How to start peer-to-peer fundraising like a pro

Written by
Rachel MillsWhite arrow icon

How to start peer-to-peer fundraising like a pro

We’ve all heard that “teamwork makes the dream work,” especially when it comes to fundraising, spreading awareness, and creating change. But peer-to-peer fundraising is a money-raising strategy that actually brings this idea to life. 

Instead of asking your supporters to donate money and spread the word as usual, you recruit them to raise funds by tapping into their social circle and asking their friends, family members, co-workers, and so on to donate to your cause. Cool, right? You can adopt this method for a one-time event (like a walkathon or birthday fundraiser) or an ongoing campaign (like an open-ended funding request to renovate a building).

Like any fundraising strategy, you’ll need to know the essentials, best practices, and surefire ideas to hit your goal. We’ve got you covered! Learn what peer-to-peer fundraising is all about, including why it works, how to choose the right idea, and how to launch your campaign. You’ll also see examples of successful peer campaigns to get your creative wheels turning. 

A closer look at peer-to-peer fundraising 

friends team GIF by AwesomenessTV

Peer-to-peer fundraising isn’t exactly a new idea. It’s also known as P2P fundraising, social fundraising, personal fundraising, or team fundraising. You might recognize it from endurance marathons or 5Ks, for instance, when participants pledge to run a mile for every $15 their friends donate. School readathons and dance marathons are other popular types of peer fundraising campaigns. 

So, why are these campaigns cropping up more and more? New online fundraising tools have made peer-to-peer fundraising easy as pie and more powerful than ever, whether you’re the founder of a nonprofit organization or an individual fundraiser. With a powerful peer fundraising platform, your team of peer fundraisers can quickly reach out to their entire network via social media, email, text, and more. 

Each team member usually has their own personal fundraising page that supports your main fundraising page. They can explain your mission, engage with their friends, and accept donations that go straight to your cause. Not only does this create a sense of ownership and accountability, but it gives them a place to make their fundraising appeal in their own words. 

After all, giving isn’t a business transaction — it’s based on genuine human connections. Nearly four in 10 Americans have donated to a charity just because a family member or friend asked them to. By allowing volunteer fundraisers to take the lead, they can vouch for your cause and help you accomplish more in less time. 

Peer-to-peer fundraising vs. crowdfunding 

Peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising and crowdfunding are often confused because they both involve asking large numbers of people for (relatively) small donations. They’re pretty similar, but there are a few key differences, like the number of fundraisers and fundraising pages, and how goals are set. 

P2P campaigns typically have one organization or person overseeing a team of individual fundraisers. This could be anywhere from three to 300 different campaigners raising money, each with their own peer fundraising page. Sometimes, organizers give team members their own mini fundraising goals. (For instance, you could have your experienced, well-connected supporters aim to raise $1,000 each while your new supporters aim for $200.) 

Crowdfunding campaigns are also typically managed by one organization or person. Instead of recruiting individuals, crowdfunders build off their own network of connections and promote their campaign far and wide, hoping to create positive word-of-mouth and draw donors from every possible source. They usually make one main fundraising page using a crowdfunding website and focus on one goal, like raising $200,000 to launch a nonprofit pet adoption service.

Why peer-to-peer fundraising works

Nonprofit organizations and individuals love this fundraising method for a few reasons. Here’s a snapshot: 

  • 😊  It builds on existing relationships: Getting past “hello” and convincing potential donors takes time and resources you may not have. Peer fundraisers can skip this step and focus on winning support from their inner circle. 
  •  It maximizes the impact of all your resources: P2P campaigners are volunteers, which reduces costs and saves time for you and/or your paid staff. (You’ll still need to train your volunteers for the most success — more on that later.) 
  • 📣  It’s an organic way to raise awareness: People are more receptive to requests and information from people they know, and there’s nothing more organic than a message from a friend. A P2P campaign may also remove the need for expensive marketing and advertising campaigns. 
  • 💪  It makes your supporters feel empowered: A P2P campaign offers your most passionate, engaged followers a way to do more than donate or volunteer. They can get hands-on and actively contribute to your mission, strengthening their commitment to your cause. 
  • 🏆 It creates friendly competition: P2P platforms are unique because they add gamification to fundraising with features like leaderboards, mini goals, and fundraising thermometers. Competitive individuals will be vying for the “top fundraiser” spot. 

