What is "Peer-to-Peer Fundraising"?

Written by
Sam Harton

What is "Peer-to-Peer Fundraising"?

Written by
Sam Harton

Peer-to-Peer fundraising is a form of crowdfunding that relies on your existing donors to use their own networks to grow support for your nonprofit. Also known as social fundraising or team fundraising, peer-to-peer fundraising forces you to rely on your current donors as they will be the ones creating fundraising pages and reaching out to their friends and family to gather support for your cause.

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The key to gaining momentum through peer-to-peer fundraising is to personally engage your existing donors so that they feel compelled to spread your message to their own networks. Rather than taking a sort of blanket approach with your marketing that focuses on mass appeal, you’re hoping to get a solid group of people who already support your cause and have valuable networks and the desire to share your campaign with them. According to Classy,  the average fundraiser raises $568 from 7 donors, 4 of whom will be new to your organization, so the peer-to-peer method can be very effective not only in maximizing donations but also in gaining new supporters of your cause.

Peer-to-peer fundraising gives your existing donor-base a personal relationship to your cause. Your organization becomes something that people share with their friends, family, and community, rather than just a cause they donated money to once or twice. 

Your organization will function as a source of connection in these individuals’ lives, so it’s important that you work hard to engage these communities and give them a reason to actively support you, which you can do by creating a compelling story that captivates audiences, old and new, and gives them some sort of emotional connection to your organization’s work. 

There are a lot of great causes and nonprofit organizations out there, so you need to find what makes yours unique enough so that whole communities will rally around it.

That being said, if you want large groups of people to hop on your cause’s bandwagon, make sure you’re not just appealing to a large group of existing donors but that you’re targeting the right kind of donors. If you’re an organization dedicated to helping under-resourced teenagers by providing an after-school music community, find potential donors with networks in the music and education worlds. Teachers, musicians, venue owners, and parents would all have a personal stake in the success of your cause, and thus would be great assets in growing your donor-base through peer-to-peer fundraising.  

A big part of peer-to-peer fundraising happens digitally, with existing donors creating campaigns on your behalf. If these donors are particularly active on social media, you’ll probably see some solid monetary results. One way to maximize this kind of campaigning is to have it center around some sort of celebration. A lot of people are beginning to ask for donations to a certain nonprofit instead of asking for birthday gifts or setting up a wedding registry. If you have a donor interested in doing this kind of campaigning for your cause, you can gain a lot of donations and visibility.

Social media, though, can often feel disconnected, and since peer-to-peer fundraising is all about personal appeal and community connection, in-person fundraising can be more effective in captivating audiences for the long-term. Online, new networks of people may make significant donations to your cause, which is valuable. But if one of your donors can host an event that brings their network together to support your cause, that will create a long-lasting personal connection between your cause and that community.  You should include printable materials on your website to make it easy for anyone to represent your cause in a concise, well-designed format if they are interested in hosting an event.

A few years ago, a friend of mine was an enormous fan of a local artist, and wanted to support their work by doing more than just buying paintings. So they hosted a party, invited fifty or so of their friends, showcased the artist’s work, and even had the artist do a demonstration of their techniques. Not only did the artist sell ten paintings at the party, but he also gained a whole new base of supporters in just one night. This is how peer-to-peer fundraising should work. The leaders of your nonprofit will have networks that only reach so far, but if you can find supporters willing to spread your message and bring their own communities together to support your cause, you will see growth not only in your donation box, but in your base of consistent supporters.