Friend Raising: How your Small Charity Can Raise Funds Through Peer to Peer Fundraising

HM pledge page


             This month I had a little reminder why we have a peer to peer fundraising component in each of our signature fundraising events. On January 1st we received a $25,000 on-line donation; this donation caught my attention for a whole list of reasons. First of all our fundraising program and our organization is small enough that a $25,000 donation is pretty exciting to us. We also don’t get a lot of on-line donations this large; a large on-line donation for us is $5000 or $10,000, with a lot of $100 and $25 donations making up the majority of the gifts. We also don’t get a lot of donations on January 1st, December 31st before the mid-night tax deadline yes, but not mid-day on New Year’s Day.  As we speak, Marla our Director of Development has been playing telephone tag with the donor to find out some more details about this generous gift. What is even more interesting about this gift is that we did a search of our database and the only other donation from this donor was a $100 pledge donation he made to one of our Street Hockey Festival participants last year.

           To go from a onetime $100 pledge donation to a $25,000 on-line donation is quite the jump. It is however a great reminder of the potential of pledge or peer to peer fundraising programs potential. I remember a few years back when we were starting to build up our peer to peer fundraising program in Calgary; our Director of Development for the Edmonton House was fairly luke- warm about developing the program. Her concern was that with this type of program the donor is really more connected to the pledge fundraiser or participant than to the charity and that they were unlikely to make a second gift to the organization. These concerns may have some validity, but in the way they are also the point of this type of program. Firstly a donor who has never given to your charity just made a donation, whether they give a second gift or not, this is a good thing in itself. The second “good thing” is that your participant has opened up their network of friends and family members to you- giving you not only the opportunity to receive a gift, but also the chance to develop a relationship with a new donor.  Whenever I think of this kind of program, I think of the old shampoo commercial –“tell two friends about xyz shampoo and they’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends and so on and so on…”

           There is some interesting emerging research on this type of fundraising program. Blackbaud produces a Peer to Peer Fundraising Benchmark study each year. The 2013 report considered 1275 organizations and their 28,000 fundraising events using peer to peer fundraising.  The study identifies some interesting trends. For example the study found that: “Despite a stagnant economy in 2011, fundraising events across all event types experienced growth in both participation and fundraising. Fundraising growth actually outpaced participation growth, which points to the fact that individual event participants are fundraising more than they have in the past.”  This is good news for a charity like ours and is consistent with our own findings. Our Ronald McDonald Houses have a P2P fundraising component in each of our signature fundraising events; however this program has been most successful in our Rock the House Run. This event would fall into the reports “Runs/Walks with a registration fee category” which overall experienced a 8.62% increase in participant growth and an 12.31% increase in pledge revenue raised.  I am glad to say we beat both of those number this year, and I suppose just knowing these number is the benefit of having a benchmark.

           The report itself actually has some great tips for how to increase your participant’s effectiveness in raising funds. For example (p.4) the report suggests:” Communicate year round. Develop a documented communication plan so your participants receive communications in the off-season as well as in the busy event season. Focus those off-season communications on how event fundraising efforts impact the mission of your organization.” Another suggestion which will resonate with most small charities is: “Encourage your event participants to get involved in other areas of your organization. The more connected participants are with your organization, the more loyal they will be to your event.” This suggestion makes sense in a number of ways, not only will you raise more money but the additional volunteer support will allow the organization to more effectively meet its mandate.

          If you are thinking of starting your own peer to peer fundraising event I would suggest you check out the report, there are a number of nuggets of advice that will help in your development of the program and materials. One suggestion that will resonate with a lot of fundraisers is the advice;” Provide a mission-related “value proposition” next to the level you’d like donors to choose, such as “$120 will help immunize 172 children against polio for their entire lifetimes.”  This not only sets a suggested donation level but also gives the opportunity to focus on why you are asking people to fundraise for you in the first place, your mission.  In my next post I will talk a little more about some of the tactics that might work for your charity and how Ronald McDonald House Southern and Central Alberta has developed our own P2P program.



Mendez,R. et. al. (2013) Blackbaud Peer-to-Peer Event Fundraising Benchmark Study: Key Performance  

          Benchmarks for Traditional and Third-Party Events, as retrieved



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