How DIY morphed into mainstream peer-to-peer fundraising

Fundraising Campaign Types September 14, 2017 By Kevin Wolfe

Do-It-Yourself fundraising became quite legendary—but not in a good way for some. When it became popular a few years ago, legend goes that nonprofits would turn it on, supporters would just start using it and a magic new revenue stream would come your way. But for some organizations, that fairy tale didn’t come true.

It’s not that DIY doesn’t work. It works marvelously for the nonprofits using DonorDrive that make it part of their portfolio of fundraising offerings and then effectively promote it to their supporters. When it gets the same amount of attention as your other fundraising options, it can be very effective. Perhaps more importantly, DIY’s value as a fundraising tool is blossoming. Organizations are discovering they can tailor the DIY concept to their own fundraising initiatives and really bring in the revenue. While do-your-own-anything campaigns certainly give supporters a great tool to express their fundraising creativity, organizations are finding even better success with structured campaigns that appeal to their DIY-savvy supporters. Below are some examples we’re seeing in DonorDrive.

Structured DIY

By giving DIY a theme or by giving campaigners a choice where the money goes, nonprofits are seeing success with supporters who like more structure.

My Miracle Birthday

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ My Miracle Birthday is a campaign supporters are using to fundraise instead of receiving birthday gifts. Since a birthday can become a yearly fundraising event for a supporter, there’s a big advantage over once-in-a-lifetime-event campaigns like graduations, births and weddings. Fundraisers get a choice of which hospital their efforts benefit.

Incidentally, the My Miracle Birthday site recently won an American Web Design Award.

World Vision My Cause

World Vision has created a suite of solution-focused DIY Campaigns. Supporters can choose how the money they raise will be used: to provide clean water, child protection, healthcare, food or farm animals where needed most in the world. For many supporters, this gives them a personal connection to the good they're doing.

The virtual component to the real event

Many nonprofits offer supporters the opportunity to participate in an event as a virtual participant. While it’s always good to offer this for participants who can’t physically make the event, organizations are giving current participants the opportunity to do a DIY campaign in addition. It’s often the advocates for the cause who create these campaigns. They're typically the biggest event fundraisers, those who’ve been involved for years and those with a personal connection to the cause.

MDA Fill the Boot

Since 1954, firefighters in the IAFF Union have stood on street corners to fill the boot for MDA. Now firefighters can also create a virtual boot for family and friends to fill. The virtual campaign is introducing MDA to new donors that firefighters don't encounter while filling the physical boot at the corner.


For many years, nonprofits enjoyed a large and growing presence at commercial marathons, triathlons, mudders and other big commercial events. Organizations were easily raising over a million dollars through a big event, as well as creating a powerful show-of-force with over a thousand participants starting together in their distinctive shirts. Organizations also found the business of buying bibs brought in new supporters. Runners who had been shut out of purchasing bibs through official registration channels were willing to pay the nonprofit’s fundraising minimum of thousands of dollars just to get in the race.

It was great while it lasted.

More recently, the running boom has faded from those glory days. Interest in the big events is down. As a result bibs are easier for runners to get. Many organizations have backed off on buying pricey bibs so they don't get stuck with them. The nonprofit courtesy tents for those running for the cause are fewer, with many organizations finding it too costly to have a big presence at these events with fewer runners fundraising or paying minimums.

Many nonprofits still have big interest among their supporters in participating in, and fundraising for, these races, but now they’re putting it on the supporter to get their own bib and set up an event DIY fundraising page.

Athletes vs Epilepsy 

The Epilepsy Foundation now offers athletes a CYO (Choose Your Own) Event program that specifically focuses on commercial endurance events. It’s up to the athlete to secure a bib and cover expenses associated with the event. While nonprofits’ official presence may not be as big at these commercial events, neither are the expenses. In many cases endurance DIY can yield more money for the mission. Organizations like the Epilepsy Foundation are making endurance through DIY a cost-effective way to give their athletically-inclined advocates a great fundraising option.

The original, do-your-own-anything DIY is a powerful fundraising vehicle that many organizations continue to build success with. It definitely should be a part of every nonprofit’s fundraising offerings. At the same time, we’re seeing more and more nonprofits come up with new ways to evolve DIY to fit the needs of their organizations and fit the enthusiasm of their supporters.