Lead Generation vs Peer-to-Peer Campaigns – What’s Best for Your Nonprofit?

By James Herlihy and Erin Munson

As we enter 2023, more nonprofits than ever before are running successful digital donor acquisition programs. Many others are studying and investing in digital to work out the best approach for them.

If you want to develop your digital acquisition program, lead generation and peer-to-peer campaigns are two of the most impactful strategies you can start with.

In this article, we break down the essence of these two key models, how they contribute to fundraising objectives, and which may be right for you.

Don’t miss our upcoming webinar on lead generation and peer-to-peer campaigns.
Thursday 19 January, 2023 at 10:00am UTC (11:00am CET). REGISTER HERE!

Lead generation for nonprofits

What is nonprofit lead generation?

Nonprofit lead generation engages an individual in a meaningful, non-financial action – like a survey, petition or brochure download – while collecting their contact details. These contact details allow the nonprofit to build engagement and relationship with the new supporter and guide them through a journey to financial support.

At Mindwize, we call this journey of (1) lead generation to (2) donor conversion a “2 step” campaign. It’s a successful model for continuous fundraising growth employed by many organisations. 

Below we have two examples of nonprofit lead generation: A petition from Greenpeace UK and a brochure from Parkinsonfonds Netherlands. Petitions and value exchanges like brochures are both common and successful formats for nonprofit lead generation.


Greenpeace UK petition text


A brochure on Parkinsons from ParkinsonFonds Netherlands


How does lead generation help nonprofit fundraising?

Lead generation and 2 step campaigns help causes achieve two key strategic objectives:

  1. Online community growth – your potential future fundraisers, donors, volunteers, awareness-raisers, letter-writers and more
  2. Donor acquisition – both regular and one-off donors.

Single gift income is great – it can help offset the costs of your campaign, and amongst your new single gift donors will be future mid and major donors. But building your organisation’s regular donor base consistently over time has seriously positive compound effects on your funding and impact in the medium- to long-term.

How do you convert new supporters to donors?

To convert your new (non-financial) supporters, you can use a multi-channel conversion strategy involving digital and non-digital channels. Here’s an example 2 step campaign channel and user flow:

A channel and user flow diagram for a 2 step campaign

To scale donor conversion though, most nonprofits will want to use phone conversion. This can deliver more regular donor recruitment, but comes at a higher cost than sending emails.

Peer-to-peer campaigns

What is a peer-to-peer campaign?

We define a “peer-to-peer campaign” as a nonprofit campaign in which participants are recruited to raise funds from their peers for partaking in a proprietary event over a specific period. Well-known examples include Movember, Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s Steptember (which Erin helped develop and run!) and Cancer Research UK’s Walk All Over Cancer.


Screenshot of Cerebral Palsy Alliance's Steptember website


“Peer-to-peer fundraising” more generally is the mechanism by which fundraisers collect donations from their peers on behalf of a nonprofit. This mechanism is employed in community fundraisers, third-party event fundraising (eg raising money for your chosen charity while participating in a local fun run), in memoriam and birthday fundraisers.

REMINDER: Our webinar on lead generation and peer-to-peer campaigns is on Thursday 19 January, 2023.


How do peer-to-peer campaigns help fundraising?

Introducing Sally. Sally does not have the means to donate to your cause. But Sally is fun-loving, active, outgoing and likes your cause. If engaged the right way, she may be happy to fundraise thousands from her peers on your behalf.

Sally illustrates how peer-to-peer campaigns help you fundraise from audiences who wouldn’t have otherwise given to you by tapping the energy of their peers to raise funds for you. The truth is, many friends who sponsor Sally’s Steptember effort are motivated more by social bonds than your cause.

While 2 step campaigns are a good avenue for regular donor acquisition, peer-to-peer campaigns are better at raising single gift income. Statistically, peer-to-peer donors don’t convert well to regular giving. But many peer-to-peer campaigns raise a lot of money each year.

How do I make my peer-to-peer campaign a success?

Five top factors to peer-to-peer campaign success:

  • An existing, engaged community and/or cause that is relevant to a lot of people, and people are ready to rally around
  • Celebration of fundraiser stories and social proof of community participation
  • Hyper-personalisation in supporter journeys to motivate and maximise participation
  • An accessible and fun activity that people can participate in
  • Showcasing the impact – a clear website with leaderboards and progress will highlight the impact your supporters are making, which in turn showcases their value.


Now you’re armed with some key facts around lead generation and peer-to-peer campaigns, the question remains: Which is best for your organisation? The truth is that they have complementary strengths – with lead generation being more optimal for building your regular donor base, and peer-to-peer campaigns better matched to mobilising your community to raise cash (one-time) income. Both are an important part of a well-rounded digital fundraising strategy. 

If you’re just starting your digital fundraising journey, you can’t do everything at once. So to pick which to trial first, workshop with your team around some key questions:

  • What are our broader fundraising strategy and strengths?
  • What community do we already have on board and what might they do for us? 
  • What experience do we have in house?
  • What are we willing to commit and invest in?

If you’d like to speak with some experts who can help you navigate the discussion and decisions, the Mindwize digital team would love to hear from you!

… And of course, come to our free webinar on lead generation and peer-to-peer campaigns on Thursday 19 January, 2023.

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