Use this button to switch between dark and light mode.

How To Optimize Peer-to-Peer Fundraising During Giving Season

November 14, 2023 (5 min read)
Peer to peer fundraising campaigns create major opportunities for nonprofits.

As organizations gear up for 2023’s Giving Season, we’re calling attention to areas of fundraising that you might be undermining. Peer-to-peer fundraising, as a newer method, is certainly underestimated by organizations that prefer traditional routes. However, research shows that this area is well worth the time and investment.

Here’s everything you should know about peer-to-peer fundraising, and how to optimize your efforts to get the most out of this season.

What is peer-to-peer fundraising?

Essentially, this type of fundraising is when people encourage their friends, family, coworkers, etc. (hence “peers”) to donate to causes they’re passionate about. This can be done via word of mouth, but it is commonly seen today in digital formats.

If you have ever seen a Facebook friend post a callout for donations to an organization for their birthday, or an Instagram profile post a fundraiser goal, you’ve witnessed peer-to-peer fundraising in action. These people are acting on behalf of the nonprofit, either because they are particularly passionate about the nonprofit’s mission, or because of an incentive like meeting the entry requirements for a marathon.

MORE: Why you need to incorporate crowdfunding into your strategy

How to start a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign

To begin this type of campaign, organizations should first define the goals for peer-to-peer fundraising. Specific KPIs include number of shares, sum of donations, number of individuals donating or even impressions on a given social media post. Once that is completed, you’ll be able to better choose a platform to meet your needs. Whether it’s YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, etc., your platform can be informed by the KPI at hand.

Next up, you’ll want to find ambassadors within your community. Engaging your most interactive and excited people, whether they’re staff or social media followers, will help encourage others to join in on the campaign. From there, you can set up campaign pages on the proper platforms. That could look like a Facebook fundraiser that people can donate to, an Instagram “donate” button for followers to share, or any other way you find to congregate folks around this specific donation event.

Finally, track your progress from the campaign to update internal stakeholders and the people engaging in sharing the donation link. When you announce your progress to key followers, they might be more inclined to share or re-share — for instance, saying things like “Only $1,000 to go” encourages people to join in and help you get over the finish line.

MORE: Why nonprofits should treat Gen-Z donors as investments

Engaging your community for peer-to-peer fundraising

Something interesting about this type of fundraising is that it might already be happening under your nose. It’s important to begin optimizing peer-to-peer fundraising by identifying potential fundraisers among your existing supporters and volunteers—that could mean examining the social media presence of your biggest followers and seeing what makes people inclined to post about your organization.

You can also encourage more community engagement by making fundraisers easy. Provide tools, templates, and tips to get people started. For instance, teaching your followers how to create their own Instagram profile fundraiser through your own Instagram Stories is a great way to motivate people to craft their own.

Once the fundraisers have taken off, take time to thank the people hosting them for their efforts. You could create reward tiers or friendly competition as a motivator, too. Consider things like branded gifts, “hall of fame” posts for high fundraisers, and exclusive access to your nonprofit’s news as ways to entice people to join fundraising efforts.

MORE: Five tips to turn fundraising requests into must tell stories

Why peer-to-peer fundraising is effective

A 2022 study found that peer-to-peer fundraising was growing at 9X the rate of physical or hybrid fundraising. The study also saw that 44 non-profits generated $154.9 million from digital-first peer-to-peer fundraising programs in 2021, reflecting 30% growth over 2020 numbers.

Peer-to-peer fundraising inherently expands your reach because more people are sharing the fundraiser beyond just your social media pages. Peers who join the efforts tend to feel more connected to the nonprofits they raise funds for, and the low barrier to entry makes it cost-friendly for all parties.

Digital peer-to-peer can have incredible results. Take the Gaming for Good trend covered in our 2023 Trend Report for Development Professionals. “This time five years ago, streamers were making thousands of dollars for charities. These days, they’re easily raising six-to-seven figure sums” writes VentureBeat. The proof: Two well-known streamers held a streaming event on Twitch for Action Against Hunger. They raised $11.5 million in just three days.

MORE: Employee retention strategies during Giving Season

Challenges of peer-to-peer fundraising

Of course, there are downsides to this type of fundraising, as there are to any modality. Namely, it takes a large network for these fundraisers to take off. You need to have already built a following on social media so that you have a community ready to engage with your efforts.

The cost of attempting a peer-to-peer fundraiser with a smaller or less engaged audience could mean embarrassingly little interaction on your social posts. When launching this kind of campaign, small numbers could reflect poorly on your nonprofit, making it seem untrustworthy or unvetted.

MORE: Why nonprofit’s reputation can make a difference during Giving Season

Expanding your network with databases and relationship mapping

Luckily, there are plenty of steps to take toward expanding your network so that a too-small community won’t be an issue. Donor databases can help you research potential new donors and screen for prospects that actively engage with nonprofits like yours. Building a highly engaged, thoughtful community of donors is crucial to optimizing peer-to-peer fundraising.

You can also use relationship mapping using donor tracking software to map relationships between existing donors/volunteers to find connections. This could lead to more ease with leveraging board member networks and corporate matching programs as well. Wealth screening tools can then identify and validate potential high net worth prospects.

MORE: What is wealth screening?

Start your donor prospecting with Nexis for Development Professionals

Nexis for Development Professionals offers the above solutions, all in one space. You can map out existing donors, find prospective donors and organize profiles and campaigns so that the manual work is heavily decreased, allowing you to easily build a network of donors who can leverage their communities to help you meet your goals.

To learn more about how NDP can streamline your workflow this Giving Season, helping you to build and expand your network, check out our recent e-book “A Nonprofit's Guide to Donor Prospecting This Giving Season".