Peer-to-Peer Fundraising in Higher Education: 6 proven strategies that bring success

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising in Higher Education: 6 proven strategies that bring success




October 14, 2019

Last modified: 

October 14, 2019

Peer-to-peer fundraising is a powerful social giving tool that many educational institutions have employed to increase their donations while expanding their donor audience. Through peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, these organizations empower their supporters to raise money on their behalf.

While peer-to-peer fundraising is an effective fundraising strategy especially for nonprofits, other forms of educational institutions too have raised a lot of revenue for their programs and missions by leveraging social networks.

How Scranton Preparatory increased its Giving Day donations b y 5 times with a peer-to-peer fundraising approach

Here’s how to get started with a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign:

1. Develop a campaign page featuring your institution's fundraising goal

2. Recruit supporters (e.g., current students and alumni) to create their own campaign pages that demonstrate their personal tie to your institution's cause

3. Share their pages with friends and family and encourage them to donate

4. Provide them with the tools to make peer-to-peer fundraising social, mobile, and fun!

Peer-to-peer fundraising is a great way to maintain relationships with alumni. To get the most out of it, there are certain strategies you should incorporate to ensure success. These include:

1. Using a peer-to-peer platform

2. Offering training

3. Promoting on and offline

4. Leveraging giving days

5. Using gamification

6. Combining with events

Are you ready to take a closer look at peer-to-peer best practices to grow your fundraising? Get ready to take some notes!

1. Use a peer-to-peer fundraising platform

Providing an easy giving experience is one of the most important things you can do when launching a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign for your institution. This means offering easy-to-use donation pages that provide a mobile-optimized experience and an overall convenient process.

How a peer-to-peer fundraising approach helped St. Ignatius College Preparatory successfully rise its Giving Day donations by 80%

Why is mobile optimization important? 

The majority of the population owns a cell phone and with mobile users increasing, donors are also starting to prefer making contributions via their mobile devices. Therefore, your cause needs to meet supporters where they are: on their phones, giving them the tools to donate anywhere and anytime.

To provide the easiest experience, it’s critical to invest in a peer-to-peer fundraising platform. Peer-to-peer software will allow your institution to:

1. Easily set up a main donation page for your fundraising goal

2. Let your college supporters create personal pages that harness their social networks

3. Track your progress and analyze important data

A peer-to-peer fundraising platform streamlines your fundraising process and expands your potential donor circle, introducing friends, family, and other alumni to your cause.

2. Offer training and support

When you prepare to launch a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, it’s important that you offer training opportunities to your supporters. Most of your supporters might not have a ton of experience as fundraisers, so getting them set up on the platform and providing tools will boost results and engagement.

Managing your modern day alumni relations is a great way to encourage alumni to become fundraisers for your cause. To make fundraising easy for them, be sure to provide the following resources:

1. Training: Educate supporters about your cause so they know exactly what they’re fundraising for. Make sure you have access to your platform’s tools and resources so you can pass along training knowledge to your supporters.

2. Mission and impact: Tie supporters to your cause and help them understand why this campaign matters. Social donors prioritize understanding the mission and impact of their efforts, as key motivators for fundraising.

3. Templates. Social media and email templates are an excellent way to give your supporters the materials they need to get the word out. This makes it easy for them to share the campaign and ask for donations while still adding their own personal touch.

4. Ongoing support: Regularly check in and monitor the progress of your supporters. Offer words of encouragement where needed and recognize high-performing fundraisers for their achievements.

5. Customizable pages: Give your supporters the ability to customize their individual campaign pages so they can demonstrate their connection to your cause. Allow them to upload photos, for example, and create their own content to tell their story.

Offering training and support is a surefire way to set supporters up for success. In order to reach your institution’s fundraising goal, your supporters must communicate to their networks in the way you need them to, while offering their own personal touch to the campaign. This will encourage donors to pay attention and give to the causes their friends and family care about.

3. Promote both online and offline

While your students may be online constantly, it’s a good practice to diversify your promotional strategies to create maximum reach. According to the OneCause guide to peer-to-peer fundraising, this means using a mix of traditional and modern marketing methods. 

