peer to peer fundraising

Everything You Need To Know To Get Started With Peer-to-Peer Fundraising


Fundraising for a nonprofit is a year-round job, so when you manage one, you are always on the lookout for the best fundraising ideas. Peer-to-peer fundraising is a great way to acquire donations, expand your support network, and increase awareness of your organization’s mission. But how exactly does peer-to-peer fundraising work?

In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about peer-to-peer fundraising: the basics of how it works, benefits and tips, strategies, and even event ideas. We hope that you are able to use some of the information presented here to make your nonprofit’s next fundraiser a huge success! 

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What is Peer-to-Peer Fundraising?

Before we get started on the finer points, we will begin by giving you an overview of peer-to-peer fundraising. Also known as P2P fundraising, it encourages individuals to run their own personal campaigns to raise money on behalf of a nonprofit. Unlike traditional donation letters, participants share online donation pages with their own friends and family, who often donate because they know and trust them. These donations go directly to your organization.


The Difference Between Peer-to-Peer Fundraising and Crowdfunding

I know what you may be thinking: crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising sound surprisingly similar, so what is the difference? We have got your back. While similar in nature, these fundraising campaigns have different uses.  

With crowdfunding, your nonprofit is the focal point. You create a landing page with a call to action for a time-based initiative, general donations, or to help you fund a certain project. Your network of friends, community supporters and beyond can visit this page and make a donation toward your cause. One of the most popular crowdfunding sites is called GoFundMe, and on it many people have raised money to help them cover medical expenses, the cost of their education, and more. Some of the best crowdfunding sites for nonprofits have helped organizations raise money they were struggling to gain elsewhere. 

In a peer-to-peer campaign, the focus is on the supporters of your cause. For example, say your local YMCA is hosting a half marathon to raise funds for summer camp. Each participant will reach out to their own networks to share that they are taking part in this event, and ask for donations on behalf of the YMCA to their personal fundraising pages. 


Why Opt for Peer-to-Peer Fundraising?

There are several benefits of peer-to-peer fundraising, but the main benefit is that it expands your network beyond your immediate community of supporters and regular donors. With each participant rallying their own friend and family groups, you extend your reach beyond the individuals your organization would typically interact with, sometimes because they simply do not know about your organization. What is more, because participants are appealing to their own peer groups, they are more likely to capture donations merely by word of mouth. Friends tend to have similar interests, and thus similar missions they support; the trust between them would make those who do not know your organization already more inclined to grasp, without much digging, that it is an organization worthy of supporting.

Corinne contemplating peer-to-peer fundraisingCorinne is contemplating if peer-to-peer fundraising is a good strategy for her nonprofit.

This form of fundraising also increases brand visibility by way of diversity - that is to say, it increases visibility among your supporters’ friends who may not hold the same interests already, but who may nonetheless be moved by a friend’s show of support to become a supporter themselves. By venturing into other people’s networks, your nonprofit’s mission becomes visible to those who may not know much about what and who your organization advocates for, or why it matters. 

Finally, peer-to-peer fundraising is very flexible, and caters to individuals with all different types of values and impetuses. Participants can create their own goals and appeal to anyone they choose to with their personal fundraising page. 


How to Get Started With Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Compared to many other types of fundraising campaigns, peer-to-peer fundraising is fairly easy to organize. Here are some steps to follow to set up your own peer-to-peer fundraising event. Be sure to investigate nonprofit grants if you are still in the process of bringing your humanitarian vision to life.

Step One: Come Up With a Fundraising Idea

There are any number of engaging events you can host to motivate your participants. We will share some different ideas later in this article, but a good way to get started is to have a brainstorming session with your team. 

It is important at this time to set up time and monetary goals for your campaign as well. As you will be relying on others to do the fundraising for you, it is reasonable to expect a higher outcome than an internally-organized fundraiser. It is perfectly acceptable to plan for an increase in donations of 10% and beyond. Be realistic, strike a healthy balance between your ambition and what generally falls within the realm of possibility, and you cannot go wrong.

To ensure that your campaign is hitting a chord with your participants, you can even take an informal survey of previous donors, members, and volunteers to find out what kinds of events they might find valuable and how to fit this into your existing donor lifecycle. 

Pro Tip: When surveying your supporters, do not leave the poll open-ended. Choose a few of the most popular ideas your team has come up with and have the recipient click on the option they like best. This not only ensures that more people will participate, but also avoids a situation in which your organization is flooded with a collection of conflicting or impractical suggestions. 