Starting a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign

film GIF by Paramour on Broadway
Peer-to-peer campaigns have the potential to rally entire communities, cultivate tons of new donors, and drive serious dollars toward your fundraising goal.

It all starts with preparation and planning. Here are six key steps to launch a P2P campaign: 

  1. Determine a realistic fundraising goal based on your project, budget, number of staff and volunteers, timeline, and so on. 
  2. Come up with a great campaign idea to make it happen (see ideas in the next section!)
  3. Sign up for peer-to-peer fundraising software and create your main fundraising campaign page.
  4. Recruit a team of enthusiastic P2P fundraisers and have them set up their own personal campaign pages. 
  5. Equip your team for success by sharing plenty of fundraising resources, like a donation request script, high-quality images and videos that showcase your cause, and fundraising FAQs. 
  6. Track your P2P fundraisers’ progress, sharing updates, providing tips, answering questions, and giving thanks along the way. 

We’ve also put together a list of peer-to-peer campaign best practices to help you take your fundraising efforts to the next level. 

Choosing the right peer fundraising campaign idea💡

Well Done Applause GIF by MOODMAN

Just about anything can be an effective P2P fundraising event, from a black-tie gala or webinar to a local bake sale or give-it-up challenge. What matters most is that your idea will excite and motivate your target peer fundraisers. Your team members have to be comfortable asking people in their social circle to participate. Consider factors like the age, income level, and location of your team members. 

You can use this list of P2P fundraising ideas that work year after year as a starting point: 

  • Fitness events like 5Ks, dance marathons, and basketball shoot-a-thons
  • Contests and tournaments, like trivia, game night, or a golf tournament
  • Unique social challenges, like the Ice Bucket Challenge or No Shave November 
  • Merchandise sales, like T-shirt sales, gourmet cookie sales, etc.  
  • Corporate matching gift campaigns

Another pro tip? Look for ways to add in friendly competition (and rewards to match), like being the first to sell 15 tickets or secure one major gift of $500. It’s a great way to make that extra email or phone call worth their while.  

Successful peer fundraising campaigns to inspire you

Learn from the best — each of these three awesome campaigns and events beat their initial fundraising goals and demonstrated the power of peer-to-peer fundraising.

1. Project Restore Us Winter Fundraiser

peer to peer fundraising: Project Restore Us Winter Fundraiser by Givebutter

Raised: $54,067

Why we love it: Project Restore Us provides a grocery delivery service that keeps Massachusetts restaurants in business, their workers employed, and their community well-fed. Keeping with that spirit of unity, they recruited companies, universities, and individuals as peer fundraisers to help them deliver a month's worth of groceries to over 200 families.

2. Building Blocks for Change

peer to peer fundraising: Building Blocks for Change by Givebutter

Raised: $37,162

Why we love it: When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down their signature fundraising event, organizers for the G.W.C. Brown Legacy Education Fund didn’t falter. They launched Building Blocks for Change, a peer fundraising campaign championed by nearly 30 Alpha Phi Alpha alumni and supporters. Their efforts paid off, allowing them to raise over $7,000 more than their original goal and provide scholarship awards to students.

3. Cannonball Kids Pediatric Cancer Run 

peer to peer fundraising: Cannonball Kids Pediatric Cancer Run by Givebutter

Raised: $27,725

Why we love it: Cannonball Kids Cancer aims to fund innovative, accessible research and clinical trials for children fighting cancer, with one driving belief: “Research is the key.” Their community-wide fundraising marathon — each mile named for a cancer warrior or angel — inspired nearly 300 fundraisers and givers to walk, run, or donate to their cause.  

Work together, win together 

My Team GIF by The Voice
There’s nothing more powerful than individual fundraisers joining together to work toward one goal.

Launching a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign empowers your supporters to get hands-on, raise money, and rally volunteers. They also have the ability to discover, create, and strengthen relationships with people in their social network who will keep supporting your cause long after the campaign is over. 

If you’re ready to get started, create your free Givebutter account and see the power of a peer-to-peer campaign for yourself.

Written By

Written by
Rachel Mills
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.