Peer-to-peer fundraising

Editor’s note: We’ve been hearing from nonprofits and supporters that more people want to use their social spaces to fundraise for their favorite causes. Our thanks to Mark for outlining these considerations and helping people understand their P2P platform choices. Enjoy! -Dan

by Mark Becker, Founding Partner, Cathexis Partners

Peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising is a powerful tool for fundraisers. Anything from a walk-a-thon to a memorial campaign can be an opportunity to engage supporters to raise funds on your nonprofit’s behalf.

Today, there are a wide range of P2P fundraising platforms. This means that nonprofits have more choice than ever, but they also have to do a lot of research to find the right tool. Here are five things to consider when choosing a P2P fundraising platform for your organization:

Design is about more than creating attractive pages. 

The branding of online elements of your campaign should be in line with your overall organization and campaign branding. Depending on your staff’s capabilities and budget, you may want a platform that offers easy-to-use templates, or you may want the flexibility to create your own designs. Some considerations:

  • Logo: What do site visitors see when they get to your campaign’s microsite—your logo or the platform’s logo? Your site is intended to further your campaign, so it’s important to be able to use your own logo on your site.
  • Custom coding: Does the platform allow advanced administrators to take further control and customize the environment via code such as CSS, HTML, JavaScript, etc.?
  • Vendor-editable design: Does the vendor (and/or their certified/approved partners) offer custom design services?
  • Domain: Does the platform have product-specific (e.g., http://npo.com) website domains, or nonprofit-specific website domains (e.g., http://support.nonprofit.org)? The latter allows you to brand your event or campaign through the website address.

Your platform should support your engagement strategy.

The platform you select should help ease the administration of engaging with constituents, participants, and donors. Some things to consider:

  • Participant emails: Can participants easily upload their contact lists and send emails from the platform?
  • Sample emails: Does the platform let you provide sample emails for your participants to send? You’re asking your participants to fundraise on your organization’s behalf, and the more you can help them, the more likely they are to raise funds.
  • Third-party email tools: What email tools does the platform integrate with, if any? This is important if a platform’s built-in email tools allow only basic auto-responder functionality versus proactive/on-demand emailing.
  • Team functionality: Does the platform support team creation? This is particularly important because members of teams typically raise more than individual participants.

Give participants the online experience they expect.

The online experience you offer participants should rival those of other P2P events as well as familiar websites such as Amazon and Etsy. Consider these aspects:

  • Event registration: Does the platform allow you to have participants pay a registration fee, ask additional questions during registration, or require a waiver before completing registration?
  • Ability to rejoin campaign: Can you make returning participants’ experience easier by giving them the ability to “reclaim” their team from last year, or allow individual participants to look at who they sent emails to and who supported them last year?
  • Gamification: Does the platform provide visual ways, such as engagement badges, of showing competition and achievements throughout a campaign? People like to be acknowledged for their work, and this type of recognition helps ensure that people who earn it get recognition.
  • Offline gift recording: Can participants enter offline (cash or check) gifts that they can then send in to the organization or hand in the day of the event? This also can allow participants’ progress meters to reflect donations even if the donations haven’t been processed by the organization yet.

It’s important to provide your staffers with tools that allow them to do their jobs as efficiently as possible.

Be sure to consider these capabilities:

  • Custom reports: Does the platform support creating custom/ad hoc reports as needed based on filter criteria defined by your administrator?
  • Event coordinator access: Can you provide remote event coordinators, staff, or volunteers with limited administrative access to one or more campaigns so they can access only the information they need for their specific campaign(s) and not the rest of the organization’s constituent data?
  • Currencies supported: Which currencies does the system support? While merchant vendors can accept credit cards based on different currencies, it is important to know what currency(s) the platform can report on and track.

Remember the overall picture with your constituents.

In today’s age of Big Data, it’s important to consider how (and if) your P2P fundraising platform interacts with your constituent relationship management (CRM) system, donor database, and other systems so you can get an overall picture of how your constituents interact with your organization and how your organization interacts with your constituents. Some considerations:

  • System integration: Can the platform integrate with your CRM/donor database?
  • Enterprise toolset: Is the platform part of a larger enterprise toolset? For example, TeamRaiser is a module within Blackbaud’s Luminate Online, which can then integrate with The Raiser’s Edge via a custom sync called the “Integrator,” or with Salesforce via Blackbaud’s Luminate CRM and its custom service bus. In contrast, some other platforms are intended to be self-contained, all-in-one solutions.
  • APIs: Does the platform offer application programming interfaces (APIs), which can make it easier to develop custom programs that interact with the P2P platform?
  • Other integration: Does the platform offer other integrations? Many platform vendors have worked with clients and other companies to create integrations, and then turned the integrations into products that are available to other clients.

The world of P2P fundraising technology is continually evolving, so it’s important to understand your specific requirements, request software demos, and closely review any contracts with software platform vendors before making a purchase. For more information about choosing a peer-to-peer fundraising software platform for your nonprofit, read The Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Technology Landscape, a new guide for nonprofits by Cathexis Partners.