Let Friends Help with the Lifting: Peer-to-Peer & Crowdfunding

The evidence is everywhere: fundraising is getting more difficult.  Simply type ‘United States Fundraising Trends’ into a quick Google search, and here’s what you’ll see:

The overall percentage of American households that donate to charity is down, as is average giving from more than half of all income and age groups. Increasing costs (including sharp inflation, food & durable goods prices and more) have led us to a new cost-of-living level that’s here to stay.  And as inflation outpaced wage increases for 22 consecutive months from April 2021 to January 2023, many who have historically been steady donors have given less, less frequently or (hopefully for the time being) have dropped out of the donor pool altogether while they stretch their income to make ends meet.

But there are avenues that will help your school, church, PTO, athletic booster or other nonprofit continue to get the support you need.  It just takes a little out-of-the-box thinking.



For years, the political world has leveraged grassroots fundraising that mobilizes local communities to support a specific issue, campaign or candidate — especially in the last 20 years, as figures like Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders have had great success ‘going to the people.’ It’s no secret that the effectiveness of grassroots campaigns has aligned with little phenomena called the internet and social media platforms — where the impact of an interview, camera opp or really any major or minor happening can achieve global reach in a matter of minutes, not to mention the ease of donating online.  The tools we have to play with in 2023 make avenues like Peer-to-Peer and Crowdfunding highly viable as a way to raise funds….and ‘spread the wealth’ among a much more expansive pool of supporters.



Peer-to-Peer fundraising is a low-cost donation approach that involves individual nonprofit supporters setting up their own personal campaigns, and (generally with the aid of mission statements, ‘elevator speeches’ and other talking points provided by the organization) solicit support in the form of financial contributions, volunteer hours or a donated skill set from family, friends, neighbors and colleagues on behalf of the nonprofit for which they’re fundraising. The structure of the Peer-to-Peer strategy allows its supporting constituents to exponentially grow its reach to new, formerly untouched populations of potential donors. Organizations that actively enable their advocates to essentially become ‘partners’ in their fundraising efforts are reaping the benefits of a wider supporter base (read: sharing in the heavy lifting so no one group is overtaxed) and a chance for a new revenue stream. And, personal campaign pages can funnel into one overarching central campaign page which measures the progress of the entire initiative (and, depending on how you set it up, can rank top fundraisers to leverage those competitive juices!).



Peer-to-Peer initiatives extend an organization’s reach beyond its current donor roster and into other philanthropic, professional and social circles — potentially areas that your nonprofit probably has never yet accessed.  This means exposure to a whole new population.  And what if every fourth new exposure happens to mention your mission to their family, friends, neighbors and colleagues?  Then the real growth in your audience takes shape; and your individual constituents can then assist in stewarding their own donors. As we all know, proper and timely stewardship of donors = happy donors. Happy donors = donors who tend to give again.

Another benefit of Peer-to-Peer: authenticity and integrity. Supporters running their own personal campaigns for you already have the inherent equity and trust of their peer network (or they likely wouldn’t be peers).  Once your supporter communicates the importance of your work to the community (and how much he/she admires that work), one of the biggest hurdles to new donor conversion — trust — is overcome. Those advocating and asking for donations on your behalf do more than just raise funds; their overt support augments your brand and furthers your mission’s awareness in the community.  And once you bring these new donors into your family, they can get to know you (and you them) better.


A highly engaged supporter audience (i.e. your Peer-to-Peer ‘lifeline’) is critical for successful donation solicitation through Peer-to-Peer fundraising.  Once you have committed and motivated personal campaign leaders in your bullpen, here are some historically successful Peer-to-Peer options:

  • CASUAL COMPETITIONS. Food preparation contests (bake-offs, rib burn-offs, chili cook-offs, best soup contests) and even food-eating contests cast a wide appeal since everyone eats.  Other ideas: fitness/step-counting challenges, beard growing or shaving contests, best teacher of the month contests, et al.
  • SALES. Bake/chocolate/food sales (can further engagement by soliciting votes for ‘Best of’ in any number of categories), book/magazine drives, and pop-up gift stores (good for schools, as kids are always looking for Holiday/Easter/Birthday gift-giving ideas for family members).
  • SPECIAL EVENTS. You can integrate a Peer-to-Peer extension into an existing fundraising event, or add a fundraising angle to a School/church/work Holiday party, a special milestone/anniversary party — any happening with a large gathering, really.  These are also great opportunities to publicly recognize constituents who have gone above and beyond for your cause in recent months.


The practice of funding for a nonprofit by raising money from a large group of people, typically utilizing online/social media components, Crowdfunding racked up over $34B in worldwide fundraising as far back as 2015. As of 2021, there are nearly 1,500 Crowdfunding organizations that have been started in the U.S. alone, and worldwide funds raised via Crowdfunding is expected to reach $1 trillion in U.S. dollars by 2025.  These statistics show that Crowdfunding is definitely a donation avenue on the rise.  The key difference between Crowdfunding and Peer-to-Peer fundraising?  Crowdfunding typically involves a single online master campaign page hosted on a singular Crowdfunding site, whereas Peer-to-Peer is mostly run as individual personal campaigns.



In the same vain as Peer-to-Peer fundraising, Crowdfunding empowers nonprofits to reach their revenue goals without having to ‘go to the well’ with their usual donor base, and allows organizations to tap into a wider pool of potential donors whose geographical borders know no bounds — ostensibly reaching populations who may not be aware of their work. And, similar to Peer-to-Peer, Crowdfunding is an effectual way to engage these potential donors in a more personal, one-on-one manner with an endgame of creating a new community of constituents (and getting more immediate feedback from those being solicited).  Additionally, like Peer-to-Peer, Crowdfunding is usually a lower-risk and less costly way to solicit donations versus more traditional methods. This is not to say there won’t be challenges in your first foray (one: expect that, as many of your donors may be first-time givers to your cause, the average donation amounts may be smaller than you’re used to), but once you navigate the headwinds there’s much upside in this form of fundraising.



Crowdfunding campaigns are ideal for causes that communities inherently rally around; COVID pandemic-related Crowdfunding initiatives met with much success in 2020-2021, and Crowdfunding is usually the go-to campaign to lend support to those affected by natural disasters or aid for other crises. Other ideas that Crowdfunding is a good match for:

  • Advocacy efforts
  • Human & animal healthcare & welfare
  • Social justice causes
  • Special Events
  • Specific equipment & supply needs
  • Capital campaigns

DonorPoint can offer you counsel and best practices that will match your situation and fundraising goals.

Just remember, Peer-to-Peer and Crowdfunding are simply ‘spokes in the wheel’ that, when employed in congruence with other fundraising strategies, work together to power your nonprofit’s development plan.



If you’d like to discuss how Peer-to-Peer and Crowdfunding tactics can further YOUR overall fundraising strategy, please reach out.