Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: How to Make it Work for You

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On a donor call early in my career, the sheer power of peer-to-peer fundraising was driven home to me. It's a lesson I've never forgotten.

I had identified a potential donor who was mission-connected and clearly had the means to donate, but no matter how I made the ask, nothing seemed to work. That is, until I took a volunteer with me on a call. The volunteer shared his story, talked about his connection to the organization and asked the potential donor for his support. Twenty minutes later, the two of us left with a sizeable check in hand.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. For many donors, being asked to contribute by a peer is an entirely different matter -- and far more meaningful -- than being asked to donate by a paid staff member.

Simply put, peer-to-peer fundraising is a method of fundraising where supporters volunteer to raise money on behalf of the organization. The individual doing the asking raises money by reaching out to his or her family, friends, co-workers and others to secure donations. Peer-to-peer fundraising relies on the network of the volunteer rather than the network of the organization.

Peer-to-peer fundraising has become increasingly relevant today for a number of reasons. In light of the new tax law, the largest contributors have become even more prized, and many more mid-level contributors will have to be moved to give by mission and emotion rather than the tax deduction. What's more, it's a social way for your volunteers to raise money and spread awareness on behalf of the organization. It's also a way to leverage the power of social media.

Prior to joining Crouch & Associates, I worked at an organization where my main focus was peer-to-peer fundraising. Each year I would work with 50 individuals, some of whom were mission-connected and some of whom were not. I would teach each one how to fundraise and support them throughout the entire process. For three years, I wore numerous hats, managed many people and raised a remarkable amount of money for the organization.

Now, I want to share my wisdom with you and offer tips and tools to make your peer-to-peer fundraising successful.

Connect & Learn

Before the campaign begins, take time to get to know your volunteers individually. Schedule one-on-one discovery meetings to learn about their backgrounds and circles of influence.

Use this meeting time to make sure volunteers have a clear understanding of the different ways that they can fundraise. Some examples include driving donations to their online pages, utilizing social media, hosting events, selling sponsorships, sending out letters of request and implementing point-of-purchase campaigns. Give them the tools they need to be successful.

Show Them

Ensure that your volunteer fundraisers have a complete understanding of your organization's mission. Why does it exist? Who is it benefiting? What is the goal? Volunteers should be able to answer all these questions and be able to articulate the organization's "why." 

The best way to illustrate the mission is to show them. Introduce volunteers to a family benefiting from your services. Give them a tour of the research lab. Do whatever you can to make it personal and connect them to the mission. Their complete buy-in will multiply the success of their efforts.

Adapt & Encourage

Fundraisers are different, which means they will need support in different ways. As their staff partner, it is your job to adapt to their personal styles. If something isn’t working, find another way. If the original fundraising plan has stalled out, go back to the drawing board. Pivot as often as needed. This will not always be easy, but it will be worthwhile.

Whether your fundraisers are raising money for three weeks or six months, you will need to keep them on track and focused. One way to do this is to send regular check-ins. These emails should include a mission moment or research update, a recap of the funds raised thus far and a tip or reminder. Throw in a joke or something fun, too. Keep these weekly communications short and sweet. Your fundraisers will appreciate that you are respectful of their time.

The Power of Thank You

Never underestimate the power of a thank you. These fundraisers are volunteering their time and talents for your organization, and it is your job to make them feel appreciated. So, whether you write it, say it, email it or text it, say thank you and say it often.

Yes, all of these methods for successful peer-to-peer fundraising take time and a lot of effort, but they are critical for the success of your volunteer fundraisers. And ultimately for your nonprofit. Use this wisdom, and you will succeed!