The Peer-to-Peer Crowdfunder’s Guide to Building a Contact List from Scratch

Why your campaign needs your personal network

USEED is peer-to-peer crowdfunding. It’s what we do, and we invite you to experience it when you crowdfund for your initiative. We know that this strategy – reaching out to your personal network on behalf of your fundraising intitiative – is how you win big when you crowdfund for a philanthropic cause (in your case, your organization or project).

I personally know the power of peer-to-peer crowdfunding because I have not only witnessed countless teams succeed in reaching their funding goal by reaching out to their personal networks, but because I have also successfully done it myself.

But if my anecdotal evidence isn’t enough here – if you’re really not sure about this peer-to-peer thing – check out this piece of data that Kimbia brings to light:

Receiving a donation solicitation from somebody you know, such as a close friend or a family member, is 300 times more effective than receiving the same solicitation from your organization.

300 times.



Take that in and let’s discuss how you can strategically select a group of people – contacts, if you will – who would be most likely to donate to your crowdfunding campaign.


The magic number: 21

Before your campaign launches, your mission is to collect the names and email addresses of 21 people with whom you will share your crowdfunding campaign.

Two questions typically arise when we give our crowdfunders this mission:

Why email addresses?

I have Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat/a million better ways to contact my friends on social media – does anyone even communicate with email anymore?

We get it, we do.

But even with social media platforms abound, email senders are still the most effective fundraisers. According to Blackbaud’s 2013 Peer-to-Peer fundraising study, fundraisers who sent emails during their campaigns more than doubled their supporters and fundraised almost 150% more than those who did not send emails.

By all means, use every outlet available to share your campaign. Post it to all of the social media channels! Shout it from the rooftops! Write it in the sky!

And, of course, send emails!

Why 21 contacts?

Brace yourself, math incoming!

We have found, on average, that one sent email is worth $4. Though this isn’t per email, it’s based on dividing the amount raised by emails sent. So, for example, you might win a $20 gift after sending five emails, or a $100 gift after sending 25 emails.

We’ve also learned that, of the campaigns that have been successful with USEED, fundraisers have sent an average of five rounds of emails to their contacts over the life of their 30 day campaign.

More often than not, you need to send reminders to people about your campaign. They might read your email, intend to give, and then completely forget. They may get paid a week after your campaign launches and be more likely to give at that time. Or, they may have more bandwidth toward the end of your campaign to visit your page and give. Sending multiple (5) emails means you greatly increase your chances of inspiring the right person at the right time to donate.

Therefore, if each email is worth approximately $4, and if you send out emails five times throughout the life of your campaign, you will – almost assuredly – receive over $500 if you reach out to 21 people. And when you have a full team doing this, you are setting your campaign up for a huge win – not to mention that you are able predict your team’s goal with confidence ($500 x # Team members = $ Goal)!

If I’m being honest, when I crowdfunded with a student team last year, I wasn’t originally sold on the importance of having 21 contacts – or the fact that I should use email as my primary way to communicate with them.

But I tried it, if no other reason than to test the theory myself. I sent emails to 21 personal contacts, and I raised $525 by email alone.

So before you launch your crowdfunding campaign, get your team on board with the data. Encourage your team members to challenge themselves. Get uncomfortable. Take it from me: it’s worth it and you will win.


Develop your contact listContactlist

If you were to write down everyone you know who would be interested in your crowdfunding campaign right now, how many would you gather? 21? Likely not. I know I didn’t that quickly!

But we have to start somewhere. Grab a pen – or a crayon or sidewalk chalk – and list all of the different social circles you are a part of. From there, you can fill in these categories with names of people you know personally.

This list of people should include both strong ties – the people you have built the deepest relationships with – and weak ties – people you know personally, but might not have a close relationship with (yet!). You don’t need 21 best friends on your list – just 21 people in which you have generated some form of a relationship. You’ll be surprised to find that both types of relationships will include your future donors.

Here are a few categories you might want to consider when mapping out your own contact list:


Family looks different for everyone. For some people, this is their parents, their grandparents, their siblings, or their uncles and aunts. For others, family isn’t necessarily blood related – they could be family friends or a friend’s family.

So whatever family looks like for you, add them to your list!


Friends are interesting because you might be a part of several different “friend groups:” College friends, friends from High School, Church friends, etc. If this is the case, categorize each group so you don’t forget any outliers.

Even if they cannot contribute financially, friends are often huge allies in sharing your campaign with their own personal networks, which could be the inception of your team’s grassroots movement!

Note: This might be obvious for some, but if you have friends crowdfunding with you, don’t include them on your list!


Not everyone has a trusted mentor, but for those who do, do not forget to add them to your list! This could be a coach, a high school teacher, a counsellor, or anyone else who has been an influential figure in your life. They will be excited to hear about your new endeavor, so add your mentor(s) to the list!

Colleagues, coworkers, and peers

I have found that my colleagues are some of the biggest advocates for my success and future. Although not everyone is afforded this luxury, it is important to not miss opportunities to share what you are doing with the people you spend the most time with, because the impact this encounter could have on your future relationship with them is powerful!

Add your coworkers, colleagues, and peers to your list.

Use social media to fill in the gaps

When I brainstormed my list, I still came up short. I could not think of 21 people with whom I would be comfortable sharing my crowdfunding campaign.

So I took to Facebook. Maybe for you, it’s Snapchat or Instagram or another social media platform you are engaged on.

I went through my friends list on Facebook to help fill in the gaps.

Oh yeah – Alex is really passionate about this type of social movement. I’ll reach out to her!

I really want to become better friends with Becca, and this is a great way to build a stronger bond.

David is always posting positive and encouraging status updates. I bet he would love to be a part of this!

From there, I reached out to Alex, Becca, David, and others to see if I could share the crowdfunding campaign with them once it launched. 100% eagerly said yes and sent me their email addresses, and it wasn’t just for show – a surprising amount of those social media friends went on to give to the campaign!

Where do you live on social media, and can you review your list of friends and followers to see who might be interested in your campaign? Remember, these should still be people who you know!

Gather email address, go forth and conquer

SendEmailsBy now, you should have at least 21 people on your list with whom you will share your crowdfunding campaign. No worries if you don’t have email addresses for everyone. If you don’t, you can actually consider that to be an opportunity in disguise!

We believe in the power of permission-based crowdfunding. This means that your personal network is aware of your crowdfunding campaign before it launches, and they expect you to reach out to them once it has launched.

Not having someone’s email address is the perfect way to ask for permission. Reach out to them in the most comfortable way for you, whether that be in person, by text, or through social media. You can say or write something like:

Hey [name], I am currently planning a crowdfunding campaign to [what you are raising money to do]. I thought of you because [why you chose this person]. I was wondering if I could share it with you once it launches? If so, send me your email address – I would love to keep you in the loop!

I sent this message and received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Here’s how my friend (a weak tie), Alex, responded:


Spoiler: she went on to donate to the campaign. (Thanks, Alex!)

If your contacts respond with their email address, then this makes the first email you send to them not only easier, but they will welcome it – guaranteed – because they gave you permission to contact them about it. Everybody wins!

We recommend this approach even if you do have everyone’s email addresses. Permission-based peer-to-peer crowdfunding is our jam, and we encourage you to try it.

Once you have those 21 contacts and their email addresses, you are then ready to go forth with confidence to support your team in crowdfunding for your initiative!

And don’t forget:




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