A News Non Profits — 18 March 2019

By: Katrina VanHuss, CEO of Turnkey

Lissa Greenlee, Senior National Director, Team in Training, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

At some point, your board, your executive director, your colleagues…have said, “We need to do peer-to-peer fundraising!” No doubt, peer to peer (P2P) is effective, the question is, how can you use this powerful channel, while fully understanding the risks and potential rewards?

More than Events

Peer to peer fundraising, an endeavor not to be taken lightly, is an important line item in many top nonprofits’ revenue budgets. Furthermore, what drives P2P is not intuitive, so applications and analysis are not always clear.

Many organizations view P2P as only an event tool. The reality is that P2P fundraising is not a channel dependent on any one type of activity, primarily because P2P fundraising is a process, not an event.

The Potential Rate of Response of P2P

To understand P2P fundraising, consider the following nonprofit appeal:

“Our mission is to enable a child’s right to clean, safe and sustainable water on the world’s driest continent, Africa. Please help us transform lives forever by donating!”

Now, let’s focus on two channels for delivery of this message: direct mail and P2P. Direct mail yields a response of one in 2,500 (.04 %). P2P yields a response of one in four (25 %). (source: Blackbaud)

The difference in the responses is dramatic and it would seem obvious that P2P is always going to be a “This is a no brainer! Yes, let’s do it!” There are many factors, though, that impact both direct mail and P2P, such as reachable universes, precision in delivery, and sheer costs which are all wildly different. Any organization will need a good P2P campaign strategy to understand the steps to take to get a 25% response rate.

In direct response marketing, it’s said that if you have a good list, even with bad creative you can achieve good results; but, if you have a bad list, even with the best creative you won’t get good results because you’ve targeted the wrong audience.

Effective P2P programs generate donors that, from the beginning, resonate with your mission. And, as the name peer-to-peer indicates, the vehicle delivering your message is a person who is already engaged with your cause.

That person has relatives… friends… colleagues who all have similar interests (we hope!) – the perfect list. Your message delivered to them is “stamped” as credible as it comes from a trusted source – a personal connection – a peer.

The Risks

The biggest risk for a P2P campaign, is much like any other campaign… a failure to properly strategize and plan.

With P2P fundraising, an organization needs to develop a theme that will motivate the original donor to reach out to their network. So, while they currently donate to your mission, what concept or theme can you use to ignite your donors to engage even more?

The combination of goals and deadlines usually makes a winning combination! In your strategy, you’ll need to develop that sense of urgency and what needs to be accomplished to ensure you motivate your donors.

Plan on developing a toolkit for your fundraisers. Think of this as a two-step selling process. You’ve sold your donor on your mission; now you have to sell them on sharing it with their personal connections! Don’t leave them hanging – give them the tools they need (e.g., in-person training, emails, social media posts, etc.) so they can succeed on your behalf.

If you do pair P2P with a live event, make sure it is the right kind of event. The leads generated by event marketing, and the volunteer fundraisers that come from it, can often be a transactional relationship – one time. Transactional relationships can be typically difficult to convert to transformational donor relationships. So…

That leads us to one of the most important tools for a successful P2P – follow-up. Follow-up with your existing donors with thanks, and the new donors with a message of thanks and developing their loyalty to your mission.

Additional P2P benefits

While P2P engages your existing donors to fundraise for you, their efforts realize for your organization some enormous byproduct benefits:

  • Self-donation—volunteer fundraisers almost always donate themselves.
  • Self-reinforcement—every time a volunteer fundraiser asks for a donation for a nonprofit, they are more likely to continue the same pattern of behavior.
  • Data collection and new donor acquisition—the average P2P fundraiser recruits four first-time donors to the organization.

Let’s face it… P2P is not for every organization, every event or for every donor for that matter. Remember, when we said P2P is a process, that process includes taking the time, internally, to assess your resources, look at your donors, examine your messaging and strategize a plan to make it work. By developing your process, which includes targeting your current donors who would be right for the job, a successful P2P campaign could help raise more money, as well as add to your donor list and provide opportunities for other revenue channels.

Do you know the phrase, “rising tide lifts all boats?” Well, maybe P2P fundraising can be your rising tide!

Want to learn more about Peer-to-Peer Fundraising, the strategies and tools, Join Katrina VanHuss and Lissa Greenlee Thursday, July 11, 2019, from 8:15 am to 9:20 am ET at the 14th Annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing & Fundraising Conference, July 10-July 12, Gaylord National Hotel & Conference Center, National Harbor, MD, (adjacent to Washington, DC), as they present P2P Fundraising – Why, Why Not & How.




Katrina VanHuss, CEO, Turnkey

Katrina founded Turnkey in 1989 to help nonprofits execute P2P fundraising. A student of the social psychology and data regarding P2P fundraising, Katrina leads her company in serving many of the top 30 P2P fundraising programs in the nation including March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen, UNICEF and the like. She is the co-author of the book Dollar Dash – the Behavioral Economics of P2P Fundraising.




Lissa Greenlee, Senior National Director, Team in Training, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Lissa has worked at the national level at Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for over 12 years, after having started her career as a Campaign Director in Virginia. In the last two years she has been part of a team shepherding the Team in Training campaign through an organizational restructuring which has resulted in elevated contributions to the mission.


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