6 Surefire Tips for Asking for Donations Over the Phone

Donor Acquisition and Retention

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Making donation appeals over the phone is an interesting middle ground between asking for donations in person and making appeals through more anonymous methods like email or on your website. 

On one hand, you are having a conversation in real time with a donor or prospect. But on the other, you can’t see the person, read their body language, or establish a face-to-face connection with them. 

This makes asking for donations over the phone somewhat tricky. However, there are some great strategies that you can use next time you dial a donor’s number or host a phonathon to help you secure a donation over the phone. 

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Ready to perfect your over-the-phone donation request strategy? Take a look at the following seven tips for asking for donations over the phone:

  1. Use your available resources when asking for donations over the phone.
  2. Make it personal when making your call.
  3. Make the case during your donation request.
  4. Have a script when you ask for the donation.
  5. Listen up! Let donors get a word in on your call.
  6. Make a genuine appeal during your phone call.
  7. Thank your donors during your call.

1. Use your available resources when requesting donations over the phone.

It might be tempting to hire an outside telemarketing company to do all of the calling for you and take some of the stress of fundraising away, but many donors are turned off by pleas for money that don’t come directly from your nonprofit. 

To prevent people from hanging up on your charity, use your own available resources: 

  • Make sure donors know who’s calling. With scam callers becoming more and more common, people are wary about being asked for money over the phone. When asking for donations over the phone, call your donors from a known number to prevent them from potentially ignoring your organization. 
  • Rely on volunteers. While your employees might not be able to make the hundreds or thousands of calls necessary to meet your target goal, you can utilize your volunteers to help you. With the help of phonathon software, volunteers can help you make those calls from the comfort of their own home! 
  • Tap into your donor base. You can even utilize your existing donor base and ask loyal supporters if they would be willing to help call a few individuals. 

The people closest to your organization are the ones who care the most about your mission and want to support your cause. When they are the ones making donation appeals, the asks are more genuine and sincere as opposed to scripted and stiff. 

person dailing a number for asking for donations over the phone

2. Make it personal when making your call.

Since you’ll already be using your internal resources, make sure that your team is getting personal with your donors. 

This doesn’t mean that every phone call should be as informal as a chat with a best friend, but it does mean that every conversation should begin with a cheery hello and a name confirmation. 

Be mindful of these tips to help make your calls more personal: 

  • Confirm the caller. You want to make sure that you’re speaking with the correct donor. 
  • Let them know who you are. State your organization’s name, briefly describe what you do, and explain your role within the nonprofit. 
  • Leverage the experiences of your volunteers. If a volunteer or a donor is calling in your nonprofit’s place, consider having them give a brief history of their interactions with your organization so the person on the other end of the line has a better idea of who they are. 
  • Be mindful of their time. Your donors are busy people, and you don’t want to disrupt their day. Keep your appeals brief and straightforward when asking for donations over the phone.   

Keep the conversation personal without being too overbearing. Remember that dialogue should flow both ways. Ask donors and prospects how they are and thank them for past donations and volunteer time if applicable. 

man on a bench outside asking for donations over the phone

3. Make the case during your donation request.

This step is particularly important for phone calls with prospects who have not yet given time or money to your organization. 

You have to make your case to persuade individuals to give to your cause. And while this can seem daunting, it really isn’t that bad once you realize that you already have all of the information you need. 

Making the case to donors involves: 

  • Presenting a problem.
  • Offering several solutions. 
  • Incorporating donations into those solutions. 

For instance, if your organization works with abandoned pets, your portion of the conversation could go something like this: 

sample script for asking for donations over the phone for an animal rescue with quote: "Thousands of animals are abandoned across the United States every year. Many are rescued and adopted by loving families, but those that aren't are usually housed by [your organization name]. We have to provide these animals with food, shelter, and medical treatments, but we also need money to purchase these necessities."

Obviously, when you make your own case, you’ll need to provide more specific information and data. Let people know how severe the problem that you’re solving is, offer up solutions, and tell them how their donations can help.

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4. Have a script when you ask for the donation…

…But don’t read from it. 

This may seem like contradictory advice, but think about how robotic it can sound when you recite the same lines over and over again.

