9 concepts for success in P2P fundraising, and 4 things to avoid

Engagement Inspiration9 concepts for success in P2P fundraising, and 4 things to avoid

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9 concepts for success in P2P fundraising, and 4 things to avoid 9 concepts for success in P2P fundraising, and 4 things to avoid
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  • August 26, 2019
  • 14 min read

When an organisation signs up for a BetterNow solution, we are often asked for tips and ideas on how to get started with P2P fundraising. This is the long version of our answer.

Our answers have evolved over time as we have learned, so we have included some of our early nonsense as examples of what not to do. For any given organisation, some of the below will be ill-suited ideas, so we have included a bit on who this might be most suited for.

Key concepts we know work in P2P fundraising

Birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings

Birthday P2P fundraising

A great opportunity for creating a fundraising page is any celebratory event, where gifts are traditionally given.

Many are knee deep in over-consumption and are looking for a more meaningful way of celebrating birthdays and other life events. Donating your birthday, wedding or anniversary is a great way to do this.

This is a hugely successful concept, and your organisation probably has already had Facebook birthday fundraisers. However, for the really big occasions, think weddings, 50 year birthdays and the like, many supporters want a more lasting memory and a more special experience than Facebook. A link they can put in the invitation, a good looking site, and a place where the 20 year old nephews who have ditched Facebook also can donate.

We also want to highlight work anniversaries. This is a massive opportunity that usually goes under the radar for most charities. Think top executives who have work anniversaries, and are ready to not just expand their wine cellar, but invest in something more lasting. But it will require that your private and corporate fundraising teams can work together to achieve this.

How to proceed: Do you have the birthdays of your members in your database? E-mail them 2-3 months in advance to inform them of this idea. Advertise the opportunity to donate on their wedding or birthday on their homepage, or have a coffee with corporate fundraising, make sure they are alert to upcoming work anniversaries among the top executives among your corporate supporters.

Who this will work for: Any charity. This is such a generic idea, that it will work for any cause. However, the opportunity does scale with your own database size, as you will mainly tap into existing support. So if you have a small database, this will not be a major donation driver. One caveat to the last point is that one or two high profile individuals really can pull off some amazing fundraising results.

Examples: Sverige för UNHCR were among the first movers on this. See some of the results here and here.

Sports achievements

Event P2P fundraising

This is the life blood of P2P fundraising, where it all started. Completing an endurance event is a great opportunity for creating a fundraising page. Athletes are already passionate about their sports, and combining their achievements in sports with raising money for a good cause gives them a reason to share their passion with their network even more than they perhaps already do. Fundraising is for many event participants a commitment device, helping them to commit and achieve their goal.

Initially we thought only though longer events were good for fundraising. But we were so wrong! All kinds of sports provide occasions for creating fundraising pages – from a 5 km walk to the 250 km ultra running event through Sahara. A 5km walk can be a major achievement for some individuals, and for others a half-marathon is just the weekend training. This is why any event can work. We do still see a higher average fundraised for tougher events, so even though all events can work, not all events are equal in opportunity.

P2P fundraising and sports achievements benefit from team fundraising. This creates competition, increases the average fundraised and drive more participants as the social aspect of the event is emphasised.

How to proceed: There are three ways to approach this, and we can’t go into detail in this article, as this is a whole subject of its own. So you can either:

  • Approach it opportunistically, see what comes in and just advertise the option on your homepage. But, small effort = low impact
  • Piggyback on existing events. Buy event places and offer them for free or discounted if supporters fundraise for you. In addition offer training clubs, community feeling and additional value etc that they couldn’t get elsewhere. You definitely want to check out YOU RUN and Göteborgsvärvet if you are a Danish or Swedish organisation.
  • Design your own unique event. The practical execution can be done by a third party or yourself. This gives you ultimate control in designing an event, unique to you, that will target the audience you want to attract.

Who will this work for: Any charity can take an opportunistic approach, and with the help of volunteers, you should be able to set up a program around third party events you can piggyback on. Designing and executing your own event demands expertise. This can be done in-house, or you can hire in consultants such as Yadoux or Peerworks. Small internal events can have a huge impact, so even small charities with just a few employees can still pull this off. Health and medical research charities have most success with this overall.

Examples: Scleroseforeningen (Danish MS society) is among the most innovative and active within this space, organising many small and large events themselves. Julemærkefonden in Denmark here show how to piggyback on a large existing event.

Corporate P2P fundraising

Corporate P2P fundraisingCompanies fundraise for two different reasons in our experience. Very small companies might engage in P2P fundraising as a way to spread information about their service and product, and maybe even acquire new customers. Also the founders affinity toward your case matters a lot. Other companies will engage in P2P fundraising because of HR reasons. They want to create employee engagement and create a sound company culture that attracts the best talent. The first group of companies are, from a fundraising perspective, often not interesting, as they can easily be high in support and low in impact.

