Fundraising Meets the Power of Peer-To-Peer Campaigns

Derrick Feldmann

This guest post is from Derrick Feldmann, president of Achievea research agency for causes, and lead of the national research team The Millennial Impact Project.

When I began my career leading fundraising efforts for a national nonprofit, the focus of everything I did was on the individual donor. Our success was based on the willingness of fundraisers to ask for support from deep-pocketed individuals with whom they had a personal connection.

But that was then. Times have changed.

Today’s fundraisers have a range of options at their disposal — from social media and dedicated websites to personalized giving pages and text messaging services— that enable him or her to reach many more people, in many more locations, than was possible before. And these tools have led to the emergence of a newer, savvier way of raising money: peer fundraising.

You can see this in our industry, which over the last three years has moved quickly to embrace peer-to-peer fundraising. The rapid growth of online giving owes much to the emergence of peer-to-peer tools and platforms that make it easy to find and give to causes or individuals who may be many degrees of separation removed from us.

In fact, many professional fundraisers have begun to put peer-to-peer fundraising at the center of their fundraising strategies. Paull Young, the former head of digital at charity: water, said that one of the key decisions the organization made early on was to focus its limited resources on a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign that used supporters' birthdays as a call-to-action.

Similarly, during this year's Giving Tuesday event, I had a number of chances to witness the power of peer-to-peer fundraising in action. One of them involved Liberty in North Korea, or LiNK, an organization based in California that works to rescue and resettle North Korean refugees.

This year, LiNK tried something different for Giving Tuesday. Rather than simply ask would-be supporters to donate whatever they could, the organization urged people to raise money for the cause from their social networks and reached out to them the night before with tips and resources, including an email with social-media-friendly graphics and other collateral.

LiNK also changed its fundraising focus from increasing the amount of dollars donated to increasing the number of donors who actually give. Smart! The organization ended up raising $12,000 on Giving Tuesday — a modest amount, to be sure. But the approach increased LiNK's base of supporters and elevated awareness of its cause in a way that will pay dividends down the road.

What does all this mean for your nonprofit? Are we at a point where social networks have become more valuable to the development professional than individual donors?

I don't think so. But I do think the role of the professional fundraiser has changed and will continue to change.

Today, a fundraiser has to be good at two things to be successful:

  1. cultivating and maintaining relationships with individual donors
  2. developing and managing peer-to-peer networks

In the past, fundraisers were forced to spend pretty much every minute of every day thinking about how we could gain donors' trust and confidence and persuade them to support our organization. Now, we must learn how to creatively give supporters the tools they need to raise money on your organization’s behalf. Give the power back to the people who care for your cause just as much as you do.

Join me on Tuesday, October 13, 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET, for an accelerated conversation in Foundation Center Training’s webinar The Future of Fundraising is Peer-to-Peer.

DERRICK FELDMANN is a sought-after speaker, researcher and advisor for cause and nonprofit engagement. As president of Achieve, a research agency for causes, he helps organizations and companies address their most pressing issues through research and data-driven awareness/fundraising campaigns. He leads the national research team of The Millennial Impact Project and is co-author of Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement.