A Few Good Tools for Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Updated for 2013. Enlist your supporters to fundraise for you! A number of online tools make it easy for staff or anyone eager to help your organization to set up individual donation pages to engage friends and family in a fundraiser. We asked a number of nonprofit technology experts for advice on the tools and best practices they recommend to make this fundraising technique work.
 
Peer-to-peer fundraising isn’t new. For years, many organizations have engaged supporters to raise funds on their behalf—everyone from staff and volunteers to program participants and current donors. Traditionally these individual campaigns took the form of walk-a-thons and similar events at which supporters enlist sponsors from their own networks of colleagues, friends, and family. Informally, this kind of distributed fundraising is sometimes called “team,” “a-thon,” or “friend-to-friend” fundraising.
 
But the types of events used for peer-to-peer fundraising have grown to include the use of online tools that let supporters participate in broader campaigns. Some facilitate the creation of individual online donation pages, while others provide “widgets” to place on personal web pages that allow them to speak directly to their own friends and family.
 
Is this kind of fundraising right for your organization? We asked a number of nonprofit technology experts for advice on how to decide and recommendations about tools that have worked well for their nonprofit colleagues. Pulling from their experience, we combined their advice below to provide information about a few tools that may work well for your nonprofit.
 

How Does it Work?

Most basic tools in this area let people create their own personalized fundraising pages related to your campaign. These individual pages provide opportunities for supporters to use pictures and text to talk about their involvement in the cause—they contact people in their network, direct them to the page, and ask them to donate.
Many tools also offer fundraising “widgets,” or “badges,” which usually take the form of a small box—often with a logo, text, and donate button—that can be added to existing websites, blogs, or social network profiles. While supporters may need to know a little HTML (the language of websites) to add widgets to a page, they can be useful to reach out to existing communities—like a blog’s audience or Facebook friends.
 
Some of the more sophisticated tools also let organizational staff members oversee a campaign’s progress. A centralized web page may show the overall status of the campaign with tools to compare individual fundraisers’ results or easily download information about donors. Some even allow fundraisers to organize themselves into teams and let you track the progress of each.
 

Considerations

Peer-to-peer fundraising takes more than just the right tool. It takes planning, experience, and staff time to create and run a successful fundraising campaign. A good peer-to-peer campaign starts with a strong community of supporters motivated and excited about helping your organization raise money. It’s not enough to just pick a tool and turn them loose with it—you’ll need to train them to use the tool and to be effective fundraisers, and support them throughout the process with helpful tips, success stories, or inspirational quotes. And once your campaign has ended, you need to recognize them for all the work they’ve put in to make it a success.
 

Do you have the time?

Successful campaigns integrate basic tools with social networking and conventional communications, making them complex to manage. For most campaigns, expect to spend as many as 20 hours per month to run and support your campaign. It’s essential to make campaigns fun and easy to participate in, which means putting in more than just the minimum time and effort to create incentives and provide technical support and written templates to help your fundraisers gain traction and feel supported at all points in the process. Blog posts, progress updates, and incentives all can help keep energy up. If you ask staff to fundraise, make sure you provide them time to set up individual pages and get involved.
 

Who will be running the campaign?

Without leadership and support, a campaign will never build the momentum needed to be successful. Determine beforehand who from your organization will be the point-person for your campaign. That person can’t do all the work alone; you’ll want to form a campaign committee of from three-to-seven people or so from within your organization and your larger community. For example, who from your community of supporters could be a cheerleader, drumming up excitement for the campaign? What board member(s) or other executive leadership will advocate for your campaign? And who from your organization will be in charge of fundraising for the campaign?
 

Do you have the network?

How many fundraisers do you need to make the campaign work, and how big are their networks? As messengers for your cause, effective and connected fundraisers are the most important component of distributed campaigns—you’ll need to rely on their efforts and personal networks in order to succeed. You should have a number of “seed” fundraisers committed before launching the online campaign.
 

How will you support your fundraisers?

As stated earlier, you can’t expect to just turn your fundraisers loose and expect the donations to come pouring in. Before your campaign even starts, train them to set realistic goals and solicit donations from their personal networks, and continue supporting them throughout the campaign by sending weekly emails with fundraising tips, inspirational quotes, or by highlighting their work with a “fundraiser of the week.” Not only will you be helping them be better fundraisers, you’ll be keeping them excited and motivated to continue fundraising.
 

Tools You Already Have

When thinking about tools to implement a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign at your organization, the best place to start looking for them is in-house. Your own constituent management or donor management system may work just fine. Many systems—including DonorPerfect Online, DonorPro, Artez Interactive, and Blackbaud’s suite of tools—offer suitable functionality, though you may need to pay an additional fee.
 
