Off the Shelf or Custom Peer to Peer Fundraising Software?

If your organization is dipping its toe into peer to peer fundraising for the first time, great! Peer to peer fundraising has become an invaluable part of most fundraising portfolios because it requires less money and resources. One thing you need to decide is what type of software to choose to run your campaign – an off the shelf or a custom fundraising software solution. This decision could ultimately determine the success of the campaign.

Before you dive in and choose a platform, here are some things to consider before making your choice.

Definition of off the shelf vs. custom

Before we get into the pros and cons of each solution choice, let’s define what they are.

  • Off the shelf software is standardized software that theoretically can be purchased for immediate use. It is designed for a broad range of customers, offering a comprehensive but limited set of features to streamline set-up and launch.
  • Custom software is software tailor-made for your needs. Instead of being created to be used by all businesses, it’s a custom software development process that caters to your needs.

Things to consider with off the shelf software

Initially, an off the shelf solution might seem to be less expensive and more convenient to implement, but there may be a few catches.

Most off the shelf peer to peer applications charge a significant percentage for platform fees. Although the up-front cost may seem low, the total cost at the end of the event could be higher than a custom build. If you raise a significant amount of money at your event, you may end up paying more because of the percentage-based platform fees.

If this is the first time that you are running a peer to peer event, it is important to know how much that you project to raise. A good rule of thumb is to anticipate that each person participating will raise an average of $250.  If your goal is to have 100 participants, you can anticipate raising $25,000. 

Once you know how much you should raise you can do the math to compare the total costs of a custom build vs. off the shelf.

From a convenience perspective, ask yourself the following:

  • Do you need all the features provided?
  • Are there features you need that aren’t available?
  • Will the software give you the advantage you need to compete with other fundraisers?
  • Does the system integrate with your donor management and payment processing software of choice?
  • How easy will it be to get support?

Your most important asset is your volunteers. Off the shelf software can be overly complex with many unnecessary features. And sometimes your volunteers may waste time trying to make the software do something that it wasn’t designed to do.

Things to consider with a custom peer to peer fundraising solution

Custom software has virtually no limitations.  Why does this matter?

There are many peer to peer fundraising events that people can chose from. The most successful events are unique and provide the participants with a great experience. To stand out, your software needs to be flexible enough for you to reflect this one-of-a-kind experience. 

As we mentioned above under convenience, limitations with off the shelf peer to peer software can hinder your ability to make your event unique. You will find yourself trying to find workarounds for incentives, fundraising minimums, registration nuances, meal options, e-commerce, sponsorship options, matching gifts and more. But with bespoke software, you can build something that matches your exact needs now and into the future.

Unlike off the shelf solutions, custom software has the capability to create a perfect application for your fundraising event over time as it evolves by adding features designed specifically for your organization. At some point, it will become the perfect, indispensable, and only application for your event.

But what about integration and support?

Most custom builds can integrate with common APIs like Salesforce and many donor management systems. Most of the major donor management systems have open APIs, enabling you to use a system that works for you.

Custom builds can also integrate with most major payment processors including PaymentSpring, Stripe,, PayPal, and others. Off the shelf will likely force you to choose from their partner payment processing solution.

Support will always be better when you choose custom. The company is building a solution just for your needs and will be available to respond to your requests.

The choice is yours

Many people today are so used to getting software applications in a cloud or off the shelf format that considering a custom fundraising solution seems foreign. But when you are trying to raise a considerable amount of money for your organization, you should weigh the benefits of working with a custom solution provider. Because over time, your custom solutions will become a necessary component of your successful fundraising events.

Good luck with your first peer to peer fundraising event! Contact us to learn more about Sweet! and how we can help you achieve your fundraising goals.