Asking for donations is one of the keyways nonprofits like yours raise money to support your cause, but knowing how to ask for donations can seem difficult. You have to know who to ask, when to ask them, and what the best way to ask them is to secure a donation. While this may seem overwhelming, there are some tips and tricks to asking for donations to help you.
- Who to ask for donations
- Ways to ask for donations
- When to ask for donations
- Tips for asking for donations
- Templates for letters & emails
- Time-saving fundraising tools
- Frequently asked questions
Who to ask for donations
Asking individuals for donations is one of the most common fundraising strategies because nearly three-fourths of all nonprofit contributions are made by people drawn to particular causes or organizations.
Individuals donate through online donations, text giving, monthly or recurring donations, event fundraising, and more!
Individuals benefit from donating in multiple ways. One major benefit is that there is a tax incentive attached to charitable giving. Plus, donors feel good when they help others, and there are many ways individuals can donate to causes they care about.
Corporations often have their own existing corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives that may have limitations on the types of nonprofits they donate to or a cap on the amount they give to charities each year.
Corporations donate through corporate grants, matching gifts, volunteer grants, payroll deductions, and in-kind donations.
Corporations also benefit from donating to organizations like yours. Donating helps companies can expand their CSR initiatives, and businesses appear more philanthropic in the eyes of consumers. Also, corporations receive a tax benefit just like individuals.
Foundations donate through community grants, private grants, and corporate foundation grants.
The benefit of giving for foundations is forming healthy relationships with nonprofits, which helps them give grants that can directly impact a specific cause or community. Donating also helps foundations receive more public recognition.
Ways to ask for donations
Asking for donations in person
Asking for contributions in person isn’t a method that can be used for every single donation appeal, but they’re a great way to appeal to potential major donors and businesses. Face-to-face meetings are usually more extended, providing the perfect opportunity to lay out your organization’s mission and particular projects that need funding.
Because you can to interact with a prospect in person, you can better gauge their interests and concerns. Asking in person also adds a personal touch to your donation appeals, which leads to a more compelling pitch and deeper donor relationships.
- Research your prospect.
- Form an initial relationship with your donor.
- Practice your pitch.
- Be prepared to adjust your ask amount.
Asking for donations over the phone
Most people associate phonathons with asking for donations over the phone, but phone calls are effective for everyday fundraising, too. If your organization doesn’t have the time or resources to visit hundreds or thousands of people, asking for contributions over the phone can be a great alternative.
Asking for donations over the phone still gives you the personal touch that comes with asking in person, but it’s easier and more cost effective than in-person meetings.
- Use the resources available to you.
- Make your script personal.
- Give your donors a compelling reason to give.
- Don’t feel tied to your script.
- Listen to the person on the other end of the line.
Asking for donations on social media
Social media is a powerful tool for your organization because it allows you to reach a global audience quickly. From Facebook to Instagram to TikTok, there are many platforms with different audiences for you to reach out to for support. As long as you’re posting regular content alongside your donation appeals, you can bring in donations simply by asking for them on your social platforms.
Asking for donations on social media can be a quick and inexpensive way to reach a large crowd and directly point them to your online donation form.
- Start posting regular content (not just appeals).
- Add a donation link to your page.
- Post updates with a link to your donation page.
- Engage with your donors on your posts.
- Track your insights and analytics.
Asking for donations with letters
Donation letters are most commonly used for formal fundraising appeals to companies, businesses, and foundations but, you can also use them to reach out to your more traditional donors who don’t have social media or email accounts for a more personal touch.
Because you have time to organize your thoughts before talking to donors, letters help you spell out your organization’s needs perfectly and demonstrate how much more money you require to reach your goal.
- Start with a bold headline.
- Make your letter personal.
- Tell a story in the body.
- Make a sincere appeal.
- Don’t forget a return envelope.
- Say thank you in advance.
Asking for donations with emails
Emails are one of the most common ways for nonprofits to ask donors for contributions because you can send your appeal alongside regular updates on your organizations and events. Since many people check their email on their phones and laptops, emails can reach donors nearly everywhere.
Sending out emails is efficient and cost effective, enabling your organization to reach more people at a lower cost than other methods.
- Create a bold subject line.
- Make your ask near the beginning.
- Describe why you’re asking for a donation.
- Include links to your online donation page and contact info for donors who want to give by mail or phone.
- Say thank you in advance.
When to ask for donations
End of year
The end of the calendar year (November-December) sees a huge spike in charitable giving, with 30% of all annual donations made in December alone! The end of the year is the perfect time for nonprofits to start ramping up their fundraising efforts by asking for donations.
Many of the causes that nonprofits champion have a special day, week, or month associated with them, such as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and National Adoption Month in November. If your nonprofit has a specific “Cause Month,” use that time to amplify your fundraising efforts.