Donor and alumni networks consist of different generations, so be sure to encourage your peer-to-peer participants to meet all of them where they are. Use multi-channel promotional strategies, including:

1. Social media

2. Email

3. Direct mail

4. Printed marketing materials

5. Phone calls

While the above list is a combination of all the approaches that your peer-to-peer participants should leverage, which approach works best needs to be identified with respect to your donor audience. If your older alumni prefer direct mail or email, that’s what your participants must resort to. Similarly, if your younger alumni prefer social media, that’s how they should be pursued. 

4. Leverage giving days

Giving days are designated days of the year where donors will contribute to a cause or institution they care about. These are often virtual fundraising campaigns with a 24-hour time-frame to capitalize on donations. 

Why Giving Days should be a critical part of your fundraising strategy

The most popular giving day is, of course, Giving Tuesday. Widely recognized as an annual day of giving, Giving Tuesday has helped universities engage with potential donors and raise the money they need. Paired with a peer-to-peer fundraiser, you can raise even more.

In order to make the most of Giving Tuesday and your peer-to-peer campaign, you should:

1. Plan ahead: While giving days are only one day out of the year, there’s a lot you can do to plan ahead and make sure donors know about your institution's giving campaign and ways to get involved. This ranges from social ads to printed marketing materials and ensuring your internal operations run smoothly. Prepare your peer-to-peer participants to make use of these materials.

2. Create a compelling campaign theme: A compelling theme will help your donors connect with your cause and inspire. Create a unique hashtag and make your campaigns easy to share among peers.

3. Call on your top supporters: Solicit personal appeals from famous alumni, board members, and other influential people associated with your institution. These peer-to-peer participants will further encourage donors to give. One thing that has worked well for institutions is "Gift Unlocking". Influence your top donors to pledge a donation based on a goal. For instance, once your Giving Day hits the 500 donor mark, a donation of $5000 will be made by the donor who had taken the pledge.

4. Show gratitude: Be sure to acknowledge those who contribute to your institution on Giving Tuesday. Appreciation goes a long way toward ensuring donors know their gift will go to good use and encouraging them to give again in the future.

Giving days can make a huge difference in donor acquisition and retention rates, and are a great way to spread the word about your institution and fundraising mission, especially during a peer-to-peer fundraiser. Explore even more ways you can leverage Giving Tuesday with best practices like gamification and others with this guide by OneCause.

5. Use gamification

Who isn’t motivated by a little friendly competition? Donors love to be recognized for their contributions, and your institution can benefit from leveraging gamification tools throughout your peer-to-peer fundraising campaign.

Gamification tools include:

1. Influencer dashboard (Reward those who influence donations)

3. Matching gifts

4. Fundraising thermometers

Gamification motivates supporters through friendly competition. These peer-to-peer tactics create and sustain momentum, inspiring donors to continue giving so you can reach the next benchmark in your fundraising progress.

By incorporating gamification tools into your institution’s peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, you’ll encourage more giving, more participation, and boost your chances of reaching fundraising goals.

6. Combine your campaign with an event

Peer-to-peer fundraisers work well with events. Whether you’re planning a walkathon, gala, or other engaging event for your institution, there are many ways your peer-to-peer fundraiser can boost engagement and promote your event. For example, people who donate to their friend’s peer-to-peer campaign will also be more likely to attend the event.

In addition to this, you can leverage:

1. Recognition: Events are a great way to recognize your fundraisers. Highlight some of your top supporters at your event to show them how much you appreciate their effort.

2. Merchandise: Set up a table at your event to sell items that promote your institution’s cause. You can even offer free event merch to your top peer-to-peer participants. This will also help raise awareness after the event when people walk around wearing your merch!

3. Social elements: Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns pair well with active and community-based events such as 5K races, obstacle courses, walkathons, and others. Encourage friendly competition and teamwork, just like the campaign itself!

4. Wrap around events: “Wrap around” events are usually managed by teams and individual participants and can include smaller events like car washes and garage sales, or larger events like auctions. These activities foster a community vibe and attract new donors.

Pairing your peer-to-peer fundraiser with an event is an impactful way to bring your campaign full circle. You can even set the event date as the last day to fundraise to drive a sense of urgency in your supporters and encourage them to reach the goal.

About the author

Joshua Meyer

Joshua Meyer brings over 14 years of fundraising, volunteer management, and marketing experience to his current role as the Director of Marketing for OneCause. Currently, as a member of the OneCause sales and marketing team, Josh manages all of the firm’s marketing efforts. He has a passion for helping to create positive change and loves that his current role allows him to help nonprofits engage new donors and achieve their fundraising goals.

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