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How to Run a Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaign


By: Joel Bentley, Peer Giving.

Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns are a great way to expand your donor base. Take a handful of your most loyal supporters, equip them with some easy to use tools, and they’re bound to bring a few new donors into the fold. If you’re able to scale this campaign, you could be looking at hundreds of new donors.

But how do you run an effective peer-to-peer campaign? Well, it all starts with the groundwork.

The Technology

There are a lot of technology options out there, including Peer Giving, the fundraising platform I work for. In addition to Peer Giving, I'd suggest looking into our sister company Chimp, FundRazr, Artez and Giveffect. There are other platforms, but these are a few we recommend. Regardless of the technology you choose, the key questions to ask when reviewing fundraising software are the same:

  • How easy is setting up a page?
  • Does the page collect data?
  • Do you have access to donor information?
  • Can you report back to your donors?

The bottom line is: you need to have a way for your fundraisers to easily take donations and talk about their campaign online. Once you’ve answered those questions and settled on a platform, you can start putting your campaign together.

The Essentials

The success of every campaign is determined in the planning stage. Most campaigns start with an idea-- a spark of inspiration that will drive you to the finish line. One such idea came to me last summer: I’m an avid reader of books, and one of my favourite things to do is give book recommendations. I wanted to support literacy, so I put together a campaign incentivizing donors by offering personalized recommendations.

I asked friends to donate $25 for one book recommendation, $50 for five, and $100 for five recommendations plus a physical book I’d send to them. I ask each donor to send me a short list of some of their recent favourites so I could curate my selections.  I called it “Readers for Readers” and here’s what I learned:

  1. Set an Achievable Goal. The default goal I would suggest is $500. There can be a temptation to set lofty goals, and to encourage your supporters to do the same, but lofty goals can be crippling. Donors need to believe the goal can be reached, and so does the fundraiser. Start small and if the goal is exceeded you can just set a new mark.

  2. Make it Fun. The most successful peer-to-peer campaigns are the ones that are not only fun for the fundraiser (e.g., a race or a challenge of some sort) but one that is fun for the donors too. If donors are able to participate in some way (for my campaign, I simply had donors send me lists of their favourite books) they’ll be more interested in giving.

  3. Tie it to Impact. For some donors, the fact that they know the fundraiser or that it’s fun is enough, but a lot of donors want to know what the effect of their donation will be, so encourage your fundraisers to make it clear what impact their donation will have. For me, that meant explaining what the different denominations-- $25, $50, and $100-- would pay for (from a book up to a full month’s rent for a library), as well as what the overall goal would pay for: the operating costs for a library for a full year.

  4. Keep it Short - Peer-to-peer campaigns are all about momentum (more on this in the next section) so to keep that momentum going I recommend containing the campaign to one or two months. Any longer than this and you’ll lose your captive audience, and your fundraiser will grow weary as well.

    As a bonus, find a corporate partner or major donor to match the donations that come in from your peer-to-peer campaigns. Matching donations is a great way to incentivize new donors to give. 

The Execution

The execution of a campaign breaks down into two key components: communication and momentum. The avenues of communication vary, from in person pitches to social media shout outs, but I find the most effective venue is the most obvious one: email.

  1. Family & Close Friends - To get started, I always recommend pitching family and close friends first. I’m talking immediate family and your fundraiser’s besties, the people who are pretty much a given to donate to their cause. Actually, even before that, your fundraiser should be the first donor to his or her campaign. This will eliminate the “I don’t want to be the first donor” hesitation some donors have. Once those guaranteed donations come in the ball will start to roll.

  2. Friends & Social Media - Once there’s some momentum it’s time to broaden the audience. Have the fundraiser pitch the rest of their friends, as well as their acquaintances. There will be people who they expect to donate that won’t, and people who they wouldn’t think even remembered who they are that will. Cast a wide net, keep expectations low, and be thankful for every gift.

  3. The Passionate Push - A few weeks into the campaign-- once all the obvious donations have come in-- is the time to give the big explanation of why they’re doing this campaign. Passion is infectious, and even if not everyone is passionate about, say literacy, they might get inspired by a passionate pitch.

  4. The Final Ask - The final ask should come in the week leading up to the deadline. For some donors, its enough that the goal is close and your fundraiser needs a few more bucks.

The Follow Up

No campaign ends when the goal has been reached. There are always things to follow up on, and things to learn.

  1. Say Thanks - This hands down the most important part of any campaign. Donations are just the start. If you want to build a loyal following then you have to build relationships with your donors, and that starts with kindness. Say thanks.

  2. Analyze Your Results - Remember when I said a key component of fundraising technology is collecting data? This is why. At the end of every campaign you should be analyzing your results, reviewing which ask received the most donations and where those donors were coming from.

  3. Learn & Improve - There’s no such thing as a perfect campaign. Every campaign you create and run can be improved. So review that data, learn from your mistakes, and make your next campaign even better.

About the Author

Joel Bentley
Communications / Support
Peer Giving / @peergiving

Joel Bentley is a member of Peer Giving’s Client Success Team. Peer Giving is a fundraising platform that gives charities the tools they need to tell their story, engage their supporters, and increase their reach in a simple, effective way.