Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals has built one of the nation’s most formidable peer-to-peer fundraising programs by daring to invest in audiences few other nonprofits have pursued.

In doing so, it has proven that you don’t need to follow the mainstream to succeed.

That’s why the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum, will spotlight CMN Hospitals as its Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Organization of the Year next month.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is the practice of having a nonprofit’s supporters take part in an activity such as a walk, bike ride or other real or virtual challenge and reach out to their friends, family members and colleagues for donations. Collectively, P2P programs raise billions of dollars annually for thousands of nonprofits nationwide.

CMN Hospitals’ Dance Marathon program raised an estimated $44 million in 2019 — ranking it among the largest peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns in North America and continuing its recent growth. Dance Marathon’s unique model centers on holding peer-to-peer events on college campuses – relying heavily on college-aged volunteers and donors.

And while Dance Marathon is an amazing story on its own, it is only one piece of the organization’s peer-to-peer puzzle.

CMN Hospitals is also a pioneer in the emerging practice of virtual fundraising. Launched in 2008, its Extra Life campaign was among the first programs focused on playing games to bring in substantial revenue.

It has since set the standard for virtual and streaming fundraising. In 2018, Extra Life became the first program of its kind to earn a spot on the Forum’s annual list of the top 30 U.S. peer-to-peer fundraising programs.  In 2019 Extra Life raised an estimated $15 million.

“Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals is honored to be recognized as the Peer-to-Peer Forum’s Organization of the Year. Our peer-to-peer fundraising programs, Dance Marathon and Extra Life, have been key to our organization’s success, collectively raising nearly $60 million in 2019,” said John Lauck, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ president and chief executive officer.

“Looking forward, peer-to-peer fundraising will play a key role in helping us raise more funds for local children’s hospitals and change the future of pediatric healthcare,” Lauck said.

CMN Hospitals’ focus on peer-to-peer fundraising is relatively new. While Dance Marathon was founded in 1991, it wasn’t until 2007 than the organization managed it as a peer-to-peer program. Prior to that, Dance Marathon was managed as part of the nonprofit’s corporate partnership program.

Extra Life, meanwhile, was launched in 2008 – making it one of the youngest programs among the top 30 U.S. campaigns.

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals has been one of the most notable peer-to-peer fundraising success stories in recent memory. During the past decade, the organization has fully embraced peer-to-peer to not only raise money but to build valuable, ongoing relationships that will help support its work for decades to come. As a result, it is proving what’s possible when you develop compelling campaigns for nontraditional audiences.

While, in the past, the most successful peer-to-peer programs focused on traditional activities such as walk-a-thons and long-distance bike rides, a new wave of organizations has been finding success by developing campaigns that appeal to a more diverse array of activities and audiences.

CMN Hospitals’ P2P revenue tally shows that these more creative campaigns can engage new supporters and have a huge impact on their fundraising.

“Throughout our history, CMN Hospitals has relied on the support and involvement of communities of individuals that are as varied as the hospitals in our network,” said Clark Sweat, the organization’s chief revenue officer. “We have found tremendous success in bringing communities together and giving them an opportunity to do extraordinary things for the kids.

“Peer-to-peer fundraising has a transformative impact not only on our network but also on the lives of those who choose to become involved. We are certain this is the key to our success, providing powerful communities with the tools, resources, support, and inspiration they need to change kids’ health and change the future,” Sweat said.

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals will accept the Organization of the Year award at the Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum’s annual conference in Austin on Friday, Feb. 28.