Social Fundraising: How to Engage Your P2P Participants

Social Fundraising: How to Engage Your P2P Participants

by Joshua Meyer, Director of Marketing, OneCause

Social fundraising, also known as peer-to-peer or P2P fundraising, is a relationship-based fundraising strategy that puts your supporters in charge by allowing them to fundraise on your behalf.

This type of fundraising can take many forms—when a supporter creates or shares a crowdfunding page on social media, collects pledges for a fun run or walk-a-thon, hosts an online campaign for a birthday or tribute, or takes part in an online challenge, for example. 

At OneCause, we specialize in virtual fundraising and ensuring that fundraising organizations and teams have the tools they need to pull off their events and campaigns successfully. Much of our work involves social and peer-to-peer fundraising strategies, which is an increasingly popular fundraising style, so we’ve helped countless nonprofits get off the ground with these types of campaigns. 

If you’re looking to host a peer-to-peer campaign and you’re not sure where to start (especially when it comes to motivating and engaging participants), this guide will point you in the right direction. We’ll make sure you have a solid foundation for understanding what social fundraising is and why it’s important, plus a few best practices for maximizing engagement. Let’s get started.

The Basics of Social Fundraising

Before diving into our favorite tried-and-true tips for engaging participants in a peer-to-peer campaign, it’s important to have an understanding of the basic strategies that go into a P2P campaign. Let’s start with the fundamentals:

What is social fundraising?

Social fundraising is a decentralized fundraising approach that leverages your supporters and their personal networks to raise funds and awareness for your organization. In this type of campaign, dedicated supporters take on the role of volunteer fundraiser to solicit donations on behalf of your mission and organization. 

Social fundraisers often make use of online resources like social networking platforms and other digital sharing tools to spread the word about your mission far and wide.

Why is social fundraising effective?

Social fundraising is effective because it empowers your supporters in an active role to take fundraising into their own hands. By empowering supporters to fundraise on behalf of your mission, you can both strengthen their existing relationship with your organization and recruit new donors simultaneously. 

These types of campaigns can drastically increase the reach of your fundraising efforts and grow your audience. New supporters are more likely to engage with your organization and its fundraising efforts when introduced by someone they know. This is called “social proof,” and it’s a powerful force for motivating both new and long-time supporters to take action for your cause.

Best Practices for Engaging Social Fundraising Participants

One of the most critical aspects of an effective peer-to-peer fundraiser is the level of engagement among participants. As explored in this downloadable resource on social fundraisers from OneCause, “the success of peer-to-peer fundraising is ultimately dependent on the engagement and motivation of the individual social fundraisers.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter how brilliant your campaign idea is if your supporters don’t feel engaged enough to fundraise for your mission. It’s on your team to actively foster a sense of excitement for your campaign, but how can you ensure high levels of engagement? These tried-and-true strategies have seen great success across all types of fundraising organizations.

1. Communicate your mission

One of the most important P2P best practices in any social fundraising campaign involves effective and proactive communication with participants—especially surrounding your mission and how the money that’s raised will be used to further it. After all, you’re not likely to have a ton of supporters willing to solicit donations on behalf of an organization they don’t know or trust. 

According to our Social Donor Study, the top three reasons reported by peer-to-peer fundraising participants as to why they fundraise are:

  1. They care about the mission.
  2. They believe money raised will make a difference.
  3. They enjoy the experience.

Anchoring your campaign in your mission will double down on the connections that supporters feel with it, motivate them with clear statements of impact, and provide an enjoyable experience knowing they’re furthering a meaningful cause.

Similarly, according to Corporate Giving Connection, two of the most common mistakes made by organizations hosting P2P fundraisers are a lack of effective communication and an absence of unified messaging. When supporters know what issue you’re aiming to solve and how their efforts are specifically going to help, they’ll be more likely to get involved and to stay motivated throughout the entirety of the campaign.

2. Host virtual events

Fundraising events have long been one of the best strategies for engaging nonprofit supporters and raising money for charitable causes at the same time. These events have also shown great success in regards to peer-to-peer and social strategies. 

Planning and hosting a unique fundraising event is a great way to engage with your organization’s supporters and the overall community as well as a fantastic opportunity for existing supporters to invite their friends and family to get involved. 

