What is Peer to Peer Fundraising?

Peer to peer fundraising is a way for supporters of a charity to raise money and awareness by voluntarily raising money within their own network of friends and family.  Over the years, this type of fundraising has been branded in many ways;

  • Crowdfunding
  • Social fundraising
  • Third party fundraising
  • Friends asking friends.

Regardless of what it’s called, peer to peer fundraising is a vital component of a today’s nonprofit fundraising portfolio. For many charities, this method of fundraising is just as or even more important than major gifts, grants and government funding.

Why Peer to Peer Fundraising?

A Brief History of Peer to Peer Fundraising

Peer to Peer fundraising is a tried and true way to raise a significant amount of money. If you’ve sold Girl Scout Cookies, then you’ve been a peer to peer fundraiser. If you’ve asked people to donate to a charity in lieu of gifts at a significant life event, then you’ve been a peer to peer fundraiser. In 1980, ten volunteers raised $10,200 for the Pan-Mass Challenge. They were peer to peer fundraisers.

Since then, the Internet has taken this fundraising model to a new level. In the early 2000s, the first online fundraising pages began to appear and were highly effective. The first online peer to peer fundraising application that we built generated $6 million for a very small and unknown charity near Boston.  At the time, despite the results and potential of this fundraising model, we struggled to convince development and executive directors to add it to their capital campaigns.

Effective peer to peer fundraising is essential to a nonprofit’s success in achieving its vision and goals. These fundraisers are as valuable to charities as major donors. As importantly, peer to peer fundraising events need to be fun and inspire friendly competition. This ensures organizations and fundraisers can convey their personality, passion and efforts in support of their cause in an affordable way.

Today, a third of all charities worldwide (of all shapes and sizes) use this multi-tiered approach to raise billions annually. Supporters use online fundraising pages when they participate in charity events like walk-a-thons, bike-a-thons, and other “a-thons.” Nearly all major marathons include some type of a peer to peer model to increase donations. Facebook and other social media platforms now support this model as well. Many charities now have several different fundraising campaigns using a peer to peer model. Peer to peer fundraising has come a long way because it works.

Why Do We Love Peer to Peer Fundraising?

Asking Power

A basic tenet of fundraising is that asking is the only way to raise money. The more you ask, the more you get. Rather than relying solely on the development department to send requests to a finite mailing list, participants reach out to their entire networks to raise money and awareness for their charity. Through personal fundraising pages, participants can promote your cause and ask their networks to donate, exponentially increasing the asking power of any charity.

Quality Asks

Let’s be honest. Most folks are more likely to give a charity if their friends ask them to than they are if they receive a mailer directly from the charity. In fact, most people are much more likely to give on behalf of their friends and family. Most donors don’t even care about the cause as much as they care to support their friend that asked.  More and better asks make your fundraising efforts highly effective.

Small charities can compete

Small charities can compete with highly funded and branded organizations, leveling the playing field. By fostering the drive and passion of their participants, they can more easily increase donations within a few families of their supporters.

We’ve seen small charities start with $30,000 campaigns that have grown to over $500,000 annually.  We’ve seen small charter schools raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in much needed funds by relying on their students, families, and their communities.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a large or small organization.  You just need a core group of people who care and are passionate about what you do.

emotional connections of peer to peer fundraising

Philanthropy for Everyone!

While major gift giving has been and will always remain the domain of the wealthy and institutions, peer to peer fundraising is for everyone. Young, old, rich, poor and anyone in between can raise significant dollars for the charity of which they are passionate about.

In our nearly 2 decades of working within this industry, we’ve seen everyone from young children, students and CEOs raise millions of dollars for their charities, proving that this fundraising model makes philanthropy accessible to anyone and everyone.


The advent of forming teams to raise funds for charity within this peer to peer model allowed people to not only raise money for their charity, but to also recruit others to participate in the fundraising effort.

