Charity Insights: The role of social capital in P2P fundraising

Jesper Juul Jensen
Min to read

Significant factors influencing P2P fundraising outcomes are often unobservable, a conclusion we've reached through extensive data analysis on our platform. While we can account for a significant portion of the results based on the actions fundraisers take, a majority remains unexplained, even by our machine learning models.

In this blog post, we delve into an article by Anna Priante, Michel L. Ehrenhard, Tijs van den Broek, Ariana Need, and Djoerd Hiemstra. This article is fascinating for us as it analyses factors typically beyond our data's reach—namely, the social capital of P2P fundraisers.

We identify two primary types of unmeasurable factors that influence P2P fundraising outcomes: a) social capital (broadly defined as both the size and quality of a fundraiser's social network) and b) the affluence of the fundraisers and their network. This article investigates a group of factors that can be categorised under social capital.

This post is part of an article series aimed at bridging the gap between academia and charity fundraising practitioners. The full article, “'Mo' Together or Alone? Investigating the Role of Fundraisers’ Networks in Online Peer-to-Peer Fundraising," can be accessed online.

Hypotheses, Data, and Method

Before delving into the results and their implications for fundraising practitioners, let's briefly overview the research hypothesis and the methodology employed.


The overreaching idea of the article is that the success of fundraising efforts, especially in peer-to-peer (P2P) campaigns conducted via social media, is significantly influenced by the supporters’s position within their social network (referred to as "network centrality") and their active participation within fundraising groups. 

Essentially, it suggests that fundraisers who are more centrally located in their network and those who engage actively in group fundraising activities are likely to raise more funds.

We could have devised this hypothesis ourselves based on anecdotal experience and understood why this is the base hypothesis. We want to note that group fundraising in this example is comparable to team fundraising in BetterNow.

Data and Method

The data for this study was sourced from the 2014 U.S. Movember campaign—a month-long event where participants grow moustaches to raise awareness and funds for men's health issues. 

The researchers used publicly available Twitter data to analyze the campaign's social media activities, along with fundraising data directly from the Movember Foundation. This combination provided a rich dataset for examining the relationship between social media behavior, network position, group participation, and fundraising success.

For our sceptical Scandinavians who question if Twitter data is useful here, we will highlight that Twitter (X) had a relatively broad adoption in the USA in 2014. Interestingly, with the increased closeness of social media data, we believe it would be very difficult to replicate this study in a Scandinavian context.

To understand the impact of network centrality and group participation on fundraising, the researchers analysed social media interactions and fundraising outcomes. They mapped the Twitter interactions among participants to determine each fundraiser's centrality within the network. Network centrality was assessed based on how connected a participant was with others in the network, considering factors like the number of connections and the importance of those connections. 

Additionally, they looked at the size and engagement level of fundraising groups to evaluate the role of group participation. Statistical analyses were conducted to identify patterns and relationships between these factors and the amount of money raised. 

Results of the study

The findings revealed a nuanced picture: fundraisers with moderate levels of network centrality and those participating in moderately sized and engaged fundraising groups tended to be the most successful. 

Interestingly, too high or too low centrality within the network did not correlate with the highest fundraising outcomes

Similarly, being part of very large or very small groups was less effective than being in medium-sized groups. These results suggest that having a balanced position within a social network and being part of an actively engaged, moderately sized group gives better fundraising results.

Implications for fundraising practitioners

For fundraising practitioners, these insights offer valuable strategies for optimising P2P fundraising efforts:

Network engagement

Supporters who have built and maintained a well-connected presence on social media, where connections are neither too sparse nor overly dense. This means the best type of supporters for P2P fundraising are those who actively engage with a wide range of individuals and groups and focus on meaningful interactions rather than merely maximising the number of connections. Now, how do you identify those? That is a question for another blog post.

Optimal network positioning

The research identifies a nonlinear relationship between a fundraiser's centrality in social media networks and their fundraising success. Fundraisers in central network positions might face a "cognitive overload," making it challenging to process information efficiently and convert it into donations. 

This overload can limit their ability to maintain communicative relationships important for securing donations. Interestingly, those positioned between the network's core and periphery—neither too central nor too peripheral—tend to be more successful. 

This optimal positioning likely reduces information pressure, allowing fundraisers to use their communication potential more effectively for fundraising. Occupying such "brokerage" positions can provide access to "bridging social capital," which refers to the benefits gained from networks of weaker ties that extend an individual's social reach and access to information. 

Translated into P2P fundraising speak: The best P2P fundraisers are those well connected - but not superstar networkers. We are not looking at supporters with huge followings on social media, but those that have meaningful relations with their network.

Group participation

Forming or joining fundraising groups of moderate size and engagement level can be more beneficial than solo efforts or participation in very large or small groups. Sadly, the study doesn’t give us any number for the perfect group size.  This optimal group size allows for effective collaboration and support without the drawbacks of minimal interaction or the dilution of efforts in very large groups. Basically - don’t make your teams/groups too big, and have them be meaningfully large for interactions.


In summary, the article sheds light on the intricate ways in which social media dynamics and group participation interplay to affect fundraising success. By understanding and applying these insights, fundraisers can better identify the best supporters for P2P fundraising and help them reach the best possible results. 

Back to the Education Center

Become a P2P expert,
Sign up for our newsletter

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Virtual P2P Fundraising

Download and learn both the basics and more advanced methods behind running a successful virtual event

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

How to retain P2P donors

Download the complete guide on how to retain - and upgrade - P2P donors to become members or recurrent donors.

Thank you! Check your email for the ebook
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

P2P Fundraising Community

Download the free guide nd learn how to build a P2P fundraising community.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

A successful P2P Fundraising stewardship journey

Download the free guide and learn how to deisgn and build amazing P2P fundraising stewardship journeys

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.