Forecasting P2P fundraising income

Jesper Juul Jensen
Min to read

When budgeting for a P2P fundraising campaign, it is often straightforward to do cost budgeting. But income is notoriously difficult.

A P2P fundraising event often has several revenue streams. All of these often have the same revenue driver, namely the number of participants.

The more participants, the more ticketing income (if that is part of the event). The more participants, the more fundraisers. But here it gets more tricky and less of a 1-to-1 relationship.

How to forecast P2P fundraising income

Fundraising income is also driven by the average fundraised per participant. This can again be broken down into the activation rate from participant to active fundraiser (any fundraiser with minimum 1 donation) and then the average fundraised per active fundraiser. 

The P2P fundraising income can be calculated by the following formula:

Number of Participants * (Activation Rate  * Average fundraised) = Income

E.g. do you expect 100 participants, a 70% activation arte to fundraise and a 300€ average, then it looks like this:

1000* 0.65 * 300€ = 195.000 €

The activation rate is fairly predictable and can often be guessed at from a little investigation into industry reports or by asking e.g. your platform vendor about their experience.

The last metric, the average fundraised per active fundraiser can vary a lot form event to event, and will have huge and impact on the final result. But it is not only between event types. Even events in the same event series, but e.g. different location or year will see very different revenue outcomes.

A very skewed distribution

The problem when forecasting, is that the average fundraised might vary widely from year to year, even though both your campaign execution and the environment stays the same. 

The reason is that the average fundraise is a really bad metric on its own. That is because the distribution of how much a fundraiser fundraises is incredibly skewed. The below graph shows the overall distribution of all active fundraisers through BetterNow. We have left out the 100th percentile, as the top 1% of fundraisers are some true outliers (with results in the range of 100.000 €).

This distribution is basically what you can expect from a P2P fundraising campaign. Let's look at some key percentiles, with some interpretations. 

0.1 Percentile: 19 € 
0.25 Percentile : 50€ (25% fundraise less than 50 €)
0.5 Percentile (Median): 166€ (50% fundraise more 166€)
0.8 Percentile: 630 € 
0.9 Percentile: 1.277 € (10% fundraise more than 1.277 €)
0.95 Percentile: 2.266 € (5% fundraise more than 2.266 €)

If  you have a relatively low number of total participants (our guess is it starts to be an issue at 100 or fewer participants), this becomes an issue when forecasting P2P fundraising income. The reason is that the fewer fundraisers you have, luck might play an outsized role in the final results. 

Positive outliers are important for P2P fundraising. It is those top 5% of the fundraiser that pull much of your donation income. The top 5% of fundraisers will probably fundraise more than the ‘bottom’ 80%. 

With just 100 participants in a campaign, your budget will in other words rely on you just having 5 amazing individual fundraisers. And you might be unlucky one year (only two “top 5%” fundraisers), and lucky the next year (10 amazing “top 5%” fundraisers). 

What is the solution for forecasting  P2P income

The first solution is to only do events/campaigns with more than 100 expected participants. But few charities  have the luxury to abandon events based on them having less than potential fundraisers.

In these cases, if you have less than 100 participants, here are some ways to mitigate the issues stemming form the skewed distribution of P2P fundraisers:

  • Make sure your fixed costs are low. Virtual events are one option here as they in general have fewer fixed costs. This lowers the impact of a bad year.
  • Be aware that you might get a bad year, and if that happens it does not mean that the year after that will be bad (but it might though, so do take  a deep look at the data so see what drove the bad result)
  • Always make a version of the budget, where you use the expected median or remove the top 5% of fundraisers. This can serve as sensitivity analysis to ensure that even a bad year won't ruin it for you. Don’t rely on simple metrics such as the average.

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