Today, more and more events are beginning to transition into the virtual space, which happens to go hand-in-hand with powerful online P2P fundraising efforts. This way, your team can successfully engage with supporters from all over the world regardless of physical location and increase accessibility to event attendees far and wide.

Our OneCause virtual fundraising events guide suggests the following ideas:

  • Virtual auction
  • Online gala
  • Virtual fun run
  • Online dance-a-thon
  • Viral video challenge

The specific peer-to-peer strategies you choose will likely depend on the type of virtual event as well as the make-up of your supporter network. For example, you might equip social fundraisers with personalized fundraising pages to collect pledges before participating in a 5K or virtual campaign. Or, you could task participants with encouraging event registrations and ticket sales for your upcoming virtual gala instead. 

Either way, volunteer fundraisers promote your event and overall fundraising efforts to their networks and encourage their loved ones to get involved with supporting your event.

3. Employ gamification tactics

Gamification is one of the most powerful tools for any fundraising effort, but it’s especially critical when it comes to peer-to-peer campaigns and social fundraising. This strategy involves leveraging typical elements of gameplay such as competition and winning to motivate and engage your audience to get further involved.

Some of the most popular and effective gamification tactics include:

  • Leaderboards: Fundraising leaderboards are an easy way to pit P2P participants against each other with a sense of healthy competition. By showcasing the top fundraisers on an online leaderboard, fundraisers and supporters can see who’s “winning” with the most dollars collected, donors acquired, event tickets sold, etc. This type of visual motivator can encourage fundraisers who aren’t seeing as many results to up their efforts while ensuring that leading participants stay on track.
  • Fundraising thermometers: Digital fundraising thermometers are a classic choice for tracking individual fundraiser progress while motivating fundraisers and donors alike. Once participants set their personal goal, they can calibrate their fundraising thermometer to that figure. Every time a donor gives as a result of their outreach, they come closer to reaching their final goal via an automatically updating thermometer tool.
  • Prizes and incentives: Incentives for successful fundraising can engage social fundraisers by providing specific rewards for success and encouraging continued efforts. These types of prizes can be tangible (such as a t-shirt) or intangible (such as online recognition). To maximize results, be sure to incorporate gradually increasing incentives and provide guidance around benchmarks and prize tiers.

When you gamify your peer-to-peer campaigns, you provide strategic motivators that encourage social fundraisers to increase their level of support and raise more for your mission. You can even encourage participants’ own networks to get involved by explaining how their support can help the participant achieve their goals as well.

4. Emphasize the social aspects

As the name suggests, social fundraising is all about leveraging and building social relationships. In a typical peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, existing supporters recruit their own friends and family (their peers) to get involved as well. When this social aspect is emphasized effectively, the initial supporter and the new donors are significantly more likely to get involved with your fundraising efforts. As mentioned above, this phenomenon is called “social proof.”

According to 360MatchPro’s fundraising statistics, “Millennials are more likely to engage in and support a cause if their peers are already doing so.” However, this tends to also be true for other generations and groups.

This idea is seen in our OneCause social fundraising studies as well:

  • Fundraising on a team or as a team captain has a significant impact on a participant’s likelihood to exceed fundraising goals and increases the likelihood of continued support post-campaign.
  • Participants are more than two times as likely to have been recruited by a friend, family member, or colleague than directly by the nonprofit.

As you can see, by emphasizing the social aspects of social fundraising, you can leverage these benefits and encourage widespread support across fundraisers and donors alike. Then, once your campaign has drawn to a close, you’re more likely to retain the long-term support of social fundraisers and donors.

Peer-to-peer fundraisers are some of the most powerful strategies for organizations in terms of both revenue generation and supporter engagement. However, the most successful efforts are those that take a strategic approach to recruiting and motivating participants.

By communicating your mission from the get go, hosting unique and intriguing virtual events, leveraging gamification and contests, and empowering fundraisers through the social aspects of social fundraising, you’re sure to set your team up for long-term success. Good luck!

About Joshua Meyer

Joshua Meyer brings over 14 years of fundraising, volunteer management, and marketing experience to his current role as the Director of Marketing for OneCause. Currently, as a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Josh manages all of the firm’s marketing efforts. He has a passion for helping to create positive change and loves that his current role allows him to help nonprofits engage new donors and achieve their fundraising goals.

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