How to Ask for Donations: 3 Easy Phases for Effective Fundraising
1As your nonprofit works to leave this world better than we found it, your teams will undoubtedly need to ask for funds. But the last thing your teams want to do is treat people as a dollar sign (or a clock, if they’re volunteering).
So what’s the best way to ask for support that’s effective for your nonprofit?
There are plenty of resources when it comes to how to ask for donations. And we’re here to share our own human-first fundraising tips to help you increase support effectively!
What Does “Human-First” Fundraising Mean?
When we say human-first fundraising, we’re acknowledging that on the other side of any donation is a human being.
We’re not trying to “trick” them out of their money or time. We’re not trying to “convince” them that they have to donate.
Human-first fundraising simply means we’re ethically asking for donations for a nonprofit. It’s one of the major keys to effective fundraising for nonprofits, too!
Think of “The Ask” in 3 Steps: Before, During, and After
When we always remember that the people we’re speaking to are people, we often see better results for our nonprofits!
But that doesn’t mean we have to go in without a plan. No matter what method of asking for a donation you choose, It helps to break “the ask” into three phases. So for the two major methods we cover, we’re going to break it down into those three steps.
How to Ask for Donations On the Phone and In Person:
The Before Phase:
Before you ever have the conversation with your potential supporters, it’s best to prepare. These effective fundraising tips for your nonprofit will help you do so!
1. Know Who Your Ideal Donors Are
Any time you’re getting ready to ask for a donation, it’s important to know who your ideal donors are.
But when it comes to an in person or an over-the-phone conversation, you need to know a little bit more. That’s simply because meeting in person or on the phone are both more intimate than chatting on social media.
Before you have your conversation with someone, research who they are. Figure out how they’re connected to your nonprofit (if they are). Or determine their interests as they relate to your organization.
Knowing who your audience is allows you to have a conversation that resonates with them. Then you can keep individual people at the heart of your fundraising conversation!
2. Create a Script to Loosely Follow
Phone conversations to ask for donations for your nonprofit can feel intimidating! But having a phone script to loosely follow can help you keep your thoughts collected.
We say “loosely follow” because you still want to allow the conversation to flow naturally. Give your supporter room to add to your relationship, but use your script to re-center the conversation when you need to. That’s another way to practice human-first fundraising efforts.
Having a phone script written also helps if you bring on multiple staff members or volunteers to help with fundraising!
3. Practice Beforehand
Before you step foot into the meeting room…
Or before you pick up the phone and dial the number…
Take time to practice. Although you’ll still allow for natural conversation to flow, practicing beforehand helps you sound more confident in your approach.
Read your script out loud.
Talk to yourself in the mirror.
You can even record yourself and play it back to listen for any adjustments that need to be made!
The During Phase:
During your conversation, there are still some effective fundraising tips you can use to make more impact. Try using these:
1. Build Rapport and Nurture Your Donors
Natural conversation doesn’t usually mean sitting down with someone and immediately asking them for something.
That’s especially true if you’ve never met with them before.
Whether you’re meeting in person or talking over the phone, building a rapport is crucial before you “make the ask.”
Take time to get to know them. Ask them how their weekend was.
When you spend time nurturing a real relationship with the person, you’re showing them that you care more about them as a human over what they can do for you.
2. Be Open and Honest Upfront
As much as you can, be honest with them about what you’re looking for and what any funds will be used for.
Of course, this might be a little difficult when funds can be allocated to all different kinds of projects or operational costs.
But being as transparent as possible will inspire more trust in your relationship with one another.
3. Stay Confident When You Ask
It can be difficult to talk about money, let alone ask someone for it. So, naturally, many people get to “the hard ask,” and flounder over their words. If that’s ever happened to you, don’t worry! It’s normal!
But it can still lead to the person you’re speaking with feeling as though it’s not a good investment for them.
As much as possible, stay confident when you ask. Although, we know that saying “stay confident,” is much different than actually doing it.
So, here are a few tips to help you:
- Go back to the “before” phase and practice, practice, practice.
- Get comfortable with the uncomfortable, and take on more in person and over the phone conversations. That’ll help you familiarize yourself with the art of asking.
- Understand that they may say no! That’s not a rejection toward you, which is sometimes why people are uncomfortable asking for a donation in the first place. It usually means that either your nonprofit isn’t the right fit for them, or now’s not the best time.
The After Phase:
When it comes to how to ask for donations, it doesn’t end once you’ve had the conversation with a person.
There are still a few more steps to be done:
1. Always End with Gratitude
No matter what the answer is, whether it’s a “no” or a “yes,” always, always, always thank them. Thank them for their support if they gave it. And whether they did or not, thank them for their time.
Gratitude goes a long way to strengthening and building relationships with donors, which leads us to our next step:
2. Continue Nurturing Your Relationship
If the person says yes to supporting your nonprofit, don’t just leave them hanging. Continue to follow up with them every so often. Keep nurturing the relationship between your nonprofit and them.
