How to Choose a Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Platform — Step-by-Step
by Daniella Dowiak, Account Manager, Cathexis Partners
Thinking about adding peer-to-peer fundraising event or campaign functionality to your website? There are so many software platforms to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you choose a peer-to-peer fundraising platform.
- Discover your peer-to-peer fundraising platform options. In 2016, we released The Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Technology Landscape guide to consolidate many options into one location. This is a great place to start and narrow down your choices before you do additional research.
- Know your peer-to-peer fundraising needs. Before you commit to a platform, here are some areas to consider and questions to ask to make sure you choose a platform that will be the best fit for your organization, both now and in the future:
- Design — Are you looking for ready-to-use design templates, or do you want a fundraising site that looks and feels like your main website? Some platforms provide their own design with limited editing, while others give you the option to do more customizations. Also make sure you ask about how much HTML/CSS knowledge is needed, if any.
- Time — Be sure to ask platform providers how much time it takes to actually have a functioning peer-to-peer website — from the time you sign a contract to when you can start fundraising. Some systems can be set up in a couple of hours, while others may take several days based on other 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 since your constituents are doing outreach for you. 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.
- Fundraising tools — Be sure to 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 a question you still should ask. Make sure that all web pages are responsive, not just the home page.
- 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 this included with the product? Sometimes there is a payment processing fee in addition to the actual cost of the product (and platforms aren’t always transparent about this!).
- Other setup requirements — Be sure to 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 might 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 different 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 might need on event day? Does the system collect information that will be useful for analyzing event metrics?
- Creating new events — Once you have one event set up, is it easy to create a new one? Be sure to weigh how much others 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 an event to have equal access to the database. Be sure to ask about the platform’s ability to restrict certain user’s access if you think that’s important.
- Ability to grow — Do you plan on adding more events or other kinds of events 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 event have unique requirements that might not be standard functionality in all platforms? 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)? Be sure to ask platform providers how they can handle anything unique to your event.
- 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?
- Rank your peer-to-peer fundraising wish list. Before you talk to peer-to-peer platform providers, rank your desired functionalities and features in order of importance based on internal discussions about what is best for the organization as a whole. Be sure to differentiate between what you can’t do without, and what features you’d get by without having. Knowing this before you speak with software representatives will help you easily eliminate certain options and allow you to steer the conversation in a direction that will be most useful to you.
- Contact platform contenders. Use your wish list and The Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Technology Landscape guide to choose a handful of options that you’d like to explore more. Contact them to set up times to talk.
- Ask questions. The platform vendor’s job is to make sure their product will meet your needs, but they are also salespeople looking for a new client. Be sure to ask about all of your must-haves, as well as other items on your wish list. Ask for examples (be sure to ask if the examples required custom work), a demo, and access to a platform “sandbox” so you can play around a bit. Ask what type of fundraising growth other organizations have seen, and compare these answers from one platform to another. See if they have a site that you can register for and do a test run – not just as a participant, but also as a donor.
- Make a decision. Once you’ve explored a couple of options, weigh the platforms’ ability to meet your needs against costs. Choose an option that works for you now, and in the future. You don’t necessarily have to pick one that will work for you ten years down the road, but you also shouldn’t have to change your platform each year as your organization evolves.
Finding a solution that meets all of your criteria, one hundred percent, is unlikely. But, if you take the time to think through what your organization needs, and ask questions to understand what you’re getting into, you’ll be off to a great start.