Employee fundraising has two flavours. The one most found in Scandinavia is often done at Christmas or in connection with emergency fundraising (see below). Here companies will often donate a substantial amount, and encourage their employees to donate too. If done right, this is an awesome way to gather new donor information and leads, not to mention we often see the amount initially donated by the company being doubled. The company may also have all kinds of internal events in order to fundraise for you. Read more here.

The second flavour is something we mainly see in the UK. It is competitive fundraising among employees, departments and stores. This can be in connection with company participation in large mass participation events. Stores in chains often compete on fundraising over a year, or it can be departments in friendly competition.

How to proceed: Make sure your corporate fundraisers have P2P fundraising in their toolbox when talking with companies. Especially around Christmas and when emergencies strike. For more examples, details on how to sell the idea and much more, read this blog post on employee fundraising.

Who this will work for: Big brand charities will have a much easier time getting big companies lined up behind you. But basically any charity with corporate sponsors and programs can utilise this concept.

Examples: Bambora fundraising for Swedish Doctors without Borders, Assemblin fundraising for Prostatacancerförbundet (Swedish Prostate Cancer Associuation)

Ambassador programs

Ambassador programTo some extent P2P fundraising is an ambassador program. But this is more about building a group of long-term committed ambassadors. These are you most dedicated supporters, who will do anything, because they love you. Not just because they care about the cause, but because they are committed to standing behind your organisation, your employees and your mission.

Such an ambassador program will be an asset that can be used to gather momentum behind new campaigns and be activated in case of emergencies. They require attention, nurture and a leader who communicates clearly with them (YOU are the leader of this amazing tribe). They need a goal, guidance and a few suggested actions. Ambassadors might end up activating whole communities. One ambassador might be a member of a rotary club or engage their local church choir or football club in fundraising. The impact of a tightly attached group of ambassadors can be marvellous.

How to proceed: If you want to work strategically around this, we strongly recommend you get in touch with Yadoux/Patrik Haggren. Else, identify those who already are your most ardent supporters and contact them, – and just ask and listen for interest. This will help you start build an actual program.

Who this will work for: This is truly a strategy that can work for any organisation, size, and cause.

Examples: IOGT-NTO have built very successful ambassador program, UNICEF NextGEN is another example of how an ambassador program can be organised outside of the main organisation.

Challenges and Virtual events

Virtual challenge eventsWhy do all P2P events and challenges have to be about running and cycling with others? But they don’t! Here we want to give you P2P campaigns that don’t require people to meet up at a specific date and time to participate in an event.

We have challenges that don’t include running or biking at all. These are often about abstaining from something. For example, not drinking alcohol, not eating chocolate, going zero waste, going vegan/vegetarian or other behaviours we want to encourage. These are often challenges that also will serve your mission in more than one way, for both fundraising and encouraging behavioural changes.

The other option does include physical activity, but at home. Examples can be running 100 km over a month, doing strength exercises each day or walking a certain length together with your local community. The benefit of these is that it requires less up front investment and that it’s easy for the event to have many more participants.

When event are virtual and happening at ‘home’ it makes sense to visualise the activity digital. One option is to create the campaigns with sponsorable fundraisers. Here logged activity is paired with pledge fundraising to create an engaging fundraising experience for the participants.

Who this will work for: Any charity, any cause, any size.

How to proceed: Test out a few concepts in small groups, maybe even try some focus groups and get their input to find a good concept. As these campaigns are purely digital, you could engage a digital agency in coming up with the communication and concept.

Examples: YOU GO GIRL is a great Danish example on “virtual” walking event, Dryathlon is one among many great UK events centered around abstaining.

Influencer fundraising

influencer fundraisingMedia consumption has shifted, so welcome to the world of influencers. Influencers hold a strong sway over their followers, and the connection is so strong that their encouragement easily leads to a donation. Grouping them all under the headline ‘influencers’ is not really possible. Influencers are a highly varied group. Fashion bloggers, You-tubers, Instagram celebrities, Gamers etc.

It is important to see them as professionals. Try to imagine what you can offer them in terms of recognition, brand legitimacy and content to share. Find a good connection between you and them that makes it authentic. A truly authentic connection will make for the best results.

How to proceed: Identify and contact. Using PR agencies just as you would to contact traditional media outlets is a good option. Also, read about live streaming and fundraising here. Help them up with a fundraising page and handhold them. And make sure to offer something in return.

Who this will work for: Anyone. But big brands are at an advantage as they can offer influencers more legitimacy and content.

Examples: Hjärnfonden have had success engaging a varied group of influencers in their cause. The Danish Child Cancer Foundation have had several high profile gamers fundraising through livestreams. Se them here and here

In-memory fundraising

in-memory fundraisingSwitching funeral flowers for donations to a cause close to the person who passed away is nothing new. And in-memory fundraising pages, both in connection with funerals, or even created years after the funeral, is growing, in both acceptance and numbers.

When the world is unfair, and loved ones are taken away, relatives and friends want to find meaning in the midst of meaninglessness. Fundraising in honour of that person can help them achieve this, which is why this type of fundraising is really both for those fundraising and the cause benefiting from their efforts and generosity.