Using a system you already have offers the benefit of direct integration with your existing database, which can provide insight into your success and save you considerable time once the campaign is complete. These integrated options offer varying levels of functionality and features. Since not every system will offer exactly what you need to support your program, it is worth a little investigation to find the right one.
 

Lower-cost Tools

If your current system doesn’t offer the functionality you want, there are many standalone tools available. Many let you experiment with distributed fundraising without making a significant investment—they’re relatively easy to set up with no big upfront costs, and are better for smaller campaigns or if you are new to peer-to-peer fundraising.

 
In this area, there’s no such thing as a truly free tool—even those that don’t charge upfront licensing fees take a percentage of each donation. (In addition, the payment processor that handles the credit card payments will charge its own fee for each transaction.) For a small cost, some offer upgrades to more-sophisticated features, such as the ability to create campaign blogs and connections to social networking sites. With these tools, your campaign is generally hosted on the vendors’ websites—though it’s clear to donors that they’re on a site other than yours, some tools let you customize the look and feel to more closely match your own site.
Some also offer such helpful features as “thermometers” to visually display the campaign progress, lists showing people who have already donated—and, often their comments—and the ability to upload contacts from other sources.
 
When evaluating these systems, remember to look into how easy it will be to move your data into your donor or constituent management system after your campaign ends.
 
CrowdRise. Of the tools mentioned here, CrowdRise supports the most general audience, allowing nonprofits to set up fundraising pages and invite supporters to create personal pages and collect donations on their behalf. It also offers access to the large community of donors using the site. Nonprofits have three price levels to choose from: the basic level, with no annual cost and a five percent fee per donation; a mid-level plan for $49 a year and four percent per donation; and a higher-end plan, at $199 a year and three percent per donation. Under the paid plans, profiles are promoted to the CrowdRise community and offer such additional benefits as premium support, lower fees, and the ability to brand your fundraising pages to your organization. By default, donations are managed through Network for Good, but organizations can also choose between WePay or Amazon Payments, with transaction fees of 2.9 percent and $0.30 per donation. CrowdRise also charges an additional processing fee, which defaults to 10 percent of the donation—to donors rather than to the organization. However, this fee is optional; donors can choose to not pay it.
 
Razoo. Razoo’s low costs and substantial functionality make it a compelling option. Its friendly format allows organizations to create a homepage and develop multiple, separate fundraising projects that all link back to the central page. Supporters can fundraise on behalf of the organization through one of its pages or create their own personal project pages. Razoo profiles and fundraising projects are not as customizable as other tools, but do allow both the organization and fundraisers to add images, videos, and text. Interesting features include the ability to present an annotated donation amount menu and support for recurring gifts. Razoo also supports team fundraising projects as well as individual or personal projects. For organizations, Razoo takes 4.9 percent of each donation, which includes credit card processing. For personal causes, the fee is 7.9 percent of each donation. There’s a minimum donation amount of $10.
 
FirstGiving. FirstGiving, recently acquired by FrontStream Payments, provides easy-to-use tools that let supporters set up their own fundraising pages and lets campaign administrators track campaign progress across individual fundraisers. With the basic program (which is free except for transaction fees), neither the organization or individual pages are very customizable and won’t necessarily mesh with your organization’s graphic style. The premium package, at $500 per year (plus the same transaction fees), offers more customization, the ability to link back to your organization’s homepage, and support for teams of fundraisers. FirstGiving also has some Facebook integration options, but unlike some of the other tools, does not have a built-in audience—you’ll need to rely solely on your own supporters to spread the word. Transactions cost 7.5 percent (five percent for the FirstGiving service fee and 2.5 percent for credit card processing), with an event registration fee of 4.25 percent. Like Crowdrise, FirstGiving includes an option to have your donors pay the service fee.
 
StayClassy. A relative newcomer, StayClassy offers fundraising pages for both organizations and individuals with a relatively clean and straightforward interface. Pricing for StayClassy starts at $99 per month with a three percent transaction fee plus credit card fees of 2.2 percent and $0.30 per transaction; the Pro level costs $199 a month with a two percent transaction fee plus credit card fees.
 

