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Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: 5 Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

wrong way

Peer-to-peer fundraising is exactly as it sounds, fundraising between peers. It’s a process through which a nonprofit makes strategic use of its existing support network by encouraging those supporters to reach out to their peers, coworkers, and other contacts for donations.

In other words, peer-to-peer fundraising (P2P) mobilizes your supporters to collect donations on your behalf. Those donations are typically accepted through individual fundraising pages run by your supporters.

Often, you’ll see P2P campaigns that piggyback on fundraising events. Why? Well, peer-to-peer is a cost-effective approach to fundraising that serves as the perfect lead in to events that have a higher upfront cost. Peer-to-peer fundraisers pair best with sporting events, concerts, 5k races, and similar activities, all of which can be marketed online alongside a P2P campaign.

If peer-to-peer fundraising has piqued your interest, it’s best that you approach your campaign with a carefully planned strategy in place. To help you do just that, below we’ve outlined 5 common mistakes nonprofits make (and their solutions!):

  1. Failing to strategize your type
  2. Not recruiting the right supporters
  3. Forgetting to gamify the process
  4. Lack of attention during the campaign
  5. Leaving new prospects behind

Read on to learn how your nonprofit can avoid these pitfalls.

1. Failing to strategize your type

P2P campaigns are sprawling and therefore, require careful planning. If proper preparation is ignored, the campaign won’t see to its potential and reach maximum success. Luckily for nonprofits, there is plenty of software to help.

When choosing a peer-to-peer provider, you’ll want to assess:

  • How user-friendly the platform is.
  • What customization options you have.
  • How the software will interact with your existing software.

After deciding on a software, you’ll want to think about the type of P2P campaign you want to coordinate. First, you’ll want to decide if the fundraiser should be event-based or online:

  • Online campaigns are the most versatile because you’re not going to be restricted by time or place.
  • Event-based campaigns will serve as a lead in to one specific event, usually occurring over one day or weekend.

Beyond deciding between an online and an event-based peer-to-peer fundraiser, you’ll also want to consider the timing

  • Time-based campaigns simply have a timeline, which can be a few days, months, or even a year. It’s up to you.
  • Rolling campaigns can be linked to an event, however, these campaigns continue until the fundraising goal has been reached, regardless of the time elapsed, so for example, you can have a kickoff event and proceed to raise money for the following week.

Peer-to-peer giving days are condensed fundraisers, challenging the nonprofit to raise as much money as possible in 24 hours or less. The stressed timeframe often encourages donors, enticing them to give, resulting in large and speedy donations.

You can also hire a consultant to better structure your campaign. In an effort to reach your goals, a consultant can aid your nonprofit’s P2P campaign with:

  1. Campaign planning
  2. Technology implementation
  3. Event coordination
  4. Stewardship and retention strategies

The bottom line: Peer-to-peer campaigns are sprawling and take a careful attention to detail to execute.

2. Not recruiting the right supporters

P2P campaigns can succeed and fail based on which supporters nonprofits ally with. Launching a campaign without a strong circle of fundraisers could mean you finish short of your goal.

Look into your current supporter network to find the right recruits. A strong supporter will have:

  • Strong connections to your organization and your cause.
  • Time to be involved in an upcoming campaign.
  • A broad network of connections to reach out to.

Once you’ve found your most suitable donors to participate, you can begin the process by asking them to participate and then sending them emails, updating them on the status of the fundraiser.

From this point on, you’ll give your donors templates and suggestions so they can promote your campaign via:

  • Posts on social media
  • Emails and mail
  • Word of mouth

While your peer-to-peer supporters might have all the connections, enthusiasm, and drive needed to be successful, it’s also likely that they won’t be well-versed in fundraising. Your assistance throughout the process will be critical. You should provide:

  • Templates for social media posts
  • Simple training videos
  • Scheduled meetings to discuss fundraising methods
  • Help to set up the online donation software

Hold their hands through this process because after all, they’re fundraising and doing work for your direct benefit.

The bottom line: Be careful and deliberate in your recruitment of your initial peer-to-peer supporters, and once they join in your efforts, make sure to provide as much assistance as possible. Their success is your success.

