If the rise of social media has taught nonprofits anything, it’s that leveraging the viral spread of information to their advantage has endless uses: finding volunteers, finding new donors, spreading the word about a new campaign, all can be achieved through the sharing of information throughout online networks. The next logical step is to use this practicality towards improving fundraising results.

sponsored runPeer-to-peer fundraising has been around since before the online world changed the game for nonprofits, but today’s best practices for implementing effective peer-to-peer campaigns all involve new media elements. Even the oldest approaches (we’ve all been asked to sponsor someone in a walk or a road race to raise money for charity) are taking to the Web to make their impact even bigger. If you’re just starting out in implementing peer-to-peer as a part of your overall fundraising pie, what’s the best approach?


The right training program is the key to success for any peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. You can’t simply hand your fundraisers a brochure and send them out into the world expecting them to raise thousands—it takes a stronger commitment than that from both sides. Determine your goals in advance, figure out what is a realistic number to set as the bar, and encourage your fundraisers to surpass it—and, most importantly, provide them all the tools they will need along the way.

One way to ensure this happens is by making sure that internal teams have everything they need as well. Find the right staffers to head up the campaign, and ensure they are properly trained and can provide the appropriate guidance to fundraisers. Personalities will matter in this instance—a nonprofit staffer who writes amazing fundraising copy and cranks out personalized thank you emails like they’re going out of style may not be as wonderful in the in-person world of peer-to-peer. Launching your program with the right staff that has received the right training will be vital to your overall success.

Work Your Advantages

Starting out a new fundraising effort will come with many challenges—so it’s important to work every advantage you’ve got in order to rise above these types of bumps in the road. One of those advantages may be among your current donor pool. While recruiting new peer-to-peer fundraisers should also be a top priority, turning to influencers within your donor universe can be a great place to start. Even if they don’t want to participate, many top donors have been in the nonprofit world long enough that they may possess a great deal of insight and advice for an organization just starting out with this type of effort. 

The same can be said for your online supporters. Do you have a wildly popular blog, Facebook page, or Twitter account with thousands of fans or followers? Use that audience to not only promote your new program but to ask for shared experiences. While social media influencers may not be major donors, they often are just the right fit for peer-to-peer efforts—their built in online networks could be worth thousands in fundraising, even if they (personally) are only able to contribute a small amount.

Make it Fun

There’s a reason many of the most successful peer-to-peer efforts involve some sort of contest, race, or prize. While giving back to an important cause is often motivation enough for participants, attaching their fundraising goals to something “fun” provides that extra bit of incentive. Many nonprofits accomplish this by launching the fundraising program around a major sponsored event, such as the hundreds of walks and fun runs taking place nationwide. For smaller programs, it may be all done online as a contest, with those reaching certain levels being rewarded with recognition, badges, or prizes.

How has your nonprofit used peer-to-peer fundraising? What have some of the challenges been? Let us know in the comments!