P2P Fundraising: Expanding Beyond the Fundraising Event | npENGAGE

P2P Fundraising: Expanding Beyond the Fundraising Event

By on Jul 20, 2017


Example of a P2P Fundraising Color Run

Peer-to-peer fundraising or P2P fundraising is a style of fundraising where an organization recruits supporters to solicit donations from their friends and family on behalf of that nonprofit.

While the most common form of P2P fundraising has been associated with events like a race or bike tour, the nonprofit sector is trending toward expanding P2P fundraising beyond the paradigm of event fundraising. According to the 2017 RWR 30 released in March, revenue from the top Run, Walk and Cycling events are down 8% since 2012.

But this doesn’t tell the real story of the P2P evolution happening across the industry.

While we are seeing declines in traditional P2P fundraising, we are also seeing tremendous growth in the crowdfunding space. In 2015, there was $2.85B attributed to donation-based crowdfunding with expected growth of 47% YOY.  Every day, individuals are seeking new ways to more creatively support the programs and causes they are passionate about.

And this means that there is opportunity for your organization to grow revenue by creating innovative, flexible fundraising programs to tap into these supporters… especially millennials.

Let’s take a look at the state of the industry:

  1. 64% of millennials participated in a  fundraising event in the last 12 months. The key to attracting and retaining these younger supporters is by providing them with meaningful experience that connects their passions and interests to the mission of your organization. Additionally, these tech savvy supporters want to fundraise using the technology and communication channels they use on a daily basis. [Source: Millennial Impact Report]
  2. 58% of crowdsourced gifts were made on a mobile device. Your mobile strategy is no longer optional. Your supporters expect fundraising tools that are accessible via a mobile device. [Source: Everydayhero, March 2017]
  3. 69% of all adults are using 1+ social media platform. That is 7 out of 10 adults that are on at least 1 social media platform. Since 2005, social media adoption has grown from 5% to 70%.  That’s astronomical growth. [Source: Pew Research Center]
  4. There are 1.8M active nonprofits in US. It’s very common to see multiple charities fundraising for the same cause in the same geographic area. Just think of all the different organizations raising money to end cancer… you see my point. The consequence of not providing the right mix of P2P fundraising activities is that your supporters could easily choose to contribute to another organization that is fundraising for your same cause. [Source: Guidestar]
  5. More than 70 percent of millennials said they believed they could have an impact on issues they care about — without relying on traditional institutions. And today with the onslaught of crowdfunding solutions, you are not only competing against other non-profits. You are also competing with crowdfunding platforms that enable your supporters with the technology to fundraise for whatever they want….Their loyalty is to the cause, not necessarily to your organization. [Source: Millennial Impact Report]

These trends are prompting rapid shifts in the P2P fundraising landscape.

As recently as 5 years ago, when we talked about P2P fundraising we were talking almost exclusively about Runs, Walks and Rides. These types of traditional fundraising programs are typically managed and organized by nonprofit groups like yours—run by staff and tightly branded. Today we are seeing an influx of new types programs coming into the P2P space that are driven by individuals rather than staff.

The changing landscape of P2P Fundraising

Here are examples of new P2P fundraising events taking place across the globe:

Portfolio P2P Fundraising

Portfolio P2P Fundraising is when an organization has a landing page that serves as a hub for all activities. This method helps guide fundraisers to the activity that best fits their needs.

This example is of PKD Foundation’s P2P Portfolio landing page. This webpage serves as a hub for all of the P2P Fundraising options.

Example of Portfolio P2P Fundraising

What I love most of all is the option to “celebrate a transplant anniversary.”  They could have opted to call it a “Tribute campaign” but they personalized this option to connect the action directly to their mission.

This next example is Panda Nation from our friends at World Wildlife Fund. Again, you see a landing page that features the different fundraising options available to supporters.

They tied back into their mission by offering the ability to donate for your favorite animal, in addition to the options to donate to a special occasion, athletic activity or open ended DIY program.WWF has been a leader in this style portfolio P2P fundraising.

Example of WWF's Portfolio P2P Fundraising Page

Campaign Driven Fundraising

Think about your current fundraising initiatives that exist today. Is there an opportunity to ask your supporters to “fundraise” on behalf of your organization in addition to asking them make a straight up donation?

These program range from small local orgs to national multi-affiliated orgs. and extend upon traditional fundraising activities

This example is from Give Clean Water Inc. and they created this campaign to help extend a digital fundraising appeal around Earth Day.

Campaign Driven Fundraising Example

In this example, Center for Global Impact centered their campaign on a major gift that was earmarked as a match. They used the “March Madness” time frame to insert a sense of urgency around the campaign.

Example of Campaign Driven Fundraising

Endurance Fundraising

With Endurance fundraising programs, organizations partner with existing endurance events like marathons and tri-athalons to raise funds.  This is a great entry point for non-profits who may not be hosting a traditional walking, running or cycling event.

