Calculating Your Campaign ROI

By Mike Spear

Director of Platform Growth

Fundraising today is tough.  Widespread financial uncertainty, the dubious future of grant funding, and a rapidly aging donor base has many organizations searching for new ways to build and maintain the financial base that will sustain them in the coming years. One of the most effective tools for raising money and reaching new (often younger) donors is online peer-to-peer fundraising.  However, many organizations (especially those that have previously relied on more traditional techniques) express doubts about whether or not online fundraising will work for them.

Many organizations we speak with seem not to understand why it’s important to have a friendly, easy-to-use donation form on their website, or why leveraging Peer-to-Peer fundraising year-round provides a sustainable platform for growth. They see the need to do things differently and adapt to the needs of an evolving donor base, but the risk of change and a crowded marketplace of seemingly viable options often leads to paralysis and indecision.

Every organization has unique concerns and processes; some are more agile and experimental, others are more risk-averse. What has become clear though throughout these conversations is not that the need for online engagement is murky – that battle has been fought and won – but that development professionals inexperienced with this type of fundraising often have a hard time quantifying the return on investment (“ROI”) they’ll expect to see.  It’s totally understandable. Changes of this type can be risky, and for many nonprofit leaders, it’s uncharted territory.

To those organizations, and to the development professionals grappling with these very real concerns, I promise three things:

1)  Executed properly, Peer-to-Peer fundraising will work for you.

2)  You already know more than you think you do about online fundraising, or can find out quickly.

3)  Failure to implement a robust online giving program, with a strong Peer-to-Peer component, will hurt your organization in the long-run.

In an effort to help make the leap a little easier, we’ve created a guide for calculating the ROI you’re likely to see from your next (or 1st) Peer-to-Peer fundraising campaign. As you continue reading, you’ll have the opportunity to enter the number of supporters that receive your emails, or follow you on various social media networks. By entering that information, and pairing it with some basic estimates about how much your supporters can give, you’ll be able to produce an estimate of the total funds that you might raise from a Peer-to-Peer campaign.

Calculating ROI:

Peer-to-Peer fundraising ROI can easily be broken down into 2 factors: How many people can I reach?  How much can each one of them raise?  For reference, the average campaign on StayClassy has 35 fundraisers, each raising an average of $568 from 7 (4 new) donors, for a total average of $19,880 per campaign.  That’s a great baseline, but you can help push those averages even higher by coaching your fundraisers, and engaging with them throughout their campaigns with compelling content, real-world community events, and fundraising incentives.

How many people can we reach?

Not surprisingly, this depends on the overall size of your network…

Email Newsletters:  Despite the popularity of Facebook and other online social networks, email is still the #1 way to reach potential donors and fundraisers in your community.  Email allows direct, targeted communication, that allows for the integration of photos and videos while maintaining the feel of 1-to-1 communication, even if you’re emailing people in groups.

Enter your total number of email subscribers here:

Facebook is an excellent means of communication as well.  While less personal than email, it allows you to broadcast compelling stories, photos, videos, and calls-to-action to your base.  On Facebook, you have access not just to your direct network, but also the networks of each of your Facebook “fans.”  The “viral” nature of your Facebook posts goes a long way towards expanding your overall reach.

Enter your total number of Facebook fans here:

Twitter, much like Facebook, is about broadcasting information quickly and easily.  Twitter tends to have slightly higher median education and income levels than Facebook, and you may want to tailor messaging to the characteristics of your particular group.

Enter your total number of Twitter followers here:

LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest, Instagram, and other social networks may further expand your reach.  Just be careful not to overwhelm your social media team, as you’ll want to dedicate resources to nurturing communities on every network your organization has a presence, with messaging specially tailored to each.  The effectiveness of these other social networks for fundraising still remains to be seen, and has more to do with your particular support base than sweeping generalization.

Enter total number of followers you have on social networks other than Facebook and Twitter:

Power Fundraisers are the nucleus of any great peer-to-peer campaign.  They’re the members of your community that are most passionate, engaged, and excited about the cause.  More importantly, they’re well connected in your community, or have loyal followings of their own (Celebrities make great power fundraisers!).  I bet you already have a list of prospects forming in your head, but a quick brainstorming session should bring some more to mind.  Hold this list sacred as with the right coaching, they’ll raise more (usually 2x – 3x), faster, than anyone else in your community and inspire others to join the cause.

Enter your expected number of Power Fundraisers here:

Springing into Action:

There are two more pieces of information you need to figure out how much you’ll be able to raise from your peer-to-peer campaigns.

The average donation made through a peer-to-peer fundraising page on StayClassy is $77, but your average contribution may be higher or lower depending on your target demographic.  You should have a general idea of your average donation based on other types of fundraising, but if you don’t know, just enter $77.

Enter your expected average donation size here:

Additionally, each person who creates their own fundraising page receives donations from an average of 7 individual donors.  Depending on how engaged your network is, your fundraisers may bring in a few more or a few less.  If you don’t know, just enter 7.

Enter the number of donors you think each of your fundraisers will be able to reach:

It’s not JUST about the money.

When calculating your “return on investment,” it’s important to look not just at amount raised, but also the number of new donors you acquire during the campaign, the increased involvement of existing community members, and number of people who learned about your organization, even if they didn’t give.  You’ll want to view your peer-to-peer campaigns, not just as one-off initiatives, but as a crucial piece of your long-term fundraising strategy.

By following fundraising best practices to maximize the impact of each individual campaign.When one campaign is done, look at ways to engage your supporters by thanking them, demonstrating the impact they’ve helped you create, and inviting them to participate in other activities such as events, volunteer opportunities, and future peer-to-peer campaigns.  Ask them to pledge their birthday or upcoming special occasions.

Now for the fun part.

Estimates for what percentage of your base will click on a given email or social media post varies greatly, but by communicating well, and optimizing your marketing strategy based on the data available through tools like Facebook Insights, Google Analytics, and email marketing solutions like HubSpot and Constant Contact, you’ll be able to maximize your results.  Even if you’re completely new to online fundraising, it’s safe to assume that around 5% of your total reach will participate in a given campaign.  With that in mind, here’s what to expect:

Email Subscribers:

Facebook Fans:

Twitter Followers:

Other Social Networks:

Power Fundraisers:

Average Donation Size:

Average # of Donors:

Total Expected $ Raised:

Total Donors:

NEW Donors:

This is a rough estimate of course, but it should give you a good sense of the benefits you’ll reap from a given peer-to-peer campaign. Most successful organizations run several such campaigns throughout the course of the year that appeal to different demographics within their supporter base.  Each campaign builds on the last and creates a cycle that brings in more money, new donors, boosts donor loyalty, and increases the value of each supporter over time.

Some campaigns are a runaway hit.  Some start a little slower.  By building momentum one campaign to the next, you’ll be well on your way to revitalizing your donor community, and creating a sustainable funding channel that will serve your organization for years to come.

Want to Benefit from P2P Fundraising All Year Long?


Additional Resources:

Google Analytics:

Fundraising Tips:

Holiday Fundraising Infographic:

WEBINAR: Marketing your Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaigns to Drive Engagement

WEBINAR: Advanced Peer-to-Peer Fundraising


2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study:

Mashable Article on Twitter Click


Facebook CTR:

MailChimp Benchmarking:

Photo Credit: Flickr User iwannt

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