How to proceed: You could do it within any P2P fundraising setup, but we would strongly suggest that you look into our dedicated in-memory fundraising solution. Most importantly, inform everyone who gives a one-time gift in memory of a loved one about the possibility to also create an in-memory fundraising page.

Who this will work for: Health charities are those who will benefit from this the most, but any charity with a large supporter base should put some thought in to this option.

Examples: Mind in Sweden have had many in-memory fundraisers created, see one here. Alzheimerforeningen (Danish Alzheimers Society) is leveraging our dedicated in-memory solution.

Emergency P2P fundraising

emergency fundraisingWhen disaster hits, the world unites. And you want the world to unite behind you when disaster strikes. P2P fundraising is an amazing way to do this. Let your supporters pick up the baton, and just run with it in these situations. You will be surprised to see just how creative they can be. To be part of a united effort of is a strangely uplifting experience for many. We have seen this take place in cases such as the Japan earthquake in 2011, the European migrant crisis in 2015, and the Matthew Hurricane and following humanitarian crisis in Haiti in 2016.

However not all emergencies get the attention they deserve, and it is often the hard hitting, sudden crisis that really gets the media attention needed to gather enough people behind it. There is a tipping point and predicting which emergency will barke through the noise isn’t easy.

How to proceed: Have your peer-to-peer solution ready for when disaster hits. Having an ambassador program (see above) that you can activate is also very useful. Make sure you get corporations onboard with P2P fundraising is another major part of it.

Who this will work for: Charities who respond to emergencies of the type that can generate sudden public support and outcry.

Examples: Läkare utan Gränser and Sverige för UNHCR projects in connection with European Migrant Crisis of 2015.

Volunteer P2P fundraising

volunteer fundraisingVolunteers and people generally working for charitable organisations are obvious candidates for creating fundraising pages. They are already motivated to offering their time and energy in support of the organisation. Volunteers comes in many shapes and sizes. Young volunteers sent abroad are obvious candidates for fundraising. Your local volunteers in a second hand store not so much. It is very important to figure out what motivates the volunteers, and sometimes fundraising is not at all what motivates them. In those cases – don’t attempt to push them into fundraising.

Volunteers and people working for charitable organisations may be able to reduce the distance between donor and cause, having first hand access to, and knowledge about, a particular cause. Using both text and pictures, the volunteer may help the donor get a more concrete understanding of where the money goes and why this particular cause is so important.

Who will benefit: Organisations who have volunteers. Especially where the volunteers are young and work abroad. Size doesn’t matter here, but the number of volunteers obviously do.

How to proceed: For the right volunteers – make it part of the normal routine when volunteers are on-boarded, that they create a fundraiser. You could even make it an obligatory part of the volunteer program, to at least create a fundraising page. Gamification and leaderboards could help encourage actually taking steps to fundraise.

Example: Tea Leaf Trust in the UK have great success engaging their volunteers in both fundraising and tea picking.

What not to do in P2P Fundraising


The first years of BetterNow, we had multiple fundraisers holding informal lotteries. They would make a draw among everyone who donated to a fundraiser. A call from the danish gambling authorities made us realise that 1) Gambling authorities have no humor and walk in very small shoes. 2) Unauthorised lotteries are illegal in Denmark. So today we don’t allow these fundraisers. These laws are actually in place in most countries we work in, so this is a very general rule – don’t do unauthorised lotteries.

Communicate “you can do anything”

This can actually work, especially in mature P2P fundraising markets such as the UK. But in the rest of Europe encouraging everything is the same as encouraging nothing. It requires a level of creativity and commitment from your supporters that you just can’t expect. Having clearly identified concepts and packages are the way forward. Most people are complacent and lazy (maybe a bit too cynical, but not completely untrue).

Elaborated and complicated concepts

Don’t overly complicate it. Complicated concepts just create unnecessary barriers to participation. Even though the concept might be amazing once you learn it, no one will do it. Just think of these concepts like playing Bamboozled. A warning, you might not see it yourself because of the genius concept you have thought out. The best way is to test the concept out on people outside of your organisation/family/fundraising. Sounds basic, and it is, but too many times we forget this.

Unnecessary earmarking of the funds

Sometimes charities get carried away, because they hope P2P fundraising can help fund some specific project that they need funding for. Suddenly it is all about fundraising for this specific pet project.

Don’t earmark the funds unless potential fundraisers asks about specific projects to fundraise for. The only reason to earmark is fundraiser recruitment. Donors will often donate no matter what as long as their friend asks them to. If you really want to fundraise for your pet project, you should look into crowdfunding rather P2P fundraising.

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Jesper Juul Jensen

Jesper is the CEO of BetterNow and has been a part of BetterNow since it was founded in early 2011. He graduated in economics and management from Aarhus University in 2012 and wrote his masters about economic theories of the third sector. His goal is to make private giving and generosity a much larger part of our personal lives.

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