Crowdfunding and Peer-to-Peer: Key Differences You Need To Know

What are the key differences between crowdfunding and peer-to-peer campaigns?

Both might seem similar, they can serve your nonprofit in different ways.

Here are the three biggest questions you should ask yourself when deciding between crowdfunding or peer-to-peer fundraising:

  1. What are your goals?
  2. Is now the right time?
  3. How can I effectively use these methods?

Let’s dive in!

1. What’s the difference and what are your goals?

Although crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising can both result in success for your nonprofit, the end results of either type of campaign will be different for your organization.

To decide which is right for you, some important questions to ask yourself might be:

  • Who do I want to do the legwork?
  • Aside from fundraising, what else do I want to achieve?

Let’s explore how each strategy answers these questions.

Peer-to-Peer hands the fundraising keys over to your donors

Peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising essentially hands the keys of your fundraiser to your existing donor base.

With P2P campaigns, individuals run campaign pages on behalf of your organization. In turn, they reach out to their social network of friends, family, and coworkers in order to solicit donations for your nonprofit.

What makes P2P fundraising powerful is that it expands your donor community. However, you need to be ready to let your existing donor base do the legwork for you, and that can sometimes mean letting go of control over your message.

Crowdfunding puts your organization behind the wheel

Crowdfunding, on the other hand, puts you behind the wheel of your campaign.

Your nonprofit, rather than donors, establishes a singular crowdfunding page. You might open up one page for your whole organization or a series of pages for different fundraising goals, but overall your donors will interact directly with your nonprofit.

Because of this, you can’t exponentially grow your network of donors in the same way a P2P campaign would. But, that doesn’t mean donors won’t share your page with their friends in an effort to solicit donations.

Takeaway: If you want to tap into the power of your community to grow your donor network, a P2P campaign may be right for you. If you want a bit more control over your fundraiser, crowdfunding is the way to go.

2. Is now the right time?

Timing can make or break any fundraiser, but it’s even more crucial when fundraising online. With so much competing for your donors’ attentions, you need to make your fundraiser stand out from the rest of the crowd.

The contest for attention becomes even more competitive when you ask people for their money.

To get the timing just right, ask yourself: Can my needs be addressed in the short-term, or am I looking to accomplish a long-term goal?

First, let’s look at peer-to-peer campaigns, which tend to address long-term needs of nonprofits.


With P2P campaigns, you don’t necessarily have to put an end date to your fundraising initiatives. What’s special about P2P fundraising is that as long as you have motivated fundraisers, there’s no limit to how much money you can raise.

But sometimes it helps to set goal dates to keep up the momentum. Many nonprofits find it helpful to keep their fundraisers motivated by holding events throughout the year that anchor their campaigns.


Crowdfunding can often leverage the short attention spans to quickly reach important short-term goals.

Let’s say your nonprofit provides shoes for kids living in poverty. You might need $500,000 up front to fund the shoes, with the plan that eventually donors themselves will be buying them for children your organization serves.

Once you reach your $500,000 goal, you probably won’t need to rely on crowdfunding again, because your central income will be derived from shoe sales, not cash donations.

In this sense, crowdfunding usually works best when you don’t need to count on it to bring in your organization’s main source of income; for this reason platforms like GoFundMe are often used for one-off campaigns.

Takeaway: For nonprofits that have a short-term goal in mind, crowdfunding campaigns work best. If your organization is looking to set up a dependable, long-term revenue stream, a P2P approach will serve you well.

3. How can I effectively use these methods?

Your nonprofit obviously isn’t the first to use crowdfunding and peer-to-peer campaigns, so look at what others have tried to see what might work best for your fundraiser.

Once you’ve defined your goals, and after you’ve ironed out the timing of your campaign, ask yourself:

  • How do I reach my audience?
  • How can keep donations coming?

With both crowdfunding and P2P campaigns, the way you engage constituents makes the difference between going viral and being ignored by your desired donors.

Here are a few proven marketing strategies that work well with both P2P and crowdfunding campaigns.


P2P fundraising depends on an individualized marketing approach. Because you’re giving the reins to your donors, it’s up to them to keep their social network interested and engaged. Here are a few ways you can better engage with donors to make your fundraising event a success:

  • Storytelling. You can help your fundraisers out by allowing them to personalize their campaign pages with photos, videos, testimony, and more. They need to tell their story!
  • Gamification. You can motivate donors with incentives to donate throughout the campaign in the hope that this will promote repeat donations. For example, you might provide donors with badges to identify their level of giving. This lets your donors feel ownership over the campaign.

To make your campaign a success, don’t be afraid to engage with donors offline as well.

Events can serve to increase fundraising momentum, as well as to reward donors for a job well done. Nonprofits can even collect on-site donations using giving kiosks, which seamlessly accept contributions via credit card at whatever location you choose.

Further, events like walkathons, bike races, silent auctions, etc., all serve to bring your community of donors together for one last fundraising push. At these events you might offer awards to high performing fundraisers, or auction off prizes to raise even more money.


Crowdfunding demands a different kind of social engagement to keep your campaign reaching new eyes. Because the donors reach won’t be directly affiliated with someone they personally know, you need to catch their attention in other ways.

Consider these engagement strategies:

  • Impact awareness. Share impact stories or videos periodically throughout your campaign. When potential donors see the way your organization will use their money to help people, they’ll be more likely to donate.
  • Donor spotlights. Don’t be afraid to shine the spotlight on individual donors every so often as a way to show thanks. You don’t need to do this for each and every one of your contributors, but when potential donors see that you share your platform with your donor community, they might be more inclined to contribute.
  • Thank-you gifts. Another way you can keep donors interested in your crowdfunding campaign is to offer small gifts once you reach certain fundraising goals.

Takeaway: For both P2P and crowdfunding campaigns, you’ll need to embrace the power of social media. With P2P fundraising, you might consider investing more effort into an in-person anchoring event to tie your campaign together, while with crowdfunding you’ll need to focus on incentivizing your donor base.

Final thoughts

Whether you choose to fundraise through a crowdfunding or P2P campaigns, both methods offer you a unique opportunity to engage with your donor community online.

As long as you have clear goals, understand the timing of your needs, and are able to learn from previous successful fundraising efforts, your nonprofit will be off to a good start.

For more info, check out Double the Donation’s list of crowdfunding platforms or Fundly’s list of the best P2P platforms.

John Haydon