Step Two: Design a Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Page 

It is important to build and design a donation page that is both attractive and user-friendly. Choose a trusted nonprofit fundraising software to ensure that you have the features you need to create the best page for the job. 

The page you design serves as a template for your fundraising participants. Be sure that it represents your brand by including your story and mission statement, and the purpose of the campaign. 

Step Three: Recruit for Your Campaign

If you have never run a peer-to-peer fundraising event before, you may be wondering who to recruit for your campaign. The best participants for this type of social fundraising include:

  • Volunteers

  • Staff

  • Partners 

  • Board members

  • Attendees of past events

These people, especially those who have given recurring donations, will already have a good idea of your values and mission, and are already a part of your social network, making communication simple and easy. What is more, such a diverse group will open up paths to reaching a variety of potential donors and advocates from all walks of life. 

Step Four: Communicate Around Your Peer-to-Peer Event

While peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns are comparatively easy to run, they are not completely self-sufficient. You need to empower your fundraising team with the resources they will need to get started and to run a successful campaign. This includes things like: 

  • Fundraising scripts

  • Details of the campaign

  • Media kit and guidelines

  • Training 

Participants who have a thorough understanding of expectations and logistics will perform better, so make sure that they have access to all the necessary tools and information BEFORE you get started. 

Pro Tip: The more information participants have, the more they will communicate correctly and in a harmonious manner which only improves your brand awareness!

Step Five: Keep Your Peers Motivated 

Motivation is key to running a strong event. Keep your peers motivated by encouraging them on social media, and by sending them emails that acknowledge their progress. Perhaps you could have all of your participants come together for a luncheon once a week or every few weeks, at a restaurant or even at your nonprofit’s headquarters. Everyone getting together and chatting about what is meaningful to them regarding the work they are doing, as well as the progress they have made, can boost the overall spirit of the mission.

Everyone starts out motivated, but when they have saturated their networks, people tend to give up (which is normal). Keep participants motivated by sending them goodies the more they fundraise, and be sure to thank them every step of the way. Thank everyone with emails, cards, or phone calls both during the campaign and when it is over. You can also host a celebration at the end of each milestone your fundraising event meets to say thank you, and procure gifts for the participants who have brought in the most donations. 


Top Tips When Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

There are so many ways to attract people to your cause. Here we list some of the best practices to help your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign have the maximum impact. 

oliver is ready for fundraising tipsOliver is ready for some fundraising tips!

Incorporate storytelling. Practice storytelling with attractive visuals to showcase the impact that your peers are having. Stories create connections, and they drive the impact of your message in a way that even a fun, well-run event cannot fully accomplish.  

Include stories of people whose lives your nonprofit has touched. If you can work with them to create an impactful video message, all the better. You can speak to the beginnings of your vision, why the organization was started, and who it helps. Talk to the people who volunteer or work for the organization, and share their stories too. 

Use Multiple Channels to Communicate. Whether sharing information, boosting numbers, or encouraging your participants, abundant communication is key! Create an email template to make it easier to send out fundraising emails to friends and family. Include information and graphics to make your mission clear. 

Create an event page on social media that can be easily shared, and post frequently. You can include stories about work you have done in the past, pictures of what you do or the people you have helped, and your future plans for your nonprofit. 

You can even send letters the old-fashioned way to get the word out. By providing a letter template to your supporters, they can send out handwritten notes to their families and friends to encourage giving. You can either include a pre-addressed and prepaid envelope for donations, or you can provide a QR code on the letter template itself so that the recipient will be taken directly to the donation page. 

Pro Tip: Take some time now to save time later, by developing a strong communication plan. Do not underestimate the power of mediums such as social media or email. 

Promote Matching Gifts. What many donors do not know is that their donations to your peer-to-peer campaign could be eligible for donation matching with a local business. Actively promote this opportunity to your partners through email or social media. Participation increases when donors understand that their gift can be doubled without reaching further into their pockets. 

Use a corporate matching gift search tool if your peer-to-peer fundraising software offers one; this tool makes it easy for donors to look up eligibility for matches right from the donation confirmation page. 

Sell Event Merchandise. This is a great way to pull in some extra cash while advertising your event. People love to feel like they are a part of something, so lean into this with apparel or other merchandise that commemorates the fundraiser. You can even create a special prize for your top earner to boost motivation. 

