The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many aspects of society, nonprofit fundraising events included. However, just because the switch to virtual peer-to-peer may have felt swift, we’re strong believers that the practice is going to stick around going forward.
So, before your team starts planning your next peer-to-peer fundraiser, it’s well worthwhile to revisit your virtual process to ensure it aligns with best practices.
At GoodUnited, we work with nonprofits just like yours to optimize their Facebook Challenge efforts. Because Facebook is a prime platform to conduct virtual peer-to-peer fundraising, we’re familiar with the best practices to make the most of this type of fundraiser.
We’ve created this guide to help your nonprofit successfully conduct virtual peer-to-peer fundraising in 2021 and beyond. As you read, you’ll explore the following topics:
While you may already be familiar with the basics of virtual peer-to-peer fundraising (and, even conducted fundraisers already!), let’s start with an overview of the practice. This ensures that we’re building from the same foundation before diving into the best practices.
Are you ready to learn more about virtual peer-to-peer fundraising and how your team can optimize the process heading into 2021? Let’s get started.
Overview of Virtual Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
What is virtual peer-to-peer fundraising?
While virtual peer-to-peer fundraisers emerged prior to 2020, there’s no denying that the practice rocketed to the forefront of many nonprofit’s strategies as the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Suddenly, in-person peer-to-peer events in-person were no longer feasible. But, at the same time, foregoing the donations that would be raised through those events was also not an option.
Enter virtual peer-to-peer fundraising, the tech-fueled strategy that bridges the gap and drastically expands the potential of these events in one fell swoop.
As a refresher, peer-to-peer fundraising is a fundraising method where, instead of donating directly to your nonprofit itself, supporters sign up to be “participants” in the fundraiser and raise gifts from their personal networks.
Virtual peer-to-peer fundraising is very similar to standard P2P fundraising. The main difference is that a virtual peer-to-peer fundraiser takes place entirely over the internet.
So, rather than meeting in person to complete a fundraising challenge or event, participants complete the task from their own location (and, if you’ve planned strategically, they connect over the internet while doing so).
Let’s examine what one of these virtual challenges would look like in more detail.
What does a virtual fundraising challenge look like?
While there are a variety of popular virtual peer-to-peer formats that have emerged in 2020, let’s look at three examples that can give you a good idea of what the practice looks like overall.
Let’s start with a peer-to-peer fundraiser that involves a physical challenge: a virtual walk-a-thon.
- First, you’d equip participants with digital fundraising software— the initial step in each of these examples.
For example, if you're hosting a Facebook Challenge, this would mean helping participants create Facebook fundraisers and join the corresponding Challenge group on the platform.
- Then, you clearly communicate the parameters of the event to your participants.
Will they be walking 10,000 steps on their own each day for a month? Or, will they be walking a 5k on the same day, at the same time, but from their own locations?
- After communicating the parameters, the fundraising begins.
Each participant raises funds through their own personal fundraisers, which are directed into your nonprofit’s overall event fundraiser. Drawing back to the Challenge example, this is where you'd communicate with participants in the Facebook group to encourage them toward their fundraising goals.
- Participants complete the challenge outlined at the start.
This participation happens from their own location. Then, participants share their progress with their support networks and your organization, and the individual and overall fundraising accomplishments are celebrated.
Now that we’ve walked through what a physical challenge would look like, let’s briefly discuss two other ways this could play out:
- A non-physical challenge. This is exactly as it sounds, in that rather than completing a physical challenge, participants take part in a non-physical effort. Popular examples include reading a certain amount, volunteering a certain number of hours, or even changing their appearance (i.e. “No Shave” November challenges).
- An ambassador-based fundraiser. You appoint a group of strong supporters of your nonprofit to be ambassadors. Throughout the year, these ambassadors host dedicated Facebook Challenges for your cause as a group.
When it comes to virtual peer-to-peer fundraising and the types of fundraisers you can hold, the key takeaway is this:
If you were planning an in-person peer-to-peer fundraiser, it more than likely can be translated into virtual means very successfully.
Virtual peer-to-peer fundraising is sticking around for the foreseeable future— both because the return to in-person events may be slow and because many nonprofits have been highly successful with virtual P2P. So, let’s explore a few best practices that your nonprofit can use to improve your virtual practices heading in to 2021.