Tools for a More Robust and Integrated Strategy

Organizations that plan to run many campaigns may find the lower-cost tools lacking. More advanced tools—like Blackbaud’s Friends Asking Friends  or TeamRaiser (formerly Convio), or those offered by Artez Interactive—provide more features for organizations looking to run multiple campaigns year after year. This class of tool typically allows for more centralized organizational control over a campaign, like the ability to make changes to your individual fundraisers’ personal pages. Other advanced features could include integration with your donor or constituent management database, the ability to display a public summary of the entire campaign, track the progress of your fundraisers or teams, or set auto response emails for supporting your fundraisers.
 

Crowd-Sourced Options

Crowd-Sourced fundraising tools often contain many of the same features as standard peer-to-peer tools, with one important difference—in addition to allowing nonprofits to reach out to current supporters and invite them to fundraise on the organization’s behalf, crowd-sourced tools offer access to a home-grown network of people interested in supporting compelling projects.
 
Individuals join the “crowd” using a specific tool, search the charities and other projects posted there, and make donations—frequently to organizations with which they have no established relationship. Often these tools cater to a specific mission area, like arts, education or progressive causes, and most rely on innovative funding models to encourage their community of donors to participate and rally around a cause.
 
Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a crowd-sourcing tool used to find funding for arts, music, films, and other creative projects. Users post projects along with their goals and a timeframe, and the community pledges money. Typically the projects will offer something in the way of rewards or thank-you gifts to donors, depending on how much is pledged—for example, a pledge of $5 earns a thank you card, a pledge of $10 gets the card and a t-shirt, etc.—and they link quickly to Facebook and Twitter, making it easy to bring networks of friends and supporters to the existing and very active Kickstarter community. It’s important to note that Kickstarter works on an all-or-nothing basis. If your project doesn’t meet its goal by the deadline, you don’t get any money, and all of your donors are refunded in full, a policy designed to motivate nonprofits to fundraise and supporters to donate. While free to use, Kickstarter takes five percent of what you raise in fees, in addition to the credit card processing fees from Amazon Payments, if your project is successful.
 
Indiegogo. Indiegogo is similar to Kickstarter, but it lets you choose between an all-or-nothing funding model or one in which you keep all the money you raise, even if you don’t meet your fundraising goal. If you meet your fundraising goal, the fee charged by Indiegogo ends up at four percent of the total amount raised; if you don’t meet your goal but still wish to keep the money you raised, Indiegogo charges a nine percent fee. A credit card processing fee of three percent also applies. Registered 501(c)3 nonprofits, however, get a discount—Indiegogo takes just three percent for projects that meet their goal, and 6.75 percent of those that fall short. Projects created under this program display a badge indicating that the funds go to a “verified nonprofit”. Donations raised through this program are processed by FirstGiving instead of Indiegogo’s regular transaction provider, and are paid directly by FirstGiving rather than Indiegogo. The processing fee is four percent.
 

Which Is Right For You?

Determining which tool is right for your organization requires a little planning and self-assessment. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
 

Have you done this before?

Past experience with distributed fundraising is more important than the size of your organization or the resources (constituents and dollars) you can bring to the project. If you’re just starting out, choose a straightforward, easy-to-use tool—for example, fundraising pages with widgets. This is an iterative process, and every attempt yields new knowledge and skills and builds your network for the next round.
 

What are your fundraising goals?

How many fundraisers and donors do you expect? How much money do you hope to raise? This information will help decide how much you’re willing to spend on a tool. Fees differ in structure. If you want to raise a lot of money through many small donations, you might choose a different pricing structure (higher base fee, lower transaction costs) than if you wanted to raise a smaller amount through a small group of donors (higher transaction cost, lower base fee). Make sure your solution is scaled to the campaign so you don’t pay a lot if you don’t get a lot.
 

Are you reaching out to the people in your network where they are?

Make sure you’ve correctly identified the tools your network is likely to use. If you’re using a tool that only works for registered Facebook users, ensure that your supporters are using it. On the other hand, if your supporters use Facebook much more than email, you could be missing a whole group of potential donors by not including it in your strategy.
 

Do you have the technology know-how?

Different tools require different levels of complexity, customization and involvement. If you’re just starting out, choose a solution that’s easy for participants and administrators to manage. If you expect a lot of participants, choose one that can integrate campaign data into your existing systems, but remember, more features can often mean more complexity.
 

Does the application have “critical mass” or reach?

Since you’re often essentially co-branding with the tool’s provider, the reputation and professionalism of your chosen tool are important. In addition, better-established vendors can typically provide better technical support to keep a campaign running smoothly.
 

Wrapping Up

Whatever your budget, you can likely find a tool that will allow you to try out an online distributed campaign. Advanced features and customization can be helpful, but inexpensive tools can be used creatively to good effect. Customization and the ability to manage the overall campaign may be more of an issue for larger campaigns where it’s important for your staff to see the progress of the entire campaign.
 