Use Text to Give. Making donating as simple as possible will increase your chance for gifts tenfold. Imagine how easy it will be for your donors to simply text you their donation! If you have the time, and it fits your donor profile, give it a try as text donations are particularly effective with P2P. But don't forget that every donation, regardless of where it comes from, requires a donation receipt


The Best Examples of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Let’s take a look at some popular fundraising events, including everything from live happenings, to online fundraising, to Giving Tuesday!

Bake Sale

bake sale for body armor

Seen here is the group "Bake Sale for Body Armor" hosting - you guessed it - a bake sale! This nonprofit was created by a woman who wanted to raise money to properly outfit our troops.

A simple, low-cost choice that can offer great returns is a charity bake-off. Create a theme (ideally one that is related to your cause) and recruit your participants. Charge a small entrance fee for the bakers, and then have them promote and sell tickets to the event itself. Motivation is strong for everyone–there is competition for the bakers, and delicious treats for the attendees. 

Sporting Events 

race for hope washington dc fundraising

The National Brain Tumor Society hosted a 5k walk/run the first weekend in May to raise money for and awareness around the need for a cure.

Sporting events are always popular, as they combine fun, fitness, and fundraising. Sponsored runs or walks are a great option, and they can be themed according to season as well: Zombie runs for Halloween, Turkey Trots for Thanksgiving, Ring in the New Year, and any other theme you can imagine. 

Pub Crawls

pub crawl example to raise funds

This Santa-themed pub crawl also serves as a toy drive to benefit families that have fallen on hard times in Park City, Utah.

Combine the fun of a pub crawl with the beneficence of nonprofit fundraising. Reach out to local bars, pubs, and restaurants to see if they can offer discounts or percentage nights, then create a pub crawl around these establishments. You can up the ante with teams and challenges at each location, or even add a scavenger hunt aspect to the event. 

Another way to run this type of event is to have participants purchase a ticket that offers free drinks at a number of establishments. Whichever way you choose to do your pub crawl, it is a great opportunity to boost your social media presence. Create a community page and encourage crawlers to post pictures on social media, check in to the event, and share (just be sure to thoroughly check out the photos posted in advance). Prizes can be offered to those who complete a series of social media challenges. 

Note: Be careful about promoting alcohol consumption in the nonprofit space. While it can be fun, it is something that your nonprofit should be used to managing!

Game Nights

game nights as a fundraising

This game night raised $25k for Bentworth Blessings, a nonprofit that provides food, health items and a community grocery pantry for Bentworth School District students in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Competition is a great way to keep everyone engaged without really having to expend a lot of effort. Most people love games, and the naturally competitive nature of playing to win can really motivate your participants. Plus, there is a never-ending variety of options. Here are just a few ideas: 

  • Trivia

  • Virtual bowling

  • Online gaming

  • Batting challenge

  • Golf driving, putting, or chipping challenge 

Golf Days

fundraising through golf event

This golf marathon raised nearly $70k for Hope Hospice, a nonprofit that helps families fund end-of-life care in their community.

Many nonprofits take advantage of the popularity of golf to create exciting fundraising campaigns. There are a ton of ways you can elevate a simple golf day to increase impact (and fun). You can create foursomes that can fundraise and compete as a team. 

Each and every hole is an opportunity for competitions between teams or individuals–for example, one hole can be "longest drive", while another rewards the "most accurate chip", or "least strokes played". 

You can even combine your peer to peer with a corporate sponsorship event. Have a corporate sponsor "golf-off" and allow your participants and sponsors to network on and off the course. 

The A-Thon

swim a thon virtual fundraiser example

This swim-a-thon took place at Lake Mohawk Pool in Sparta Township, New Jersey and benefited a local organization called Pass It Along, which helps teenagers find confidence, resilience and compassion through growth-oriented education and events.

There are a ton of activities that can be launched under the "a-thon" format. Think about what values your organization champions, and you can probably find a way to tweak them toward it. For example, read-a-thons are very popular for educational nonprofits. Health-related organizations can promote swim-a-thons, spin-a-thons, run-a-thons, or any similar fitness activity. These can be run as either in-person or virtual events. 

An extra benefit of using this kind of event is that it helps create friendly competition as participants strive to hit the most books, miles, or whatever it is that represents your organization during the "a-thon".

Holiday Parties

 fundraising holiday party example

The Surfrider Foundation, which focuses on cleaning up the ocean and its coastlines across America, hosts a holiday party every year to commemorate its members.

Host a gala event and there is no end to the themes or add-ons you can create. The party itself is a public event hosted by your membership board, with invitations going out to all members, volunteers, donors, and any of their family or friends they would care to invite. Tickets have a set price, which can include extras like live music or an open bar. 