GivingTuesday is a special fundraising day that started in 2012 on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It is a giving day that is intended to be a “global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world.” GivingTuesday has become wildly successful and is one of the biggest fundraising days of the whole year.
Events present the perfect opportunity to ask for donations in person without expending the extra time and resources to meet with donors individually. At your next event, highlight the good work you’re doing and ask attendees for their support.
When a crisis occurs, your organization may urgently need funds to be able to directly help those in need. Whether providing relief for your community during a pandemic or raising funds to aid relief efforts from a natural disaster, your nonprofit should be prepared to ask for donations during a crisis.
For specific projects
When your organization is growing, you may need to raise money for specific projects, such as new buildings or special events. Create a campaign dedicated to each specific project to ask your donors to give a little extra to fund your nonprofit’s growth.
Tips for asking for donations
Before the ask
- Understand that there is a process. Fundraising in all its forms requires a plan, a cohesive team, and a unified asking strategy.
- Start with your existing connections and move outward. Your staff, volunteers, and existing donors are the ones who care the most about your mission. Start by asking them for donations and then move to their connections.
- Thoroughly research your donor base. Don’t go into an ask unprepared! Research your donors to determine the right amount to ask for and the right way to ask.
- Know what story to tell. Storytelling helps you inspire your donors to give by letting them know the impact of their donation. Prepare an example of how your organization makes a difference through the donations you receive.
During the ask
- Be genuine and authentic. Your donors want to give to an organization they can believe in. Communicate your sincerity during the donation appeal.
- Be prepared for something other than a “Yes!” Not everyone is immediately going to want to donate to your cause. Be prepared for “No,” “Maybe,” and everything in between.
- Explain what the funds will go toward. People don’t just throw money at nothing. Tell them why their donations are needed and what they’ll help accomplish.
- Create a sense of urgency. People often give more if they feel the need is more urgent. Establish an end date for your campaign to increase the sense of urgency for donations.
After the ask
- Say thank you more than once. Gratitude is one of the most important components of fundraising. Make sure your donors are aware of your appreciation.
- Follow up. Give donors examples of what their contributions went toward. Show pictures, tell stories, and give your donors a reason to donate again.
- Offer other opportunities for engagement. Don’t just let your supporters sit in your donor pool. Invite them to events, encourage them to pursue volunteer opportunities, and engage with them outside of the fundraising appeal.
Templates for fundraising letters and emails
Standard donation templates
The most basic fundraising letter you’ll write is for a standard donation. Your letters should differ depending on your relationship with the recipient. Standard donation letters can be used for your year-end fundraising push or during a specific branded campaign and should be personalized for each segment of donors, no matter the time of year.
Individual sponsorship templates
Many organizations write letters to individuals and businesses requesting sponsorship for a specific event or fundraiser. These letters should explain exactly what the donation or sponsorship will help accomplish. They’re perfect for specific events or fundraisers that require significant backing.
Volunteer time templates
Volunteer time letters are requests for donations of time and effort. Your volunteers are crucial for your organization’s success. Invite them to work with you by using a letter. These letters can be used throughout the year but are most effective in preparations for a specific day or event.
Corporate donation templates
Corporate donation letters are sent to leadership members of local or national businesses or to the designated CSR coordinator at a corporation to seek monetary or in-kind donations from companies. While these letters may be sent on their own, they are often followed by an in-person meeting or phone call.
Time and money-saving fundraising tools
Mobile-responsive donation pages
It’s all well and good if your donation form looks great on a computer, but does it function as well on a smartphone or tablet? Make sure that your donors aren’t pinching, scrolling, and zooming just to give to your organization, and invest in a mobile-responsive donation page design to start collecting contributions from on-the-go donors.
Text fundraising tools
Fundraising events are great ways to interact with donors and raise more money, but most people only have credit and debit cards instead of cash or checks. Use text fundraising tools to encourage your donors to give without taking out their wallet at your next fundraising event!
Peer-to-peer fundraising pages
If you’re looking for a way to bring in more revenue and acquire more supporters, peer-to-peer fundraising. These fundraisers take advantage of your existing donor connections and put your donors in charge of their own fundraising efforts.
Make contacting your donors more efficient by integrating your fundraising platform with a CRM. CRMs help you track and automate communications with your donors and streamline the collection of data for your accounting team.
Frequently asked questions about asking for donations
Questions nonprofits have
1. How soon can a nonprofit start fundraising?
If your nonprofit is waiting on its 501(c)(3) status, you can still ask for donations.
However, those contributions aren’t tax-deductible until you are officially registered as a charitable organization with the IRS. It will be more beneficial to your organization to wait on fundraising activities until you’ve received your 501(c)(3) status from the IRS.
2. Do nonprofits need to register before they start fundraising?
A general timeline for registration goes like this:
- Register before you start asking for donations.
- Register in your home state (state of domicile) first and then in every state where you fundraise.