Typically, all event logistics are managed by the event organizers rather than by the organization.  This lowers the implementation costs for the organization compared to a traditional RWR event.

Another important thing to know is that you don’t have to be a huge organization to participate in endurance fundraising. Local organizations can opt to join a charity program hosted by the event organizers.

Endurance Fundraisng

St. Jude has partnered with endurance events all over the country.  They often work with the most elite marathons in the country to provide slots to fundraisers that are difficult to obtain.

Endurance Fundraising Example

Virtual Events

Virtual Events allow you to extend your traditional fundraising event to a larger group of people. Can’t attend the walk? No problem! Participate virtually!

In this example, Free to Breath’s DIY Community Walk offers a community walk virtual event for those who can’t attend their walk in person.

Virtual Event Fundraising Example

We are seeing that Virtual Event programs are growing in popularity internationally and just starting to capture the attention of US-based nonprofits. These programs are typically freestanding campaigns rather than an extension of an existing event.

The Organization is driving the branding and the activity, while the supporter is given the flexibility to determine the timeline and location for completing the activity. The financial commitment for the organization is focused on providing fundraising tools and coaching, not on physical logistics. This helps keep the ROI high for these types of activities.

Hertford College, which is part of Oxford University stood up a Virtual event to provide alumni with the opportunity to fundraise from wherever they happened to be located. These guys used the fitness tracking technology to track the cumulative miles ridden by their participants as part of a larger community initiative.

Virtual Event Fundraising

Organization Driven DIY

Organization Driven DIY empowers a supporter to fundraise on their own terms, but allows the organization to maintain the control over some aspects of the activity like the branding or timeline of the activity.

The Alzheimer’s Association The Longest Day is a great example of organization driven DIY. The organization owns the look & feel of the event as well as the date of the activity.  The supporter gets to select the activity.

By owning the timeline, the revenue stream is more predictable and cyclical. And by owning the branding associated with the event, the organization remains the focus of the fundraising efforts, rather than the cause owning the focus of the activity. Organizational DIY is an excellent choice for organizations comfortable with traditional event paradigm that are interested in expanding their activities to include a more crowdfunded activity.

Organizationally Driven DIY Fundraising Example

Individual Driven DIY

Individual DIY Fundraising gives full control to the supporter.  It’s the most flexible P2P Fundraising option, where the supporter defines the activity, the location and the timing. People interested in doing this type of fundraising are often the most passionate about your cause. Your job is to provide them with tools to accurately talk about your mission in conjunction with their wild idea.

One of my favorite examples of this is a  guy who decided to dawn a Stormtrooper outfit and walk across the continent of Australia raising funds for the Montash Children Cancer Hospital. No one at the hospital asked him to do this. He also didn’t ask permission. The cool thing is that when people do these extraordinary types of activities, they not only capture the attention of their social networks, they often capture the attention of the news media.

Giving Day Campaigns

This type of fundraising is really popular among Universities and Hospitals. These campaigns are limited to a specific time frame (a day or week) and often utilize social influencers to help drive the fundraising efforts in advance of the campaign. University of Michigan is a great example of how a giving day at a university can help drive incredible support for a school. The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History used Giving Blueday to raise funds to begin development for their Wooly Mammoth Exhibit.

Example of a University Giving Day

Project Based Fundraising

This type of program functions like the individual DIY campaigns, except supporters also want control over where the money goes within your organization.

This is very common with large institutions like research hospitals, where a grateful patient wants to fund the research of the doctor who saved his/her life or religious groups who are fundraising for a mission project or trip.

The example here is Humans of New York. Last year Brandon Stanton, the guys who runs HONY, raised $3.8M for pediatric cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. This was the largest funding source that this researcher had ever received.

Project Based Fundraising

Primary drivers behind the popularity of expanded P2P Fundraising:

  1. Need for Fundraising Diversification – As the event fundraising world becomes more competitive and nonprofits are experiencing less growth from these events, fundraisers are being forced to look for creative ways to increase revenue without significantly increasing cost.
  2. Demand from Fundraisers – Today’s modern supporter wants to fundraise for their favorite cause on their own terms using their preferred communication channels.  These supporters want to be able to fundraise with same online  fundraising and social fundraising tools available to event fundraisers.

These trends are important because they all point to the need for nonprofits to create campaigns that put power in their supporters’ hands. People want to fundraise – it’s your job to give them to opportunities and the tools to do so on behalf of your cause.

This post has been updated from its original version to reflect the most up to date P2P best practices and examples.


Robyn Mendez is a peer-to-peer fundraising rock star. Over the last 15 years, she’s done everything from setting up pop-up tents in the rain to deploying multi-national fundraising websites.  She has a passion for using technology to raise money and believes that the collective few have the power to change the world. Robyn lives in Houston, TX with her husband, 2 kids and french bulldog.


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