The team approach multiplies your reach by the size of the networks for each participant. If done effectively, your organization can substantially grow the number of fundraisers without hiring new staff or making significant investment.

Benefits of Peer to Peer Fundraising

Online peer-to-peer fundraising helps any size nonprofit or school grow and succeed. There are two major benefits: emotional and financial.

Emotional Benefits

Online peer-to-peer fundraising is more popular than ever because of how easily everyone in the fundraising chain can communicate and connect. This creates and builds powerful supporter relationships. An online campaign provides a great opportunity for nonprofits and schools to increase their supporter engagement.

Successful online campaigns are more likely to provide energy, warmth and connection moments similar to a memorable song where you remember the words, a beat and the memories that are tied to that song. Registration events, year-end giving and Tuesday giving cannot match the emotional appeal of a well-run peer to peer campaign.

An online campaign can also help your supporters better visualize and communicate your organization’s mission and goals to others. With an online campaign, a nonprofit or school can more clearly communicate their personality, vision and mission rather than leaving it up to one’s interpretation. In addition, your supporters can put their own personality, mission and goals in support of the organization in a highly visible fashion. Most of all, online campaigns help participants convey their personality, enthusiasm and warmth through their stories in a more heartwarming way.

Your supporters can better convey emotion in their communication, becoming more engaging and powerful enthusiasts for your campaign. This energy is what your supporters remember. They look forward to feeling and sharing this energy each year.  The result is everyone in the fundraising circle feels closer to your organization and mission.

MDSC Buddy Walk® Program

The MDSC Buddy Walk® Program gives individuals, schools, community groups and local businesses across the state an opportunity to get involved in fundraising campaigns and events intended to promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome. These campaign are supported by our SWEET! online fundraising platform.

Financial Benefits

A successful online peer-to-peer fundraising campaign results in raising more funds while you cut costs and reduce staff efforts. How much more you can raise is a combination of your organization’s fundraising plan, skills and the software you utilize. Therefore, your peer to peer fundraising software feature set will enable, bolster or inhibit your fundraising potential.

An online peer-to-peer campaign simplifies the entire fundraising process by bringing communication, registration and donations onto one site. Making it simpler to manage your campaign, you can more easily and better engage the groups that comprise your super enthusiasts and general supporters. These groups include your participants, fundraisers, donors, sponsors, volunteers and staff.

The success of each group is tied to the software feature set your software provides them. While everyone in your fundraising circle may have the skill and the will to deliver against your goals, your software needs to complement and support the groups driving your fundraising growth.

Bikeathon Success with SWEET! Peer to Peer Fundraising Software

Bike to the Beach (BTTB) is a multi-city cycling campaign that raises money for various Autism related charities.  In 2017, BTTB exceeded the $1 million revenue mark for the first time in its history. Read more »

The Future of Peer to Peer Fundraising

There are many fundraising events and campaigns using peer to peer these days. Email and text tools within fundraising apps have made it easy for people to ask hundreds of people for donations. Most people’s inboxes are filled with solicitations from friends and family. Competition for people to become fundraisers and not just donors is fierce. Charities need to work harder than ever to make their events and campaigns stand out. It’s not enough to set up a crowdfunding page and hope that people engage. Events and campaigns need to be creative experiences that people want to be a part of. The peer to peer fundraising software that you choose is a key component of creating this experience. It needs to:

  • Reflect your organization’s brand and spirit.
  • Give your organization the flexibility to set the rules of the “game”. Things like minimum fundraising requirements, pledge-based giving and incentive driven fundraising are possibilities.
  • Be easy to use for all ages.
  • Give your supporters a way to reflect their own passion for your organization while sharing your unique message.

Many other currently nascent forms of peer to peer fundraising are emerging. These include Facebook fundraising, live streaming, alternative payment platforms like Venmo, matching gifts for peer to peer, text to give and many more. All hold significant potential to create new opportunities and boost the power of existing fundraising campaigns.

The future of peer to peer fundraising is bright as it is now accessible to all charities, large and small.