Does Gamification Improve Peer-to-Peer Fundraising? (Hint: Yes!)

Published by Abby Jarvis

People in tech circles love throwing around the word “Gamification.” Gamification is the practice of turning something in real life into a game, and it’s everywhere. If you’ve ever added additional information to your LinkedIn account to fill up the progress meter or checked into a location to get a badge, you’ve experienced gamification.

Gamification is popular for a reason – it works! Software engineers and app developers have learned that adding game pieces to a program will increase peoples’ engagement in their product.

But can nonprofits use gamification to boost engagement in fundraising programs?

The answer is yes – and people are already doing it.

Gamification, especially in peer-to-peer fundraising, is an effective way to boost revenue. At Qgiv, we’ve found a few methods that are especially effective. Here’s what gamification pieces are working for our clients and how you can use them, too.

Create a “Welcome Quest” to Teach and Engage Participants

The Concept

To make a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign work, nonprofits must ensure that their participants are well-equipped to raise money. Remember, your participants aren’t professional fundraisers, and they don’t know fundraising best practices (which might actually be a good thing).

That’s where a “welcome quest” comes in.

A welcome quest guides a participant through the basics of online fundraising. Whether your quest is a .PDF, an email with written instructions, or a tool built into your fundraising platform, it’s an important way to help participants start fundraising. The goal of your quest should be to give participants the tools and knowledge they need to confidently raise money for your nonprofit.

Welcome quests are most successful when they’re associated with an award, like a digital badge or progress meter (think about the LinkedIn graphic that shows your profile’s progress). They’re a great way to teach participants the skills they need.

The Stats

When we dug through our data, we discovered some interesting trends:

  • The average peer-to-peer participant waits nearly 5 days between finishing their registration and setting up their personal fundraising pages.
  • 20%-40% of people who start one of Qgiv’s welcome quests stop working on their quests within 24 hours. After the 24 hour mark, they won’t complete any more steps.
  • The people who spend the most time working on their personal fundraising pages and learning about their tools are the ones who raise more money.

The Fundraising Takeaways

The key to a successful peer-to-peer fundraiser is participant engagement, and these statistics emphasize that engagement is most important in the first 5-7 days.

After a participant registers, involve them in setting up their fundraising page and starting to raise money. Try building an automated email campaign that will send them tips or ideas, especially during the 5 days immediately after they register. You can also send emails to participants based on their fundraising activities. If you have a group of participants who haven’t collected their first donation, for example, try emailing them some quick strategies or best practices for making appeals through social posts or emails.

You can also associate an incentive with completing the setup of a personal fundraising page. Remember, incentives don’t have to be tangible. Digital incentives like badges or full progress meters are effective for companies like LinkedIn, and they can be effective for you, too.

Keep Participants Inspired Using Badges

The Concept

Humans are hard-wired to set and meet goals, and we love being rewarded for meeting those goals. Earning a reward causes our brains to release dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that “rewards” us for doing something enjoyable.

This is a simplification, of course, but it explains why gamification is so effective for fundraisers. Imagine your brain rewarding you every time you get a donation or hit a fundraising milestone. Imagine that fundraising for your peer-to-peer event is as mentally stimulating as leveling up in a video game or earning a reward on social media. You’d be unstoppable!

Digital badges are a way to reward your fundraising participants for hitting goals and milestones. Participants who are rewarded for their actions – even if the reward is something intangible – raise more money than those who don’t.

The Stats

We looked at participant behavior in peer-to-peer events that use digital badges as positive reinforcement for engagement, and we found some fascinating patterns:

  • Participants who earned 5-7 badges raised about twice as much as their counterparts who raised fewer badges.
  • 68% of fundraising participants earned at least one badge. Those participants raised an average of $306.51.
  • 32% of users earned 0 badges. Those participants raised an average of $89.54.

The Fundraising Takeaways

There are two major trends here that are useful even if you’re using a system that doesn’t include digital badges. 1) Peer-to-peer fundraisers enjoy reaching goals that are set for them, and 2) reinforcing participant achievements with incentives – digital or tangible – can increase fundraising.

When you’re planning your peer-to-peer fundraising event, set milestones and goals around fundraising activities. Communicate these milestones and goals throughout the event.

If you can, associate different incentives with reaching important milestones. Incentives don’t have to be tangible, though they certainly can be. Experiment with different rewards and recognition for participants who get (and stay!) engaged in the fundraising process. Poll your most dedicated fundraisers for ideas about which rewards will be most effective!

Use Friendly Competition to Spur Fundraisers to New Heights

The Concept

People go wild for sports. We (many of us, anyway) enjoy playing sports, watching sports, or talking about sports. And there’s a reason for that – we enjoy competition, and we like to win.

Friendly competition encourages fundraising. But using the very human desire to win in a peer-to-peer event can be tricky. Friendly competition is constructive and helpful. Hostile competition is toxic and discourages people from staying involved.

The Stats

Does competition in a peer-to-peer fundraiser really result in more money raised? Here’s what we found:

  • Events that included more teams raised more money. The higher the number of teams, the higher the mean donation count.
  • Regardless of the number of teams, each team in any event raised about the same amount of money. Whether there were 4 or 400 teams, all teams were about equal – the teams in larger events just raised more.
  • Events that include individual registrants also see an increase in the mean donation count… to a point. Fundraising decreases after an event reaches 400-500 registrants.
  • Individuals who are not on a team generally raise more money than individual team members.

The Fundraising Takeaways

Competition does seem to inspire fundraisers to get and stay involved. Teams raise more money if there are more teams – the old idiom “a rising tide raises all boats” comes to mind. Individual fundraisers compete with each other and raise more alone than they do even as part of a team. Friendly competition encourages engagement, and that’s wonderful for everyone involved.

Use tools like badges to encourage friendly competition – try rewarding badges to the top fundraiser and top teams. You can also use elements like leaderboards for teams and individuals. Leaderboards are especially effective because donors can find and support their favorite participants who are battling for higher levels on the boards.

But remember – friendly competition is key! Build a sense of camaraderie among all your participants with things like event-wide emails, celebratory social posts, or in-person events to keep it friendly.

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Does gamification work if you add it to peer-to-peer fundraising?

Yes, it does!

Making it fun to learn your fundraising tools makes participants more likely to get and stay involved. Participants who are engaged in a “welcome quest” raise more money than those who don’t.

Letting participants earn badges or other rewards keeps them involved in fundraising and results in more funds.

Encouraging friendly competition between teams or individuals will spur participants to new fundraising heights.

Get creative with how you include these elements in your event! They’ll have a big impact on your fundraisers, your event’s success, and your bottom line.


About the author:

Abby Jarvis

Abby Jarvis

Abby Jarvis is part of the team over at Qgiv, an online fundraising platform that supports year-round fundraising, peer-to-peer fundraising, and more. When she’s not writing about fundraising, you can usually find Abby binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix or reading in her yard.