Is Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Right for Your Nonprofit?

Friends Asking Friends May Be the Secret Sauce for Better Fundraising

Peers holding smart phones
Don't miss out on the power of peer-to-peer fundraising for your nonprofit. Tim Robberts/Taxi/Getty Images

Did you ever go door-to-door selling chocolates and gift-wrap for your school? Have you ever attended a community fair to raise money for neighborhood improvements? How about asking friends and family to sponsor you in a race or marathon?

Now a popular way to raise money online, peer-to-peer fundraising has actually been around for decades.

Of course, selling wrapping paper to your neighbors and having supporters personally raise funds for your cause are two different things.

So how do you determine whether peer-to-peer fundraising is right for you and your nonprofit?

Let’s start by learning a little more about it.

What is Peer-to-Peer Fundraising?

Known at times as personal fundraising, peer-to-peer fundraising means asking your supporters to spread the word about your cause and to raise money on your behalf. It thrives on personal relationships and networks and is made easier these days by social media.

So easy, in fact, that many individuals and organizations are giving it a try and finding success. In 2014, contributions to the 30 largest peer-to-peer fundraising programs in the U.S. totaled $1.62 billion.  And that’s just the 30 largest programs. All types and sizes of nonprofits are finding success with this method.

What are the Benefits?

It isn’t surprising that peer-to-peer fundraising is growing so much right now.

Organizations everywhere are trying to reach bigger goals with smaller budgets, smaller teams, and considerably more to do.

With such steep constraints on time, money, resources, and effort, development teams need to find more efficient and effective ways of working.

Peer-to-peer fundraising can create all sorts of efficiencies for your team thanks to its reliance on relationships, conservation of resources, and reach.


In a traditional fundraising model, you work for each dollar, pursuing each donor. You only reach the people who interact with your message—be it direct mail, traditional advertising, or the asks you put out in your email newsletter or on your website.

But the size of your network limits you.

Peer-to-peer fundraising takes advantage of the relationships you’ve created with your supporters and the relationships those supporters have with their family, friends, and acquaintances.

For example, let’s imagine that Katie, a supporter of yours, is connected to 500 friends on Facebook. Now let’s imagine that Katie creates a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign for your organization. When she posts about her campaign on Facebook, your message has the potential to reach 500 new people.

Even if only 5% of Katie’s network responds, that is still 25 donations that you would otherwise not have gotten and 25 new people who are aware of your cause. And if those 25 new people also post about Katie’s campaign, well, you can see how the exposure to your message will grow.

Rather than relying on your reach alone, peer-to-peer fundraising puts your relationships to work for you.


More than ever, you have limited resources.

Traditional ways of fundraising may put a strain on your team and budget.

Peer-to-peer fundraising spreads the work and shares it among your supporters.

Let’s go back to our example with Katie.  With some upfront materials and a bit of support along the way, Katie will run her campaign and promote it among her friends. Her ability to take on some of the work that you would normally be doing frees you up to focus on other things such as sponsorships, partnerships, and your high-value donors.


Traditional marketing has a rather limited reach. Your email marketing can only reach people who have asked for information from you. Your website reaches only those who visit. Even your social media activities reach only those who have connected with you.

But your supporters have extensive networks. Their reach extends far beyond the people you have connected with and introduces new audiences to your message and your cause.

But is it Right for You?

Now that you know what peer-to-peer fundraising is and understand how it might benefit you and your organization, let’s think through whether or not it is right for you.

Though it delivers tremendous advantages, crowdfunding is not for everyone.

Before you launch that effort to engage your supporters, take a moment to think through your answers to these questions:

  • Do you have a strong tie to a current event or holiday?
    Is there a national and international commemoration related to your cause, such as International Women’s Day or Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Do you mark any important anniversaries related to your cause or your work? Do any of your issues appear in regular news cycles? A tie to current events helps make campaigns and asks more relevant.
  • Do your ambassadors understand your cause?
    To run a successful campaign, your supporters must really know about your cause. They must live and breathe your message and share that passion. That is how they will convince their friends and family to donate.
  • Do you need to raise a significant amount of money in a short amount of time?
    The most successful peer-to-peer campaigns have clear goals as well as clear beginnings and ends. People respond well to deadlines, making peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns an effective way to raise significant sums over short periods of time.
  • Are you looking for new ways to grow your community?
    Peer-to-peer fundraising will introduce new audiences to your message. It can be an excellent way to breathe new life into your supporter base and maybe even find a few new ambassadors along the way.

Ready to Get Started?

If you’ve determined that peer-to-peer fundraising is right for you, here are a few final steps before you launch in.

Step 1: Get materials ready to share.

Before you release your message into the wild, prepare some materials in a toolkit to send to your supporters. You’ll want to include:

  • A one-sheet with major campaign details and FAQs
  • Canned social media posts, campaign hashtags and links to share.
  • Logos, Graphics, and Pictures to share on social media or in printed material
  • A calendar marking important dates, events, and suggested social media posts
  • An email template they can fill in and use to share their campaign.

Step 2: Prepare to offer support.

Appoint someone from your nonprofit to follow up with your fundraisers. When someone reaches out from your organization, it shows your supporters that you’re helping them, and they’ll feel more confident moving forward. Check in with your supporters and ask how their campaigns are going, if they have any questions, and offer them tips. The more engaged you are with them, the more successful their campaigns will be.

Step 3: Encourage Supporters To Share Their Stories.

When fundraisers share their stories, they’re taking ownership of the campaign and making the cause personal. Learn to trust your supporters with spreading your message. Remember that your supporters will often put their spin on things and incorporate a little bit of themselves into their campaign. Such sharing may feel scary at first but remember that sharing is what drew your supporters to you in the first place. Their personal touch only adds to your message.

As the CEO of CauseVox, Rob Wu is considered a peer-to-peer fundraising expert. Nonprofits use CauseVox to create fundraising websites that facilitate peer-to-peer activity. You’ll want to follow Rob and his team to keep up with this fast-moving field.