Today, I’ve invited Dave Linn to teach about peer-to-peer fundraising. Having run bikathons and walkathons myself, I know how powerful they can be…and how much of a pain they can be too! Dave is the Chief Operating Officer of The Generosity Series, a series of multi-charity 5K Run/Walks with an integrated peer-to-peer platform. Dave got on my radar when I was tweeted a picture of a t-shirt he’d created with my quote on it! Dave can be reached at

5 Reasons Your Peer to Peer Program is Failing

Dave Linn on why your peer to peer fundraising is failing

Peer to peer fundraising is booming. It’s the fastest growing slice of the fundraising pie, and advances in technology, particularly in mobile, have helped create a perfect storm of effectiveness. We live in a social world and peer to peer fundraising allows us to tap into our supporters’ networks to generate not just funds but donor creation opportunities and valuable data for donor cultivation.

So, why is it that not everyone is succeeding. Here are five reasons why your peer to peer platform might be floundering. (Ok, I admit it, that was the biggest stretch for the worst pun ever: peer=pier=fishing=flounder). Anyway, here are the five reasons why your peer to peer program might be the big one that got away (someone please stop me):

  1. Losing the forest for the trees when you can have both.

    Many P2P programs become laser focused, both in the execution and in the metrics, on dollars raised through the event/campaign. Of course, setting and reaching fundraising goals is important. But that is selling P2P far too short. P2P is an awesome fundraising tool but it is just as powerful a donor acquisition tool. Programs need to spend time strategizing how to convert the person who gave a $25 gift through a peer into a consistent organizational supporter. Focusing solely on the dollar goal while overlooking the donor acquisition power of P2P is a costly mistake.

  2. Switching on autopilot.

    There are so many amazing tools that make P2P easy and effective: automated registration, real time tracking, robust data collection, versatile fund raising software, etc. But your program, your participants and your donors need and deserve personal attention. Be on top of your program and trends and iterate and pivot where needed. Make sure that your participants don’t feel like numbers and that your donors don’t feel like credit card numbers. Sure, you should take advantage of automation and technology but all fundraising is about people and people want to be appreciated and to hear from other people.

  3. Jumping over participants.

    We often focus on those people who write the check and overlook the people who actually brought them to the organiztion. Of course, we need to thank and think about the contributor who dropped a $50 check but why are we overlooking the participant who not only reached out to her (and perhaps hundreds of others) but has spent significant time and effort to raise money and awareness for your cause. A P2P participant who generates $5000 is at least as important as someone who writes a $5000 check. In fact, she may be even more important because she is spreading awareness for your cause and opening up the org to many more potential donors.

  4. Not just missing the target, failing to aim.

    No organization has extra time on its hands so even when our event might be great for everyone, we need to narrow our focus to find the demographic that is most likely to be stellar fund raisers. We need to think deeply about the particular segment of the participant pool that we want to attract to our event and then we need to think about how we should speak to those people to build our team. At the very least, you should be targeting those that are passionate about your cause and willing to tell others about it. A big donor is not always your best candidate. In fact, larger donors often don’t immediately appreciate the power of P2P. Don’t aim for a demographic that is too wide — millenials — or too narrow — 23 year old left handed females who own dogs. Use data (proprietary and public) to hone in on simple things such as how far away people live from your event location.

  5. Blowing the data equation.

    Data is a very big, little word. The mistake organizations often make is that they collect data because everyone else is talking about data. Don’t collect data without knowing that you might even potentially need it. Whenever you increase the amount of data you collect, you run the risk of losing participants. That’s not a risk that you want to take when there is no known upside. Data analysis is probably even more important than data collection. Sometimes the answer to a question is simple. For example, on what gender should we focus our recruitment efforts? If the data clearly shows that 87% of your top 100 fundraisers are female, you’ve got your answer (though, you should probably segment further). Other times, the things that your data is telling you in not so simple. For example, let’s say that your event no-show is consistently 7% but in the past two years, your top fundraisers no-show rate is 30%. What does that mean? What could be causing that? Maybe you can collect additional date to clarify this curiosity (ask no-shows why they didn’t show). But sometimes you need a consultant to perform additional analysis and offer a hypothesis. An investment in a fund raising data analyst consultant can provide a geometric ROI. (My non-expert guess to that quandary would be that your top fundraisers are passionate about your cause so they have less interest in the actual event.)

I’d love to hear your comments or questions about this post or anything else concerning peer to peer fund raising. Now, go generate generosity.

Let us know in the comments

Marc here, please ask your questions in the comments or email Dave directly. Here’s that t-shirt that I mentioned above:

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