Virtual Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Best Practices for Your Nonprofit
Use peer-to-peer fundraising platforms that your supporters are familiar with.
When conducting virtual peer-to-peer fundraising in the past, you may have used a peer-to-peer fundraising platform to do so. However, successful virtual P2P may require a variety of solutions on top of that— such as social networks and a video conferencing platform for livestreaming.
Asking your donors to interact with a handful of different solutions automatically complicates the virtual peer-to-peer process. However, there’s a significantly simpler and more effective tool to conduct virtual P2P: Facebook.
Facebook’s fundraising tools are a powerful force for peer-to-peer fundraising, and many nonprofits have already had success raising P2P gifts in this way. Just check out this article, which shows that in the 2019 Pan-Mass Challenge, millions were raised through Facebook’s peer-to-peer fundraising tools.
With Facebook Challenges, every aspect of the fundraiser, from marketing to community-building, takes place on one platform. There are a few benefits to using Facebook:
- The platform is already familiar to your supporters and staff alike. Rather than having to sign up for and learn to navigate an unfamiliar technology, Facebook peer-to-peer fundraisers are accessed with the ease of logging into your own social profile.
- There are no processing fees for Facebook fundraisers. Unlike many popular peer-to-peer platforms, Facebook won’t take a cut of your proceeds. This means your nonprofit retains 100% of all donations.
And the biggest benefit? Facebook is an inherently social platform, where participants are already connected with their friends, family members, coworkers, and more.
Collect data about your virtual peer-to-peer campaigns.
With such a heavy reliance on technology, data from your virtual peer-to-peer efforts is more accessible than ever before. But, if you don’t have a strong system for collecting and examining that data, it’s kind of a moot point.
There are a variety of ways this data can benefit your team after the campaign itself ends. For example, you can:
- Follow up with peer-to-peer campaign donors after the fundraiser is complete. Frequently, giving to their friend’s campaign is the first interaction a peer-to-peer donor has with your organization. Collecting their contact information and following up afterward is key to retaining that support beyond the campaign.
- Discover new ways to improve future fundraising efforts. As with any other fundraiser, there’s always room for improvement. Whether improving your recruitment messaging, your community efforts, or your post-fundraiser follow up, data is key to discovering what worked and what didn’t.
To access these benefits, you need a plan in place for collecting and analyzing the data available.
For example, you should integrate your peer-to-peer fundraising platform of choice with your CRM if possible. This allows the data to flow seamlessly into your main database for later review. Beyond that, you should prioritize data hygiene to ensure this data is accurate and up-to-date.
If you’re using Facebook as your peer-to-peer tool of choice, we recommend aligning with Facebook Payments rather than Network for Good. This is because Payments allows your team to access key donor information, such as their name and potentially their email address (if the donor opted-in to share it). Even further, you can work with the GoodUnited team to make your Facebook peer-to-peer data more accessible, with an intuitive Facebook fundraising dashboard. Contact us today to learn more.
Ensure any challenges are accessible for all participants.
Earlier in this guide, we used the example of a walk-a-thon as a popular peer-to-peer fundraising challenge. Physical challenges are highly prevalent in the peer-to-peer fundraising sphere, whether running, hiking, biking, or even doing push-ups.
We’re not discouraging you from using these popular challenges in your virtual peer-to-peer events. However, it is important to consider the accessibility of these challenges and to ensure that all prospective participants that want to get involved are able to!
Here are a few quick tips you can use to ensure your virtual fundraiser is accessible:
- Avoid requiring extensive equipment. For example, if your fundraiser involves a physical fitness component, will participants need to access a fully-equipped gym? A challenge that they can complete from the comfort of their own premises is much more accessible.
- Provide alternatives for physical challenges. Consider the full range of your supporters and beyond when outlining the parameters of physical challenges. For example, with a 5k run, can supporters that are unable to complete that challenge walk instead? Or some other activity?
While providing options, avoid complicating your virtual peer-to-peer fundraiser with too much variety. With a physical fundraiser, this could be as simple as providing two main ways to get involved— for example, running the 5k or walking a shorter distance!
