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Optimizing Your Peer-to-Peer Fundraising on Social Media

Written in partnership with GoodUnited.

Powerful, effective fundraising prioritizes building strong relationships between the organization and its donors and constituents. Peer-to-peer fundraising, in which supporters raise funds from their personal networks on the organization’s behalf, has long been the standard way fundraisers build loyalty among their advocates. A typical peer-to-peer fundraiser involves walk-a-thons, 5k races, and more. 

Technically, any fundraiser that involves participants collecting donations from their friends and family members through a personal fundraising page qualifies as a P2P fundraiser. In recent years digital peer-to-peer fundraising through social media and streaming platforms like Twitch and Youtube has been on the rise. As a fundraiser, it’s important to stay on top of these trends.  

To understand where P2P fundraising and social media overlap, you need to understand the storied past between the two channels.

We’re going to cover that history through the following points:

  • Then: Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Reach Supplemented by Social Media
  • Now: Fundraising Directly on Social Media
  • Future State: In-Channel Engagement

Let’s take a look at the history of peer-to-peer social fundraising before turning to the future of the practice.

Then: Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Reach Supplemented by Social Media

Before the rise of social fundraising tools, your strategy for enhancing peer-to-peer fundraisers using social media probably included the following:

  • Plan a peer-to-peer fundraising event, invest in effective peer-to-peer fundraising tools, and equip participants with personal fundraising pages.
  • Post about your upcoming peer-to-peer fundraiser on social media networks, linking to the page where supporters can sign up to participate.
  • Encourage participants to share their personal fundraising pages on their social media profiles to ask their friends and family members to donate.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms were used as tools to amplify and build awareness for peer-to-peer fundraisers rather than truly conduct them. This strategy technically worked to spread the word about the campaign, but there were some flaws.

The more steps that are involved in making a donation, the less likely a donor will be to complete the process. For example, if a user sees a post from their friend who is conducting a P2P fundraiser and then has to click a link to an external donation page to make a gift, they may choose not to do so because of the multiple steps involved. Further, Facebook has a history of deprioritizing posts that include links to other websites, so posts linking out to the P2P fundraiser are less likely to be seen by users. 

Now: Fundraising Directly on Social Media

The major changes in peer-to-peer campaigns began with Facebook, which pioneered the idea of placing fundraising tools directly on the social network. When fundraisers launched in 2016, Facebook users gained the ability to create their own fundraisers on behalf of nonprofits, raising peer-to-peer funds independently of planned P2P efforts coordinated by the organization.

The steps were simple. Supporters of your nonprofit needed to:

  1. Navigate to the “Fundraisers” section of the News Feed menu.
  2. Click on “Raise Money.”
  3. Select “Nonprofit” or “Charity.”
  4. Search for your nonprofit out of the list of charitable organizations.
  5. Choose a cover photo and write a description of their connection to your cause.
  6. Set a goal amount and hit “Create!”

Users could create personal, birthday, and general nonprofit fundraisers. According to this GoodUnited guide to Facebook fundraisers, these efforts were entirely user-led— so, while nonprofits may have appreciated the funds, many had a minimal role to play in the fundraising process. If anything, they could have encouraged supporters to host a fundraiser and share some basic information about how to do so.

Soon, the idea of peer-to-peer fundraising directly on Facebook grew. This is because when Facebook released its fundraising tools, it also created the ability to add a link to Facebook fundraising on peer-to-peer event webpages. With this, participants in peer-to-peer fundraisers held through other nonprofit software solutions could use Facebook’s fundraising functionality as a portion of their overall P2P efforts. Many nonprofits promoted this functionality heavily as the Facebook integration empowered them to raise significantly more.

From there, nonprofits and companies alike started matching gifts to Facebook fundraisers to increase their corporate social responsibility visibility— from the Gates Foundation matching gifts for GivingTuesday to Facebook matching gifts to COVID-19-related nonprofits just last year.

