post a photo of it on social media using the hashtag #BakeSomeNoise, make a donation and nominate 5 others to participate. This is a great example of a fun challenge that’s easy to take part it (who doesn’t love baking?) and is well set up to spread widely across participants’ social networks.

So there you have it! Whether you’re a peer-to-peer expert or just getting started with your first campaign, I hope you found this guide helpful.

Best of luck running your next peer-to-peer fundraiser!

This post was originally contributed by Abby Jarvis, Communications Coordinator for Qgiv, but has since been edited and updated.

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