Know Your Campaigns Before Selecting Peer-to-peer Fundraising Software

Peer-to-peer fundraising has been a powerful tool in the fundraiser’s toolbox for years. It’s all about engaging supporters to raise funds on your nonprofit’s behalf. It lets your supporters translate their enthusiasm for your mission into dollars to help your organization thrive, and it can be associated with anything from a large event — like a walk-a-thon, to a year-round campaign — like a tribute or memorial campaign.

Before selecting a peer-to-peer fundraising software platform, it’s important to have a clear definition of the type of campaign(s) your organization is looking to support so you can keep in mind what functionality you will need. Following are descriptions of five campaign types and some of the functionality they may require.

Proprietary Physical Events

Proprietary physical events are nonprofit-hosted events in which participants sometimes pay a fee to sign up and also raise additional funds from their friends and family. This campaign type includes standard walks, 5ks, and bike rides, and also unique campaigns like stair climbs, rappelling, and other campaigns that are coordinated by the nonprofit. Proprietary physical events require the ability to collect registration information and potentially a registration fee, have participants sign a waiver, and ask additional questions about the participant. Some may also require the ability to sell additional optional items, like t-shirts, jerseys, or other campaign-related items, during the registration process.

Challenge/Endurance/Destination Events

Challenge/endurance/destination events (for example, the Chicago Marathon or any of the Run Disney events) are hosted by an entity other than a nonprofit, with potentially multiple beneficiaries. These campaigns sometimes require participants to register for the event directly and then fundraise, while other events provide nonprofits with a set number of hard-to-get registrations that the organization can then offer to their constituents in exchange for a commitment to raise funds for the nonprofit.

These campaigns may require the ability to process a credit card — either during the registration process or leading up to the event itself — as a way of allowing participants who haven’t reached their fundraising minimum to continue soliciting donations. That way, they can attend the event based on their commitment to raise a minimum amount or be charged the difference at a set time. Note that other campaign types sometimes use this feature as well.

Virtual Campaigns

Virtual campaigns are organized by the nonprofit — but without the porta-potties and logistics of physical events. With these campaigns, an organization provides an online environment for supporters to set up their own fundraising pages in support of a campaign created by the nonprofit. The organization often will establish fundraising categories such as “workplace giving,” “athletic,” “in memory/honor,” or “special occasion” to help participants get started. The campaigns can be seasonal, annual, or “evergreen” (with no specific end date). These campaigns have a common brand and often a specific fundraising goal. Registration fees typically are not charged.

Because these types of campaigns do not require the same level of investment required for a physical event, organizations sometimes forget to allow for the proper resources, time, and money to market their campaign. These types of campaigns require the ability to motivate participants using coaching emails, as well as use social media and email functionality for a complete multi-channel marketing approach.

Independent Fundraising

Independent fundraising campaigns allow participants to host their own events and invite their friends and family to the events. While different from virtual campaigns (which are organized by the nonprofit), independent fundraising campaigns require much of the same capabilities, including the ability to market the campaign and motivate participants to fundraise. Some campaigns even dynamically promote third-party events through advertising on the organization’s website and display events on maps and/or via ZIP code look-ups.

A tip: It’s important to provide your individual event organizers with the tools and support they need to be successful. They have a connection to your mission and want to take on the extra work of coordinating an event. Help them by providing event kits that include things like poster templates, brand guidelines, donation sheets, and a clear process for how to send in/drop off offline donations. These tools can be shared on the campaign website (either via secure/participant-only areas or to the general public), in email communications, or both.

Tribute and Memorial Campaigns

Tribute and memorial campaigns often are found in the “cause and cure” and “animal welfare” verticals of the nonprofit space, but are not limited to these missions. Any organization that has a mission tied to supporting the fallen, injured, or lost due to disease, disorder, injustice, or war should consider equipping their constituents with the ability to raise funds in the name of someone who has touched their life. Registration fees normally are not charged for setting up tributes or memorial pages.

Some campaigns may focus less on a registration process and more on sharing information about the subject of the individual fundraiser’s reason for joining the campaign. Organizations must remember that just making these campaigns available won’t automatically bring in hundreds of participants and thousands of dollars — it takes work to market and support all campaigns.

Knowing what types of peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns your organization will be running is just the beginning of choosing the right software to support them. The Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Technology Landscape, a new guide for nonprofits by Cathexis Partners, can help you investigate further. It introduces you to today’s world of peer-to-peer fundraising tools, providing an overview of 18 software platforms and their functionality. Whether you’re just getting started with peer-to-peer fundraising, or you’re looking to take your campaigns and events to a new level, this guide is aimed at helping you sort through the many tools available today to find the peer-to-peer software that best supports your team, your participants, your donors, and most importantly, your mission.


Mark Becker is Founding Partner at Cathexis Partners and contributing author of this post.

This post was generously contributed by Mark Becker, Founding Partner at Cathexis Partners, a company that provides technology consulting

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