How to Ask for Donations Face to Face for Your Nonprofit

How to Ask for Donations Face to Face for Your Nonprofit_blog_charityhowto

This is a guest post by Brian Saber 

Most fundraising professionals would prefer to do just about anything than ask someone for money face-to-face. Even for those who find it somewhat “easy,” it can be awkward and anxiety-inducing to ask for money, regardless of how good your cause is. Yet, deep down, we know asking for donations face to face for your nonprofit will end up making a huge impact… and the facts back that up.

Asking in-person is proven to have the highest rate of success among all methods.

Kent Dove of the Indiana University Foundation analyzed different ways of giving.

  • Direct mail has the lowest success rate of the traditional fundraising methods –just 1-2%.
  • Phone calls – not cold calls but calls from one’s Alma mater or place of worship – have a 25% success rate.
  • Face-to-face asks however – 75% success rate!

That means three out of four face-to-face meetings result in a charitable gift of some kind. Those are great odds.

The largest gifts from donors always come from asking in-person.

How many of the big donations you read about came from direct mail, special events, or a telethon? Next to none! Large gifts come about by cultivating donors over time and getting to know them in person, and then finally asking them face-to-face to make a gift.

But why is face-to-face soliciting so successful?

Well, first of all, if someone agrees to even meet with you, that shows a very high interest in donating of some sort. Generally your donors won’t want to meet if they aren’t inclined to give you a gift.


Second, meeting in-person is proven to build the relationship. It causes a deeper level of empathy to develop between you and your donor, which would not be reached otherwise. Being with each other physically and being eye-to-eye creates an immediate bond – a direct desire to come through and be seen as good in the other’s eyes. This solicitation is much more powerful than connecting over the phone or through email.

How to Successfully Ask for a Donation Face-to-Face

Now that you understand the value of asking for the donation face-to-face, let’s look at how it’s done.

Every solicitation meeting must cover the six segments depicted in the Arc of the Ask pictured below. Yet conversations have a natural flow, so the time devoted to each of the six may vary. You might even find that one or two of the segments unfold in a different order. Regardless, notice the large blocks of time devoted to Exploration and challenge yourself to spend the bulk of the time there…listening to and learning from your prospect.

How to Ask for Donations Face to Face for Your Nonprofit - Arc of Ask

Step 1: Settle Into the Meeting

In the first few minutes of the face to face meeting, conduct light conversation until the participants have a chance to fully focus on the meeting. A great opportunity to ask friendly “What” and “How” questions, like:

“How is the family? How’s work? What did you do last weekend?”

Step 2: Confirm the Goal of the Meeting

Take just a minute or two to confirm the goal of the meeting and the amount of time available. Reiterate that this is a solicitation meeting.

“Thank you again for agreeing to meet with me to talk about a gift to the South Fork Senior Center. Does it still work for us to spend an hour together?”

Step 3: Explore the Prospect’s Interest

Before making your case for support and asking for the gift, explore the prospect’s interest in your organization and views on philanthropy.

“What interests you most about South Fork Senior Center? How did you first become interested in senior issues? How do you decide which organizations to support?”

Step 4: Ask for the Donation

Take no more than three minutes to present your case, concluding this segment with a specific request, asking for the donation to your nonprofit. Remember to focus on benefits and the impacts of those benefits rather than on features.

“Our goal is to…We make an impact by…Would you consider a gift of $5,000 to South Fork Senior Center?”

Note: It’s been proven that “Would you consider a gift…” is the ideal way to ask. You can say it this way every time.

Step 5: Further Explore Interest

Engage in a robust discussion to determine the gift or next steps that are right for your prospect.

“What else would you like to know? What would help you make your decision? What interests you most about our request?”

Step 6: Confirm the Donation

Review the meeting and agree to next steps.

“Thank you so much… I can’t wait to share the news with Joan and we’ll be certain to get a confirmation in writing to you by the end of the week. I will speak to Robert and forward to you the impact study we commissioned last year. Then I’ll follow up in two weeks to see if you have any questions. Thank you for meeting with me. I will circle back earlier next year in the hope that you’ll be able to make a gift then.”

Want to learn more about increasing your fundraising efforts and asking for donations? Click here to check out Brian Saber’s CharityHowTo webinars!

Topics: Fundraising, how to fundraise, Nonprofit Board Members, best fundraising, donor retention, Donor Management