Whatever tools you use, your strategy is critical. Identify who you’re going to ask to participate and how you’re going to ask them, and then help them keep their momentum. Distributed fundraising can be a useful technique for many different kinds of organizations, as long as you have a core nucleus of devoted followers who can help you spread the word about your organization—and you’re willing and able to invest the time to manage and support their fundraising efforts.
 

For More Information

This workbook, created by Idealware and Cathexis Partners, walks nonprofits through peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns from planning through recruitment and support to preparing for the next one.
 
Crowdfunding Tools to Fundraise the Project of Your Dreams
This blog post from SocialFish provides a quick summary of seven popular and emerging crowdfunding platforms.
 
Thanks to TechSoup for the financial support of the original version of this article, as well as to the following nonprofit technology professionals who provided recommendations, advice and other help on the update and past versions:
 
Mark Becker, Cathexis Partners (2013)
John Haydon, JohnHaydon.com (2013)
Chris Tuttle, Tuttle Communications (2013)
Debra Askanase, Community Organizer 2.0 (2011 and 2013)
Maddie Grant, SocialFish (2011 and 2013)
Heather Gardner-Madras, gardner-madras | strategic creative (2011)
Norman Reiss, NonprofitBridge.com (2011)
Laura Quinn, Idealware (2011)

 

License: 
Copyright © Techsoup, published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.

Comments

great article, thanks

I thought this was a very helpful article. I've shared it with the National Land Trust Alliance Learning Forum (a community of land trusts), and suggested they read the full article. I continue to introduce the conservation sector to Ideaware as you consistently provide great content. Thanks.

CROWDRISE - BUYER BEWARE - EXCESSIVE FEES

 BUYER BEWARE - EXCESSIVE FEES - We just discovered that not only does Crowdrise charge the donor a 10% transaction fee, they also charge the charity an additional 15%, for a total of 25% in transaction fees.  This is excessive by any standrad in the not for profit world, particularly for an internet based resource.  If Pay Pal and Ebay can work on a >5% margin, there is no ligitimate reason Crowdrise cannot.  RIPOFF

A different platform for you to raise money online

Hi Andrea,

Excuse the belated contribution but I really wanted to let you know what we at Go Get Funding (http://gogetfunding.com) have been up to.

We’re proud to have helped all types of fundraisers raise over $95k in just a few months (we launched late 2011). That’s mainly thanks to our low fees and innovative social features (such as our ‘Progress Tab’ which rewards social shares). All in all, our aim to to help everyone raise money online with ease.

With continued innovation, we hope to build on this trend and ultimately make it even easier for people to raise more money from more people.

Our platform is open to all projects, causes and events and I hope you like it if you get a chance to check it out.

Bye for now!

 

How to Raise Money Online

GoFundMe allows users to create their online donation page, share it with friends and family through Facebook, Twitter and email, and begin collecting money online.Get your online donation website FREE! Invite family &amp; friends to donate online to any of your online fundraising ideas.<a href="http://www.gofundme.com">High school fundraising ideas</a>

Hi Andrea,  I work for a

Hi Andrea, 

I work for a great online fundraising company here in Boston (Fundraise.com)  and was wondering if you would be kind enough to add our link your "Tools to get started quickly" section. 

We are a site that is open to everyone, not just non-profits and we give them a very powerful toolset that helps them raise money quickly and efficiently. 

I urge to you check out our site (be sure to watch our video!) and check out one of our awesome fundraisers ex: www.fundraise.com/dan

Thanks Andrea and let me know if you have any questions!

-Jorge 

Walk/Run Registration and Fundraising Software

Sorry to say we have been burned twice by small walk registration software companies making promises that they cannot keep.  You really get what you pay for!

It is unfortunate that these small software developers are not honest and upfront with prospective clients.   I have found that many of them run their business out of their home and do not have any fundraising experience. 

They will promise you anything to get your business.  It is sad, but "buyer beware"!

Please contact me if you are looking for a registration software vendor and I will provide you with the research we have done on most of the registration software companies.

Steve Curran
The Walk For Mental Health

steve@thewalk.org

Don't Forget SWEET

Your contributors forgot to include SWEET by Blue Sky Collaborative (www.blueskycollaborative.com).  It's being used by United Way and Habitiat for Humanity and has been very successful.  It falls in between the quickstart options and the more expensive options.  It's great for the budget and brand concious nonprofit.  Thanks.