- If you accept online donations, register in New York and Florida because they require registration for any donations made, even if you aren’t actively asking for donations there.
- If you have an online donation form, register in every state you receive donations from. Your nonprofit can incur penalties and even felony charges for not properly registering. Research the specific requirements for each state you fundraise in.
3. How should we ask for donations?
Nonprofits can no longer rely solely on mailed-in donations or cash contributions at events, making multichannel fundraising the most common way to ask for donations. You should ask for donations in a variety of ways, including in person, over the phone, through letters, in emails, via social media sites, on your website and online donation form, at events, and more!
4. How should a nonprofit promote an online donation page?
Consider promoting your online donation form on the “Ways to Give” page on your website, including links and information about it in your emails, and posting links on your social media platforms. You can also talk about your online donation page at events, include a QR code in your direct mail materials, and mention it during your in-person meetings and during phone calls.
5. What are the ethics of fundraising?
These are some industry standards that nonprofits should follow when fundraising:
- AFP’s Code of Ethical Principles and Standards
- National Council of Nonprofits’ Ethical Fundraising
- CASE’s Principles of Practice for Fundraising Professionals at Educational Institutions
- U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fundraising for Your Favorite Cause
In addition, fundraisers and nonprofits should check their behavior and compare it to the organization’s ethical code.
6. What is an annual fund and why do nonprofits need one?
An annual fund used to be known as a fundraising campaign that kicked off at the same time each year. It usually had a theme with coordinating promotional and marketing materials.
However, an annual fund is now considered to be a nonprofit’s overarching plan or strategy with many components and is crucial for fundraising success. An annual fund helps your donors establish regular giving patterns, ensures more regular revenue for your organization, builds a more robust database, and boosts acquisition, retention, and average gift size year over year.
7. How much of a nonprofit’s revenue can come from the general public?
Public charities must receive at least a third of their fundraising dollars from members of the general public. As such, you shouldn’t rely too heavily on donations from your board members or staff.
Questions donors have
1. Where can I find financial information about a nonprofit?
You can look up the annual IRS form 990 on Candid’s website (formerly GuideStar), ask for the past three audited financial reports, ask for the unaudited year-end financial statements (if audited reports are unavailable), and ask whether the nonprofit has previously received federal grant dollars.
2. How can I give to a charity?
Individuals can give to nonprofits by contributing money, time, goods, or services.
3. Is it safe to give online?
Some donors might have reservations about giving online, and that’s understandable. However, most (if not all) nonprofits use donation forms that adhere to the guidelines that are put in place by the Payment Card Industry, known as PCI compliance. These standards ensure that donor data is encrypted and cannot be compromised. Many donation forms will have security logos and certifications to demonstrate their compliance with PCI standards.
4. How can I participate in peer-to-peer fundraising?
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a way for individuals to get in on the fundraising process. If a nonprofit is hosting a peer-to-peer fundraiser, you can volunteer to be one of the fundraisers, create your own fundraising page, and share it with your friends, family members, and coworkers. This way, you help raise money for a great cause and participate in a fun fundraiser!
5. Can I claim my charitable contributions on my tax return?
As long as you have a donation receipt from the nonprofit, you can claim the donation on your taxes.
The donation receipt should include:
- Your name
- The organization’s name and 501(c)(3) status
- Date and amount of the donation
- A statement indicating whether any goods or services were exchanged
- Name and signature of an authorized nonprofit representative
- …and other more stipulations.
6. Will a nonprofit spam me with information?
Whenever you give out your personal contact information, you run the risk of getting inundated with direct mail and emails. However, you can also specify your preferred communication channels whenever you donate to a nonprofit. Nonprofits don’t want to drive you away, but they won’t know how often to contact you unless you specify a preference.
7. How can I be sure my donations aren’t just going toward salaries?
One of the easiest ways to make sure your donations are being used for specific projects and campaigns is to give to those specific projects and campaigns. Many online donation pages will have an option to donate to a particular facet of the organization or will have a separate donation form for initiatives for events, projects, or campaigns.
While you likely won’t be able to track your donation down to the penny, you can talk to staff members and leaders within a nonprofit to discuss the best project for your contribution to go toward.
Asking for donations doesn’t have to be stressful. Take advantage of different tools and templates to streamline your fundraising appeal process and save your organization time and money. If you’re looking for more information about fundraising appeals, check out these additional resources below!
- 10 Outstanding Nonprofit Sponsorship Request Letter Samples. Make asking for sponsorships simple with these letter samples.
- Fundraising Letters: The Ultimate Guide [Free Templates]. Use this guide to write a successful fundraising letter.
- Donation Letters | How to Write Them (& 3 Templates!). Craft a great donation letter with these best practices.
- How to Create the Best Sponsorship Packet Template for Your Nonprofit. Design a sponsorship packet to show what your organization can do.