Prepare to answer questions from virtual participants.
Even if your supporters have participated in a peer-to-peer fundraiser before, there’s a decent chance your next campaign is one of their first experiences with fully virtual fundraising. Because of that, it’s important that you make this process as easy and transparent as possible by being readily available to answer any questions.
Some of the questions you may receive include:
- What is your nonprofit’s mission? This could be the first time a peer-to-peer fundraiser interacts with your organization. Make sure they’re met with a strong introduction to your organization to build trust from the start.
- What are we raising funds for? Peer-to-peer participants are using their own credibility to raise funds for your organization. Make sure you can clearly communicate the impact of those funds to avoid any apprehension from participants or donors.
- How do we access donation information for tax purposes? For example, Facebook sends users a donation receipt automatically via email. If you’re using that platform, it can be helpful to be familiar with this process!
- How do I create a fundraiser? This could cover the process of using your peer-to-peer tool of choice, as well as any messaging suggestions to spread the word.
- What are the parameters surrounding participation? This is where you should communicate exactly how a participant should engage with any activities or complete any challenges.
- How do we report our involvement in the fundraiser/completion of any Challenges? For example, do they log steps walked directly within the Facebook group, or somewhere else?
Consider assembling the answers to these questions into a user guide and sharing it on your website and main virtual peer-to-peer page. Additionally, make sure your team is prepared to answer these questions on the fly— this can instill confidence that your peer-to-peer fundraiser has been carefully planned and prepared for.
Create virtual communities for your fundraisers.
Peer-to-peer fundraising is inherently social, both because participants are raising donations from their personal networks and because participants can motivate one another to fundraise more effectively.
Creating a community allows participants to connect with one another, connect with your nonprofit, discuss their efforts, and share encouragement. There are clear benefits, such as:
- The ability to quickly disseminate information and updates.
- The motivating sense of community.
- Crowdsourced ideas such as tips to raise more.
Some nonprofits shy away from virtual fundraising because they think that this social aspect can’t be replicated digitally. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth!
It’s entirely possible to create a strong community for your virtual peer-to-peer participants.
In particular, we've seen nonprofits have success with this when it comes to hosting a Facebook Challenge. In that case, all Challenge participants are added to a Facebook group corresponding to the effort. They're then able to network with likeminded individuals, share encouragement, donate to one another's fundraisers, and discuss their experiences along the way.
With this option, you can create a thriving community for participants to engage in while also being able to monitor the messaging surrounding the campaign.
Our Top Tip: Actively engage with your virtual peer-to-peer participants.
Or sixth and final tip to empower your team to make the most of virtual peer-to-peer fundraising is this:
Actively engage your participants at every step of the process.
While participants are the ones raising funds on your behalf, that doesn’t mean they should be alone in the process and independent of your organization. Instead, virtual peer-to-peer fundraising should be an ongoing partnership between your organization and participants, in which you support them along the way.
At GoodUnited, we’ve discovered a few key ways your organization can engage peer-to-peer participants on Facebook:
- Thanking each and every participant who starts a fundraiser.
- Prioritizing one-on-one conversational messaging with participants via Facebook Messenger.
- Hosting Facebook Challenges throughout the year to engage current and new supporters.
For many nonprofits, tackling these tasks for each and every participant might seem overwhelming. That's why we've created a turnkey social fundraising solution to help your nonprofit raise its relationships with social supporters.
We start by thanking each participant and inviting them to join a custom messaging sequence. With that, we share tips and encouragement with the fundraiser to ensure they have success through the effort. We’re also able to learn more about participants with surveys to continue stewarding them going forward.
Even further, we can create a strategy for and manage any peer-to-peer fundraising groups your organization uses to create community. After interacting with our peer-to-peer fundraising services, we’ve found that 94% of participants are eager to fundraise for the nonprofit again. To learn more about our peer-to-peer social services, contact us today.
To learn more about virtual peer-to-peer fundraising and Facebook fundraising overall, explore the following additional resources:
- Facebook Fundraising for Nonprofits: A Comprehensive Guide
- Facebook Birthday Fundraisers: How to Maximize Support
- Facebook Fundraiser Fees: Understanding the Essentials