9 Tips for Asking for Donations

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Asking for donations from individuals and businesses can be a daunting task. Not only do you have to convince someone that your organization is doing something worthwhile, but you also have to try to persuade them that they should give some of their own money to help your efforts.

In an effort to calm some of your nerves when it comes to asking for donations for your nonprofit, we’ve assembled a list of some of the best strategies to implement when you are making asks to individuals and businesses.

Obviously, the communication method you use for making your asks is going to affect the degree to which these tactics will be implemented. For instance, the strategies you use to ask for donations on Facebook will differ from the ones you use when making in-person appeals. Make sure that you’re self-evaluating as you make your asks and adjust your strategies accordingly.

Here are the top nine tips for asking for donations.

1. Understand that there’s a process

Although it would be nice to just walk up to strangers on the street, ask them for donations, and walk away with a large amount of money, it isn’t exactly realistic.

Instead, you have to understand that there’s a process to asking for donations. While the process will vary slightly depending on how you’re communicating with donors, some general strategies will remain in place:

  1. Select your prospects.
  2. Prepare the ask.
  3. Make the ask.
  4. Follow through.
  5. Say thank you.

Before you go straight into making an ask for a donation of any size, it’s important to understand that there are pre-ask steps as well as post-ask steps.

Of course this process will differ slightly when you ask for donations:

When you know the process for asking for donations for each of these methods, you’ll be able to effectively approach your prospects and walk away with contributions as well as solid donor relationships.

2. Start with existing connections

One of the best ways to expand your donor base and ask for donations in a more natural way is to begin with your existing connections and move outward.

Think about who your most dedicated supporters are. They aren’t random strangers. They’re your employees, volunteers, and board members. These are the people who are most committed to your cause.

Ask them to reach out to their friends and family members for donations. Not only will your donor base grow (potentially twice as large assuming that everyone brings in one additional donor), but you will also have a larger network of donors to ask for future contributions.

3. Look to your past to improve your future

Did you implement a particularly effective email campaign six months ago that exceeded your fundraising goal? Did a recent phonathon fall a little short?

It’s important to ask these questions of your past donation asking strategies. Without understanding what has worked and what hasn’t, your organization cannot properly plan for future donation asks.

This step includes keeping track of fundraising metrics, staying up to date on which communication channels your donors prefer, and which asking strategies you need to improve on.

4. Make non-monetary asks

If you’re approaching a prospect who has never given to your organization in the past, they may be hesitant to make a donation, particularly if it’s a large contribution.

Instead of continuing to push monetary donations on them (and potentially driving them away!), suggest a non-monetary contribution as an alternative.

Many prospects feel more confident giving to an organization after they’ve attended a free event or volunteered their time. When they see tangible examples of what their contributions would go toward, they tend to be more comfortable making a donation when you ask for it.

5. Be specific, direct, and authentic

Ok, so this is technically three tips rolled into one. But they all build on each other to culminate into one super donation-asking tip!

One of the worst donation asking strategies is to simply say, “Would you like to donate to this cause?” without explaining:

  • What the cause is.
  • How much the person should donate.

It’s this ambiguity that results in a lack of response from donors.

Instead, be specific, direct, and authentic. Something along the lines of, “Would you be willing to donate $100 to help orphaned kittens stay fed until they find a proper home?” is much more specific and effective at demonstrating your need to a prospect. It also offers a solution to the problem in the form of the donation.

Part of this direct and specific ask is also being authentic. Donors want to know that you are invested in the cause you’re asking them to support. How can you expect others to care about homeless kittens if you don’t appear to care about homeless kittens?

Being authentic also requires being true to yourself and asking for donations in a way that makes you feel comfortable. When you are upfront with donors and prospects, you connect with them on a human level, sound less scripted, and appear genuine.

6. Give examples and demonstrate progress

Most people don’t just throw money at abstractions or projects without knowing what the money is going toward.

In order to alleviate this issue, give examples of successful past projects that donations have gone toward as well as current initiatives that require funds.

Offering concrete examples when asking for donations answers a variety of questions that donors may have and also shows that your organization is a good steward of donations.

7. Understand that not everyone will say yes.

As wonderful as it would be to have a 100% positive response rate on all of your donation asks, the reality is that some people are going to say no.

While you can prepare your asks and make them as tailored as possible to your prospects, you have to be ready for a negative or ambivalent response. Not everyone is going to be as passionate about your cause or be able to support you with donations.

If this is the case, ask them to contribute in a non-monetary way. If you still receive a “no,” learn to gracefully bow out.

8. Make it a two-way conversation

When you make donation asks, take care not to monopolize the conversation. Depending on the medium you’re using to make the ask, this may be more natural than others. Regardless, there should always be an opportunity for donors to interact and give feedback to your organization.

Give donors the chance to offer suggestions and impressions about your nonprofit and how donations are being spent. The more feedback you have from donors and prospects, the more prepared you will be to address their concerns and questions.

9. Say thank you

If you are approaching a donor who has previously given time or money to your organization, mention it at some point during the asking process. You want to make sure that donors and supporters feel appreciated for their past contributions.

Additionally, thank people in advance for making a donation. It sets a tone of gratitude for the rest of the ask.

Asking for donations doesn’t have to be a hair-raising experience. You can make it fun and raise some funds for your organization by combining these nine tips in the way that works best for your nonprofit. Happy asking!

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