Not only will it help if you decide to call on them for more support in the future, but it lets them know you don’t think of them as only a dollar sign.
If the person says no to supporting your nonprofit, then it’s a good idea to ask if they’re interested in hearing updates about the organization in the future. If they say yes, then add them as a contact to your nonprofit CRM and to the organization’s email list. Send them any newsletters you have just so they can continue learning more about your organization!
3. See if They’re Interested in Other Methods of Support
Some people may not be in the position to offer support financially. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to support your organization overall.
If the person you’re speaking with says no to a monetary donation, ask them if they’d be interested in supporting your nonprofit in other ways!
Maybe they’d love to volunteer their time or their skills to your organization. With virtual volunteerism on the rise, it’s easier to do now than ever before!
Even letting them know about peer-to-peer fundraising or crowdfunding can be beneficial for them and you! You never know unless you ask.
How to Ask for Donations Online or Over Email:
Asking for donations from an audience online such as on social media or through your nonprofit email list is a bit different than talking to someone in person.
So the steps on how to ask for donations alter ever so slightly.
Here are your three phases for effective fundraising for nonprofits:
The Before Phase:
Just like with speaking with someone in person, the best way to ask for donations is through preparation.
So here’s how to do that to gear up for an online or email ask:
1. Know Your Ideal Donor Persona Inside and Out
Similar to meeting with someone in person, you need to know who you’re reaching out to. Sure, with online and email fundraising, there’s more than one person.
But the idea here is to hone in on one type of person – that’s your ideal donor. When you do so, you’re likely to make your copywriting more personal. And that’s a fantastic way to reach people online. They need to know you’re talking to them!
So, if you haven’t already, create your ideal donor persona. Then, whenever you write social media posts or nonprofit emails, refer back to that persona. See how you can weave their interests and values into your nonprofit copywriting.
2. Follow the 80% / 20% Rule
Nobody wants to be “sold to” all the time. The same is true for your nonprofit. Again, that’s because people don’t want to be treated as though they’re only dollar signs for your organization.
They want to be treated as humans! So, try using this human-first approach in your overall online fundraising efforts.
80% of the content you send to your audience, whether it’s social media posts or emails, should be developing and nurturing your relationship with them.
That could mean:
- Sending out nonprofit newsletters that have project highlights
- Showcasing volunteers or staff members who’ve gone above and beyond
- Educating your audience about your cause
The remaining 20% of posts or emails can be a “hard ask,” where the sole purpose is asking them to support your mission.
3. Don’t Wing It - Have a Strategy!
This falls in line with the step above. But nowadays, considering the online space is so active, it’s more difficult to simply show up without a plan and expect results.
Having a strategy in place and following it is key to effective fundraising for nonprofits.
Whether you need an email marketing strategy or a social media strategy (or both!), it’s important to have that in place before you make the ask.
The During Phase:
1. Be Direct in What Your Nonprofit Needs
When it comes time to create content that specifically asks for their support, you always want to be direct.
Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t dilute your message with filler.
Get straight to the point! And always be as specific as possible. Let them know where their money goes. If their dollars make sure a student is sponsored to go to school for a year, tell them that.
2. Clearly Tell Them Where to Go to Support
Don’t leave them guessing where they should go or what they should do next. Give them a super clear call-to-action, such as “Click here to donate!” Or “The link to donate is in our bio!”
Be straightforward in directing them to their next step. Otherwise, you run the risk of them deciding it’s too much work, and they’ll just scroll away.
3. Use Nonprofit Copywriting to Inspire Supporters
Nonprofit copywriting is one of the most overlooked techniques when it comes to effective fundraising online.
But think about it! If your nonprofit doesn’t clearly and compellingly communicate what you need either in your social posts or in your emails, what’s going to get your readers to support?
That’s where copywriting comes in!
The After Phase:
And finally, you have your follow-up steps after someone does click the link to make a donation (or doesn’t!).
So here’s what you can do for more effective fundraising for your nonprofit:
1. Always Express Your Gratitude
Once someone fills out your nonprofit’s online donation form, you can set your email marketing platform up to immediately send out a thank you email.
That gratitude always goes such a long way! If your nonprofit team has the bandwidth, you might even want to say thank you in multiple ways. Try sending a handwritten thank you note or calling them to express your gratitude.
2. Keep Nurturing Your Relationship with Them
On your online donation form, you can allow supporters to opt into receiving your email newsletters (if they’re not already).
If they’ve opted into that, then use those newsletters to continue nurturing them! Send them regular updates about your mission, your projects, and the people who are working within the organization.
3. Tell Them of Other Ways to Support
Some of your supporters may want to support in other ways! In your thank you email (after they donate!), include links to other ways they can support. Or direct them to the page on your nonprofit website that shows them other ways they can stay involved!
Asking for donations is a bit of an art! But with plenty of practice (and by using these tips!), we’re sure you’ll see more effective fundraising efforts for your organization.
And if you’re looking for some “life hacks” to help you make fundraising better, then check out our free nonprofit training!