Future State: In-Channel Engagement

As of 2021, Facebook’s independent, user-started fundraisers have gone from a drop in the metaphorical fundraising bucket to a tsunami-sized force for good. In March of this year, the platform announced that users on Facebook and Instagram combined have raised over $5 billion in donations through the platforms’ fundraising tools. 

The momentum doesn’t stop there. Instead, what we’re observing in real-time is an expansion of how nonprofits are using the tools built directly on Facebook to engage with supporters and conduct peer-to-peer fundraising.

While these strategies for in-channel engagement on Facebook are just now emerging, early indicators suggest that they will quickly grow into a major force for P2P fundraising on social networks.

Nonprofit-Led Facebook Challenges

When you think about hosting fundraising events on Facebook, you may think of live streamed comedy shows, cooking classes, or even full virtual galas. While Facebook does have the functionality to support these events, there are more effective ways to make use of the platform’s tools for event fundraisers.

A Facebook Challenge is a time-bound peer-to-peer event hosted entirely on Facebook. During a Challenge, your nonprofit’s supporters sign up to participate, join a corresponding Facebook Group to connect with other participants and create a Facebook fundraiser corresponding with the Challenge.

Over the course of the effort— for example, the duration of two weeks or a month— participants complete a task such as walking a certain number of steps, running a target number of miles, or reading a number of books. While doing so, they raise funds for your nonprofit using the aforementioned Facebook fundraiser.

Facebook Challenges are powerful because they:

  • Unite supporters of your cause together in a digital community.
  • Are easy to get involved with Facebook is a familiar platform that many of your supporters (and their networks) use regularly.
  • Are motivating for both participants and donors, because participants are completing a challenging task.

To begin planning Facebook Challenges, check out this comprehensive guide of peer-to-peer ideas

Before you start planning your Facebook Challenge, it’s helpful to know who among your current donors and constituents are active on social media. Organizations can recruit these people via other channels, such as email or mail, inviting them to participate and identify folks in their network who might as well. Third-party data tools like the GivingDNA Platform can take your existing constituent and donor file, enrich it with additional data points, and then automatically generate a segment of people it identifies as frequent social media users. 

Once you have chosen an idea and identified your most likely advocates,you simply need to choose a date, create a corresponding Facebook group, and start spreading the word!

Conversational Messaging on Facebook Messenger

In-channel engagement doesn’t end when your peer-to-peer Facebook Challenge does. If you invite the participants of your Challenge to connect with your nonprofit on Facebook Messenger, you can continue engaging and raising your relationships with them for long beyond the end of the campaign.

Within Facebook Messenger, you can hold one-on-one conversations with each individual participant. You can:

  • Thank participants for their efforts. By thanking your participants directly and personally, you can emphasize the impact of their efforts and make sure they feel like a superhero.
  • Ask questions to learn more about the user. Social networks provide limited information about fundraisers and the users who start them. Within Messenger, you can ask questions to understand what motivated the user to raise funds and how they want to engage with your mission going forward.
  • Share upcoming opportunities to give back. Whether you’re hosting another Facebook Challenge or other volunteer, fundraising, and advocacy opportunities, you can send them directly to your peer-to-peer supporters to encourage repeat engagement.

When it comes to the intersection of P2P fundraising and social networks, the future is clear: fundraisers and ongoing engagement held directly on the platforms. So, what can your organization do to stay ahead of the trend?

Wrapping Up

Running Facebook ads and managing large groups associated with Facebook Challenges can be a hefty administrative task for any nonprofit organization— especially because this would likely be in addition to your other fundraising efforts. That’s before you’ve considered chatting one-on-one with each and every participant, which can take even more time!

For most nonprofits, the administrative burden of effective in-channel communications is incredibly high and too challenging. If you relate but still want to make the most of this trend, consider partnering with a Facebook fundraising managed services provider.


And if you want to make the most of your overall donor engagement on social media, third-party data tools can provide you with richer insights into your donors and constituents. These insights help you segment your file into highly specific groups, allowing you to communicate with incredible specificity. Contact us to learn more about how these insights can transform all of your fundraising programs, including peer-to-peer efforts.