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P2P Fundraising: The Thin Line Between Success and Failure


By Sean Chisholm

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Peer-to-peer (p2p) fundraising is all about tapping into the power of your supporter base. That’s because in a peer-to-peer campaign you rely on supporters to ask friends and family for contributions. By mobilizing your supporters to do the asking, you are able to reach many more people and (hopefully) raise more money.

Because p2p fundraising depends upon the actions of your supporters though, the success of these campaigns will rise and fall with the success of your individual participants. That’s why the key to maximizing the effectiveness of a peer-to-peer campaign is to focus on educating and empowering your supporters. Their success means your success. Here’s how to help your p2p fundraisers succeed.

1. Get P2P Fundraisers to Put Skin in the Game

You should encourage fundraisers to make the first donation to their personal fundraising pages. This helps improve fundraising performance in a few different ways. It removes the “I don’t want to go first…” barrier for potential donors, it shows potential donors that the participant is serious about the cause, and it reinforces the fundraiser’s own commitment to follow through (“I just gave my own money, I guess I really am doing this!”). By encouraging supporters to make the first donation to their pages, you start them on the path to success.

2. Promote Personalization

It’s important to create compelling default text for your organization’s fundraising pages and for the template appeal e-mails your supporters will send out. That being said, you should really press your supporters to personalize their pages.

Your supporters will be reaching out to friends and family for donations. Personalized text allows potential donors to see not only the merit of the underlying cause, but also why that cause matters so much to their sister, brother, friend, co-worker, etc. Make no mistake about it, personalized social information moves more people to give.

3. Set Expectations

One of the biggest mistakes we see individual fundraisers make is underestimating what it takes to get people to donate. Many people think that they will be able to reach their goal by simply posting a request or two for donations on Facebook or Twitter. Successful fundraising takes a bit more effort than that.

Set expectations upfront by providing examples of successful techniques and coach fundraisers to use a mixture of direct e-mails and social media requests. You don’t want to scare fundraisers off, but they should understand that success doesn’t come automatically.

4. Encourage Direct Asks

Getting donations involves… asking for donations! There’s no way around that simple fact. Many people are a little uncomfortable about asking their friends and families for contributions. Your job is to help your supporters realize what successful fundraising takes and to help them move beyond this discomfort.

You should encourage supporters to use direct e-mails to reach out to friends and family. Coach them to send their closer contacts individualized e-mails and more peripheral contacts a general e-mail. Have your staff draft some example e-mails to give your supporters an idea of the arc of an effective appeal.

5. Persistence is Key to P2P Fundraising

A big part of setting appropriate expectations is letting supporters know that persistence is required. One of the best ways to help fundraisers overcome any discomfort they may have about sending follow up messages is to coach them to set internal goals. For example, if they’ve set an overall goal of raising $1,000, suggest that they create internal goals of $250, $500, and $750. This will provide them with two benefits. First it will create urgency for their calls to action (“I need to reach $250 by the end of the week! Make a donation to help me meet my goal”). Second, it will give supporters a built in reason to follow up with people who didn’t respond to the initial appeal (“I’ve made it half way to my goal but I need to reach $750 by the end of next week. Will you help me get there?”).

6. Personal Appeals to Big Donors

Encourage participants to write personal e-mails, or call, friends or family members they suspect are likely to make larger contributions. Often times, these will be folks whose lives have been personally affected by the cause. It’s very likely that these people will become donors one way or another, but a personal note will likely spur them to get involved at a higher level. If supporters are hesitant about the direct ask, remind them that they are giving the potential donor the opportunity to help contribute to a cause he or she cares deeply about.

7. Show Them How to Use Social Media Effectively

Social media is an absolute must for p2p fundraising, but it has to be used the right way. Supporters should share their personal fundraising pages through their social media accounts. But, not until after they send out their first batch of direct e-mails. After that, they should be reposting at regular intervals to stay top of mind with other potential donors.

As important as regular reposting is, it’s even more important to make sure that your supporters aren’t simply asking their contacts for donations every time they post. This annoys people and turns off potential donors. You should instruct supporters to intersperse direct asks with updates about progress toward the fundraising goal and thank you messages to new donors.

8. Make it Easy to Get Help

Empowering your individual supporters is the key to successful p2p fundraising. To do that though, you need to provide them with the right educational materials. This is a problem for a lot of organizations because they don’t have the time or resources to create these materials for their individual fundraisers. Most nonprofits are strapped for time and money, and they (rightfully) are focused on other things. To help you out, we’ve built a FREE RESOURCE PAGE FOR YOUR FUNDRAISERS. It’s got quick tips with visual reinforcements to help you get the most our of your p2p fundraising!

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