This post was co-written by Ashley Patterson, External Relations Assistant.

Last week we launched WITNESS’ annual “Spring Challenge,” a primarily online-based, peer-to-peer fundraising initiative. This is our fourth campaign and every year our approach has shifted with the ever-changing philanthropic environment (and the ever-expanding digital world). Each spring, we (the fundraising team) are tasked with creating a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign that is fresh and inspiring. And each year we ask ourselves a few questions:

  • How do we balance the need to support our campaigns with contributions with our goal of increasing awareness about WITNESS’ efforts?
  • How do we not only engage current supporters but also expand our base of support?
  • How do we not annoy our friends by asking them to contribute once again?
  • Can we replicate past successes while keeping the campaign new and exciting?


Screenshot of WITNESS' Project: FOCUS page
Screenshot of

We know these challenges are not unique to WITNESS.

This year, we were extremely fortunate to have in-kind support from the advertising agency RAPP. Their team worked with our messaging to put a fresh lens (pun intended) on our efforts and emphasize how anyone, anywhere can help.

The result is Project: FOCUS. The shareable, interactive campaign emphasizes the power of visual media, WITNESS’ work, and the potential for supporters to create change. This year we wanted to more effectively utilize the power of visual imagery to inspire people to give, mirroring what we do in our advocacy work.

The campaign asks people to take a few minutes to watch and listen to the stories of survivors of human rights abuses. All of the stories come from past and current WITNESS campaigns. The project is easily shared and enables the viewer to contribute directly to WITNESS. 

One Ask, Motivating Donors, and Making it Easy

We are constantly trying to find a good balance between raising support and raising awareness. In the end however, the main goal of Project: FOCUS is to raise financial support for WITNESS so that we can continue to strategically use video to advance and protect human rights all over the world. This is an essential distinction between primarily outreach efforts vs. fundraising campaigns. RAPP has done an incredible job incorporating our awareness goals into our fundraising strategy. We’ll talk more about this in our next post.

Another powerful element of our campaign is the matching challenge grant. During Project: FOCUS (May 2nd – June 3rd), thanks to the generosity of a longtime WITNESS supporter, every gift will be matched dollar for dollar. This means that the impact of every contribution is multiplied as well. For individual donors, a matching donation is an extremely motivating factor. Also, placing a finite period on the matching funds – in this case, one month – creates a sense of urgency. A deadline motivates people to contribute before the match opportunity is over.

Screenshot of WITNESS' Project: FOCUS on Crowdrise
Screenshot of Project: FOCUS on

Since our Spring Challenge is a grassroots fundraising effort, it is important for us to make it as easy as possible for anyone to participate. That’s why we have chosen to host the challenge on Crowdrise. Not only is Crowdrise a donation portal, but anyone who wants to help raise support can create an account on Crowdrise (it literally takes 8 seconds), join our project, set a fundraising goal and become part of the team. All donations to their page will automatically also be tracked on the campaign’s main project page.

How Are We Doing?

Over the next couple weeks we will be posting about some of the choices we considered and decisions we made while creating this fundraising challenge. Please consider making a contribution to Project: FOCUS and joining other WITNESS supporters who are fundraising on our behalf.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the campaign – how do you think Project: FOCUS is doing?

4 thoughts on “How To Run a Successful Online Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Campaign

  1. The question: How do we not annoy our friends? is my problem. My first marathon in December was a huge event for me, and my friends all knew it and gave generously for mostly civil servants on fixed (or diminishing) incomes. But since then, I’m sure I have totally annoyed people with what they may see as my depressing Facebook posts (on various human rights issues) and my requests for support/donations. Now with my third marathon pending, I’ve put something on my facebook page, but mainly appealing to anybody who might consider running for WITNESS also. I’m hoping other runners can tap their friends for contributions! But I have not got a great response. 🙁 Through a similar email, requesting people to run for WITNESS, I initially got enthusiastic responses from some runners, but since, most have dropped off, with only two (both students) agreeing to take on running for WITNESS. I’m feeling pretty stuck in my efforts and unsure what direction to take. I’m not sure how to excite people to contribute – again – to an organization they’ve only heard of because of me… and, while I would think any runner should be excited about running for a good cause, it appears they don’t want to feel an obligation/pressure to ask for money from friends and family, or at least, not for a cause that isn’t “theirs”. One woman said she thought about it, then decided she might run for a local animal shelter instead – that since the idea of running for something was put in her head (by my email), she decided to have her own “cause” for fundraising. I’ve had this sort of response more vaguely relayed to me by others.

    The project focus video is powerful, and definitely moved some new people who took the time to watch it (that’s how I hooked one of the two new runners), so thank you so much for that great tool! But I’d love to hear how/what others have done to reach out with the same request to the same people, and what sort of success they have had… and suggestions for how to make running for WITNESS more appealing.

    Thanks for all you do,

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