3. Forgetting to gamify the process

P2P should evoke some friendly competition and be fun for participants. If your fundraiser isn’t of interest to potential donors, you don’t have potential donors.

A big step in ensuring this happens is gamifying the process with the help of tools like fundraising thermometers, merchandise and leaderboards.

  • Fundraising thermometers: During an event, you can create a physical thermometer to represent the money raised. Online, you can add a thermometer to your donation page. As the rate and size of your donations increase, the temperature of your thermometer will rise, too, providing an immediately gratifying result for donors to see.
  • Merchandise: Offer merchandise as an incentive for potential donors. Incentives should be divided out by level. For instance, someone who gives $100 might get a water bottle. And someone who gives $500 might get a water bottle and a t-shirt. Or, to reward your P2P fundraisers, for example, you can give a specialized t-shirt when they recruit 20 new donors. Of course, raising money is your bottom line, so budget appropriately and make sure that your incentive plan won’t break the bank.
  • Leaderboards: These evoke a good sense of competition. If you send a weekly email listing each donor’s position on the leaderboard, you may see some donors competing to donate more than another donor. You can encourage this competition by offering a prize, such as a special experience, to whoever can secure the #1 donation spot by the end of the fundraiser.

You can get more fundraising ideas from this Booster resource. It includes additional gamified fundraising ideas like t-shirt fundraisers and calendar fundraisers.

The bottom line: Gamification puts the fun in fundraising and will help spark competition among supporters as they get to show off their badges and raise the stakes.

4. Lack of attention during the campaign

Although your supporters are doing the fundraising, it's important that nonprofits oversee the efforts to maximize donations and avoid a campaign failure. Keep in mind:

  • Donor acquisition: Focus on recruiting new donors during your peer-to-peer campaign. This is a key goal and benefit of the P2P model, so it will be a great performance metric.
  • Average donation size: How generous are current and new supporters being during your fundraiser? Dive into the data, looking to identify what actions are driving the best results and implement changes accordingly.
  • Overall involvement: Again, remember to hold your donors’ hands during the fundraising process so you’re both on the same page. A lack of communication will result in fewer donations and might damage your relationship with your P2P fundraisers.
  • Average number of new supporters per fundraiser: A main goal is for your current donors to bring in new supporters during this campaign. Look at where and how you’re promoting your fundraiser to see who you’re reaching and who you’re missing.

The bottom line: Even though your supporters are taking the fundraising lead when it comes to P2P, your nonprofit still needs to guide their efforts. Keep a watchful eye on the campaign to ensure success.

5. Leaving new prospects behind

P2P fundraising gives nonprofits the opportunity to organically expand their supporter base; this is done in vain if nonprofits don't pick up the stewardship slack and bring these new prospects into the fold, so be sure to acknowledge every donation and donor.

Here are a few ideas for how to do so:

  • Record a video: By adding a personal touch, you can thank your donors with a simple YouTube video. You can send a link, public or private, via email.
  • Send a photograph: If creating a video is daunting, try a photograph of your team. You can send this via email and personalize the message depending on the level of donation.
  • Send a thank you card: Go the traditional route and send a personalized thank you card, mentioning their specific contributions to your P2P campaign.
  • Send out your newsletter: Show your appreciation for your donors by mentioning them in your next newsletter so all of your newsletter recipients can see the impact each donor had. Your donors will appreciate this significant and public recognition.

The bottom line: Expressing gratitude to your new donors will start to transition them from one-time donors to recurring donors, adding to both the success of your P2P fundraiser and the overall success of your nonprofit.


Throughout managing your nonprofit’s P2P campaign, make sure your organization’s message remains prominent. Don’t pressure your fundraisers, but remember to support them with instructional videos and communication. Be helpful, not controlling, in order to strengthen new and existing relationships, and you’re sure to reach your goals.

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Image credit

Ronald Pruitt

Ronald Pruitt

Since founding 4aGoodCause in 1998, Ronald has had the joy of doing what he loves - building software that makes a difference in the world. For almost 20 years, Ronald and the 4aGoodCause online fundraising platform have helped raise millions of dollars for nonprofits from Maine to Hawaii. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @4aGC.

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