You want to know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it, but you don’t want to come across as mechanical or insincere. Not only will donors be unenthused by your lack of authenticity and excitement, but they’re also less likely to donate by the time you make your official pitch. 

Keeping your script loose can have a couple of strategic benefits: 

  • Staying on your toes. By having a general idea of how the conversation should go instead of a play-by-play for every line of dialogue, you make room for adjustments and surprises. Practice your script with different people to maintain confidence while asking for donations over the phone. 
  • Flexible donor awareness. If you stick to a generic script, you might completely miss the fact that the prospect could potentially be a major gift donor or a valuable volunteer member. 

Donors who have previously given to your organization will need to be spoken to differently than brand new prospects. Plot out your general scripts accordingly. 

Consider this example dialogue of how to make a donation request to a donor who already has a giving history with your nonprofit: 

sample script for asking for donations over the phone with quote, "We really appreciate your previous donation. It helped to [insert project here]. With another donation like that, we could [insert future project]."

Be sure to always tailor your conversations to the individual donor. Instead of planning so rigidly, have a general outline for each type of donor you call.

5. Listen up! Let donors get a word in on your call.

It’s easy to start rambling whenever you hop on the phone to talk to donors. While you’ll need to properly state your case, you have to let donors talk as well: 

  • Establish a connection. Allowing the dialogue to flow between the two parties is vital for establishing a strong rapport with your donors. Since you aren’t talking to them face-to-face, this connection is even more important. You have to listen to your donors and meet them where they are. 
  • Pay attention to their tone. If a caller is expressing hesitancy, switch up your tactics. Suggest that they spend some time as a volunteer or visit your website to get a better perspective on your organization. 
  • Be prepared for questions. People want to know what their money is going towards, so expect donors to ask you questions about your cause and current project. Include an FAQ section in your script for ready-to-go answers. 

Not everyone is going to say yes on the first phone call. But when you listen to your donors and meet them where they are, you’re better equipped to make an effective donation appeal.

6. Make a genuine appeal during your phone call.

After stating your case, letting donors talk, and establishing a strong connection, it’s time to pop the question. 

Asking for donations over the phone can be intimidating, especially if you’re asking someone who has never given to your organization before. You can help alleviate your nervousness by: 

  • Remaining positive. Highlight the good that your organization does and what it can do with the help of more donations. 
  • Talking about what they can get out of donating. Many people enjoy giving for philanthropic reasons, but you still need to highlight what donating to your organization can do. Convey to your donors that they are the hero of your cause by highlighting what their donations help your nonprofit achieve. If you also offer incentives for certain giving levels, make sure that you let them know what they are. 
  • Using past donations as a springboard. If you’re talking with someone who has donated in the past, use that contribution as a way to introduce your donation appeal. Reminding donors of their past contributions can help lead to future ones. Describe the results your organization accomplished with their previous donations and how another donation can produce further success.   

Say something like, “We really appreciate your previous donation. It helped to [insert project here]. With another donation like that, we could [insert future project].” 

Once you make the pitch, be prepared to handle rejections as well. Not everyone is going to want to donate to your organization. You can still remain optimistic and offer them different ways to support you like volunteering or attending an event. 

man looking at his computer asking for a donations over the phone

7. Thank your donors during your call. 

One best practice for asking for donations over the phone is to thank people for their contributions during your call. Donors want to feel appreciated, and acknowledging their support is proven to help with donor retention efforts. 

Make donors feel valued by planning how to close your phone call: 

  • Offer a pre-emptive thanks. You don’t have to wait until after a donation to thank people for contributing to your organization. Acknowledging their support before they’ve donated can encourage them to make an unplanned donation or raise their original donation amount.  
  • Leave your contact information. Staying connected increases the chance that a first-time donation becomes a recurring donor. Giving donors a way to contact you provides another opportunity to improve correspondence between them and your organization. This also offers them a way to reach out with any follow-up questions. 

Everyone wants to be recognized for what they contribute to the community. Acknowledging the help your donors provide to your cause shows how much your organization respects them and their efforts.

Final Thoughts

These seven tips for asking for donations over the phone are just a few best practices you can implement to help your organization raise more money. These strategies might differ depending on the size and mission of your nonprofit, but they can be tweaked depending on your particular circumstances.

Additional Resources:

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