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How Can I Acquire New Supporters with P2P Fundraising?


By Sean Chisholm

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Organizations new to peer-to-peer fundraising often fail to appreciate one of its biggest benefits—the ability to bring in lots of new donors easily.

They often overlook this benefit because they’re only focused on hitting the immediate fundraising goal. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with focusing on the “raising money” part, this shouldn’t come at the expense of the long term acquisition benefits of p2p. If you are thinking about adopting a peer-to-peer strategy (or already have one) keep these steps in mind to make sure you are continually growing your individual supporter base!

1. Understand Why P2P Works for Acquisition

The Average Active Fundraising Page:
  • Raises $568
  • From 7 Total Donors
  • Including 4 New Donors

The decentralized nature of peer-to-peer fundraising makes it an incredibly effective tool for acquiring new donors. P2P is a “decentralized approach” because the solicitation messages don’t come directly from the nonprofit; instead, they are sent by individual fundraisers to their existing social contacts.

It’s easy to see why you start with a leg up when you adopt this approach. First off, you can reach far more people by tapping into your supporters’ networks of contacts. If your organization has a total supporter file of 10,000 contacts, you can be sure that those 10,000 contacts will be connected to a much larger group of people. By relying upon your supporters to do the messaging, you can tap into this broad pool of prospects.

Second, by leveraging your supporters to do the asking you are able to use preexisting relationships to increase the odds of securing new gifts. Think about it. Who would you be more likely to give to, a friend who you’ve known for years or a nonprofit organization asking you out of the blue?

When you leverage individual supporters to do the asking, the trust inherent in the existing personal relationship between the sender and receiver instantly enhances the credibility of your appeal. This means that new prospects will be much more likely to make a gift. And that’s precisely why p2p fundraising is such a great tool for acquisition.

2. Implement the Right Balance of P2P Fundraisers

So we’ve established that p2p is an effective tool for bringing in new donors. That’s a great thing to understand intellectually, but it won’t actually do anything for you unless you implement the right balance of peer-to-peer campaigns throughout the year.

Most organizations are familiar with peer-to-peer in the context of events or time-based online campaigns. These types of p2p efforts are defined by two characteristics (i) they’re limited in duration, and (ii) they involve heavy marketing from the charity. Because of these characteristics, it’s very difficult to keep these fundraisers running year round without burning out your supporters.

The better approach is to adopt a year-round fundraising program and then layer in more targeted campaigns and events periodically throughout the year. This allows you to continually reap the acquisition benefits of p2p.

A year round fundraising program is a permanent fundraising option that lives on your website. It allows supporters to raise money around events in their own lives. Instantly birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones are transformed into opportunities to support your cause. The beauty of the rolling p2p approach is that it doesn’t involve the concentrated promotions that targeted campaigns bring. Because it’s a softer option that supporters can “opt into” whenever they feel like it, you can keep it going perpetually without annoying your base. By combining this evergreen approach with more targeted campaigns and events you can use p2p to acquire new donors all year long.

See some examples of year-round fundraising programs

3. Create a Welcome Series for Your New Donors

So you’ve implemented some peer-to-peer fundraising options and you’re acquiring lots of new donors. Now it’s time for the other half of the battle, figuring out how to keep those donors around!

In some ways the very dynamic that makes p2p highly effective for acquiring new donors also introduces challenges when it comes to retaining them. New prospects are much more likely to give to your organization when they are being asked by someone they already know, but this also means that their connection with your mission is probably going to be more attenuated than with your average donor. In other words, they are giving primarily because of the person asking, not because of the independent pull of your mission.

In this context, you need to make sure you don’t push new donors into your regular communications cycle (newsletters, solicitations, etc.). Instead, try starting off the new relationship with a welcome email series (generally 2 or 3 emails). An automated welcome series provides a valuable opportunity for your organization to make a positive first impression on new donors. The idea is to provide interesting and engaging information that will help the new donor start to appreciate the independent value of your organization. Think of it as your first chance to connect new supporters with your mission.

4. Experiment with Second Touch Points

As a general best practice, you shouldn’t turn around and hit up new donors for money right away. That’s one reason why a welcome email series is a nice first step. Beyond this first step though, you should start thinking about what the next touch point will be with your newly acquired donors. Will you invite them to subscribe to your blog? To join you at a special event? To follow you on social media?

As with most things in life, there is no universally correct answer to this question. The point is that you should be thinking systematically about how you will continue to add value to these new donors beyond the welcome series. You want to continue building trust and rapport until they are ready to respond positively to a second appeal (likely somewhere around 6 months after the first gift). Try experimenting with different secondary offers to see which one new donors respond best to. The nice thing about offers like “follow us on social media” or “subscribe to our blog” is that they give your organization the opportunity to continually nurture the relationship with content before the time rolls around when you try that second ask.

Creating a Year-Round P2P Fundraising Machine

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