How to Find the Right Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Software for Your Nonprofit
To run a successful peer-to-peer fundraising campaign or event, your supporters need a way to create their own online fundraising pages, send emails to friends and family, use social media and accept donations online. In addition, you need to track campaign performance and communicate with fundraisers. So you’ll need the right software tool.
If you need to find your first peer-to-peer fundraising software, or are looking to replace the platform you have, here are some considerations to help you choose the software that’s right for your nonprofit:
- Design. Are you looking for ready-to-use design templates, or do you want a fundraising site that looks and feels like your organization’s main website? Some platforms provide their own design with limited editing, while others give you the option to customize. Be sure to find out how much HTML/CSS knowledge is needed, if any, to maintain your campaign’s site.
- Time. Ask platform providers how much time it takes to have a functioning peer-to-peer website — from the time you sign a contract to the time you can start fundraising. Some systems can be set up in a couple of hours, while others may take several days based on setup requirements. A quick setup isn’t necessarily better; just be sure to understand the time requirements and weigh them against your needs.
- Compatibility. What other systems does your organization use that your peer-to-peer platform needs to integrate with? Peer-to-peer events are a great way to capture data. So be sure that you will be able to move data automatically from your peer-to-peer platform to your other systems, so you can access this information and use it across your organization.
- App integration. Find out what types of apps the platform integrates with to help you create more of a sense of community for your peer-to-peer events. For example, fitness apps, such as fitbit, MapMyFitness and Strava, help participants share how they are training for a physical event — even if the event is virtual.
- Fundraising tools. Get a good feel for how easy it is for participants to fundraise and what tools they have access to that will help them raise more. Some platforms have a separate fundraising center with a variety of tools, while others may have everything located on the person’s fundraising page, but offer less fundraising guidance.
- Responsiveness. These days, most platforms are responsive (optimized for viewing on a wide range of browsers and mobile devices), but given how many people use a mobile device for peer-to-peer fundraising, this is something you should still research. Make sure that the entire peer-to-peer website (not just the homepage) is responsive.
- Payment processor/true cost. Be sure to ask questions to find out the true cost of a fundraising campaign. For example, does the platform need an additional payment processing system, or is it included with the product? Sometimes there is a payment processing fee in addition to the actual cost of the product (and not all platform vendors are transparent about this).
- Other setup requirements. Ask if there are any other “pieces” needed to set up a campaign. While a platform demo may look like it was easy to set up, that may be the case only if you already have other systems in place, such as a payment processor. During a demo, be sure to ask what all the pieces are that will need to be created before your site can truly go live.
- Offline data entry. Do you need to enter offline registrations or donations? If so, make sure the platform allows for this.
- Reporting. What data do you need, and how easy is it for staff to pull reports? Are there dashboards that give you quick progress updates? Is it easy to download information that you may need on event day? Does the system collect information that will be useful for analyzing campaign metrics?
- Creating new events. Once you have one campaign set up, is it easy to create a new one? Be sure to research how much others in your organization will have to rely on you (or a developer) to set up a new event versus how much independence you can give them.
- Ability to create security categories/roles. You might not want everyone who works on a campaign or event to have the same access to the platform. Be sure to ask about the platform’s ability to restrict certain users' access.
- Ability to grow. Do you plan on adding more events or other kinds of campaigns in the future? Whatever the future holds, you’ll want to pick a platform that will give you room to grow.
- Ease of use. How easy is it for participants and donors to use the website? Test the platform from both a participant and donor perspective.
- Special characteristics. Many peer-to-peer platforms are set up for basic registering and fundraising for run/walk/ride events. But does your virtual event or campaign have unique requirements? Ask platform providers how they can handle anything unique to your event. Some things to consider:
- Will people need to register or donate in honor/memory of others?
- Do you sell merchandise through the registration process?
- Do you want participants to be able to sell items and get credit for money they raise?
- Do you need to be able to hide fundraising pages for certain participants?
- Does your event require a fundraising minimum in which you’d like to be able to charge participants for what they don’t raise (called delayed self-pledge or DSP)?
- Additional assistance. If you need help, how easy is it to contact customer service? Do they provide basic guidance on building your campaign, or are they there just to troubleshoot problems? Is training provided, so you can understand how to use the peer-to-peer tool?
Your ability to pull off successful peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns and events depends a great deal on having the right software in place. Keep the ideas in this article in mind as you weigh your options, and you’ll be well on the way to choosing the right peer-to-peer software for your organization.
Mark founded Cathexis Partners in 2008 to help nonprofit organizations get the most from their existing technology tools, implement new technology to address gaps and find the best overall approach to using technology to support their missions. He previously served as director of IT consulting at a fundraising event production company focused on nonprofits.
Mark also serves on the editorial advisory board for NonProfit PRO, where he contributes monthly to his blog, “P2P Fundraising Essentials.”