Many nonprofits also offer a tiered ticket structure. A regular ticket may cost $100 and include the party itself. A VIP ticket may offer a spot at a premium table, while a Platinum ticket includes a meet and greet with key board members, or even a celebrity supporter. 

In addition, any holiday party can be combined with other fundraising plans. You can hold a charity raffle for a variety of prizes, or run a silent auction at your party to multiply the donations. 

Dance Marathons

dance marathon to raise funds
The nonprofit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals hosted dance marathon events nationwide in 2017 that earned them $38 million.

These are excellent events for organizations with large population pools from which to recruit participants, like schools or hospitals. Individuals or teams use their social networks to raise money, and then all you need is a large space and a band or DJ. It is also a good idea to provide food and drink, which can be used as another way to raise money. 

An event like a dance marathon can also be paired up with a silent auction. These silent auction ideas can help you learn how to do so.

Video Challenges

video challenge as peer-to-peer fundraising

The Sprite challenge has gained traction on TikTok. While it does not specifically aim to benefit a nonprofit, is is clear that organizations could reach just as many people by creating a challenge along these lines.

This can be a fairly cheap and simple way to recruit participants and gather donations. All you need is an idea. Video challenges can be as simple as the viral ALS "ice bucket challenge" in which participants dumped ice over themselves, donated to the cause, then tagged someone else to participate. 

Other organizations have events like push-up challenges, hot-pepper eating challenges, among others. Challenges are fun, inherently competitive, easy for supporters, and offer the opportunity for your nonprofit to go viral if the event captures the public’s imagination.

Scavenger Hunt

peer to peer fundraising with scavenger huntSource: Lucas County Sustainability Commission

This scavenger hunt served the dual purpose of helping this nonprofit spread awareness of their mission, and actually address it at the same time!

A fun way to fundraise, get outside, and spread awareness is to hold a community scavenger hunt. Pre-assign locations to which participants can bike, hike, or drive in your area. At each checkpoint have them answer a question related to a theme (ideally related to your nonprofit mission). 

Each individual or team pays to play, and you can wind up the whole event with a big outdoor party with prizes. 

Casino Night

casino night example to raise funds

This casino night was held to raise money for a nonprofit called Bryson’s Chase, which aims to raise awareness around mental health issues in youth in Colorado.

Motivate your participants by having them use their personal donation pages to gather money from their social networks - the more money they collect, the more chips they collect to spend at the tables at your Casino Night event. 

You can run the event itself as a live or virtual event, using games of chance and wagers to give out any number of prizes that have been donated by corporate sponsors. 

Birthday Fundraiser

 facebook birthday fundraisersSource: Facebook

Facebook birthday fundraisers have gained a lot of traction in recent years.

The birthday peer-to-peer fundraiser is a great way to bring in donations all year round. Send out emails to your members, donors, and other supporters on their birthday to wish them a happy birthday and to encourage them to raise money for your nonprofit’s cause. 

Facebook even makes it super simple for people to run a birthday fundraiser by making it an option on their platform. If someone decides to run a birthday fundraising campaign for your nonprofit, be sure to share it on your own social media page and wish them a happy birthday as well. 


Final Thoughts

Peer-to-peer fundraising is an amazing way to capitalize on the social networks of your supporters, the powerful reach of social media, and the innate human capacity for competition to really maximize the profits for your nonprofit donation campaign. 

In many cases, all you really need is a good idea, reliable peer-to-peer fundraising software, and a group of enthusiastic individuals. There is almost no end to the ways you can run these events, so even the smallest nonprofit can create a successful peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. Feel free to use one of the many ideas offered in this guide, and get ready to spread your mission to an enthusiastic community. 

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đź’ˇIs peer-to-peer fundraising effective?

Absolutely. Peer-to-peer fundraising allows your organization to harness the power of social networks to reach more people than would be possible with traditional fundraising. Find out more. 

🔑 What is peer-to-peer fundraising?

This form of fundraising encourages members, volunteers, and other supporters to use their own connections to raise money for your organization. For example, running a bike-a-thon in which participants have their friends and family donate to the event through their own donation page. Find out more. 

đź“ťHow do you encourage peer-to-peer fundraising?

You can encourage peer-to-peer fundraising in any number of ways. Create a fun event, remind members of birthday giving drives, create an awareness campaign, or even start a social media challenge. All of these are forms of P2P fundraising, and some require very little investment. Find out more.  


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