How to Ask for Donations: The Fundraising 411 for Any Nonprofit

Fundraising June 10, 2022

WildApricot

By WildApricot

Donations are a BIG DEAL to your nonprofit: they’re a primary revenue stream, support your base costs, and give you the resources you need to keep growing. However, many people get nervous when it comes to the big question: how to ask for donations?


You might not be a fundraiser by training. Maybe your nonprofit relies on volunteers, or it’s only one of a zillion daily tasks you have to do (Meeting with your board? Putting together programming? Running that next member retention campaign?). But asking for donations for your nonprofit shouldn’t be daunting. There are people out there that want to help.


You just need to know where to find them, and how they want to be asked.

Who to Ask for Donations

The first step to asking for donations is knowing your audience: are we talking about an individual, a business, or a foundation?


Each of these supporters have different needs and interests, and benefit from unique approaches.

Individuals

Keeping your individual donors happy is a great way to guarantee ongoing funding. Whether they choose to give small recurring donations or one big cheque per year, their support adds up! Individuals typically donate through:

  • Online donations

  • Direct mail

  • Mobile donations (think text-to-give!)

  • Phone donations

  • Product fundraising (t-shirts, anyone?)


Individuals donate because they want to feel like they’re making a difference for the causes close to their heart. Get to know their personal wants and desires!

Businesses

Not only can businesses give you big financial support, a good relationship can also turn them into future partners with your organization. Along with a boost in revenue, this setup also gives you greater community visibility!

Businesses typically donate through:


Donating to your nonprofit is a way for businesses to grow their corporate social initiatives. Whether you’re connecting with a large corporation or learning how to ask for donations from small businesses, know that these relationships are mutually beneficial.


But remember: make sure the business’ mission aligns with yours. Some donations aren’t worth compromising your organization’s stance, and some corporations might be looking to give only to compensate for less-than-optimal business practices.

Foundations

By nonprofits, for nonprofits! These entities are literally designed to help nonprofits continue running, so be sure to tap into them as a resource. Foundations typically donate through:

  • Foundation grants 

  • Challenge grants


Foundations want to work with nonprofits who have a similar mission to them, so be sure to stress what you have in common when asking for donations. Just be aware that some of their grants come with conditions of how the funding is meant to be used!

What Do You Say When Asking for a Donation?

When you’re learning how to ask for donations, wording is your best friend. Balancing warmth and professionalism will get your donors invested in your mission, and also help them trust that you can follow through.

Here are some key points to include:

  • Your organization's story: Everyone loves a good story! Hook potential donors in with the full picture of how your nonprofit has grown over the years.

  • Your past impact: Donors feel best about supporting an organization that they trust will make a difference. Share your accomplishments proudly!

  • The community you serve: Nonprofits exist in service of a cause—show your donors exactly who benefits from your work.

  • Past donations you've received: This gives donors a framework for what a typical donation looks like (and gives them an idea of how their contributions can go above and beyond!).

Your pitch should highlight the interests and values you have in common with your prospective donors. Whether you’re talking to an individual, business, or foundation, be sure to give them all the information they need to get invested.

How to Ask for Donations

Now for the fun part: how to actually make the ask!


Whether it’s reaching out directly to donors, exploring virtual fundraising options, or setting up a campaign to receive pledges, there are many avenues to choose from. At the end of the day, the road you take depends on the size and needs of your organization.


Here are some examples of how to ask for donations for nonprofit fundraising:

Email

Emails are one of the most cost-effective ways you can bring in donors.


With some solid copy and a well-coordinated campaign, you can boost donations with relatively low effort! Compared to social media posts, which rely on paid ads and fickle algorithms, emails show up directly into peoples’ inboxes. This is a guaranteed way to reach a large audience without losing your personal touch. Just remember, it takes more than a single email to get results.


Break your campaign into four parts for your subscribers:

  1. A pre-launch email

  2. Another email ON launch day

  3. Weekly email updates during the campaign  

  4. Another weekly email to keep up donor engagement


Put some time into making sure your emails are appealing to YOUR donors specifically! Email campaigns will look different for every organization. Look into their engagement data, and it’ll be much easier to keep your emails out of the trash.


And remember to make your emails mobile-friendly! Your donors should be able to give whenever the urge strikes, even if they’re just checking their inbox on the train.

Direct Mail

Sending direct mail might be the old-school way of reaching donors, but it’s a tried and true method.


A personable, attention-grabbing piece of mail is great for sending specific donation requests, or anything that requires detailed instructions. It also lets you get in touch with older donors in a way that they trust and are comfortable with, which is important—the Greatest Generation represents 26% of gifts given, and they mostly prefer direct mail campaigns.


Some examples of direct mail campaigns you could send include:

  • Letters: Whether it’s an annual appeal letter or a letter to draw attention to a recent campaign, some good reading material gives your donors a clear picture of what you’re trying to do.

  • Pamphlets: Lay out information about your nonprofit, its goals, and its successes in one easy-to-read place!

  • Postcards: A flashy postcard is the instagram post of mail—with a quick and attractive visual, you can get people curious about your organization.

Social Media

If you’re scratching your head about how to ask for donations on facebook, twitter, instagram, or even tiktok, it’s important to first establish a strong online presence. This means posting regularly and engaging your followers with a friendly and organic brand voice!


Once you get into the rhythm, social media can spread the word FAST and offer mass communication to dedicated followers and new people alike. Even better, most platforms allow you to easily track your reach.


Here are some examples of how to ask for donations on social media:

  • Post pictures that tell a story about your organization

  • Upload videos which lay out your goals in an exciting and accessible way (even better: chat with REAL existing donors about why they gave)

  • Create online challenges that bring a spirit of competition into charitable giving

  • Regularly share the impact your organization is making, to remind followers why they should give

  • Create a Giving Tuesday or End of Year campaign, to make more of the most giving-est time of the year

In Person

Setting up personal meetings with prospective donors can help you build strong relationships from the start.

Connecting in person sets up a memorable experience, and gives  people the opportunity to ask any questions they might have about your organization. Most importantly, it shows that you care about them enough to invest some extra time into establishing a relationship.

Here are four steps to follow for an in person meeting:

  1. Research your potential donors: Where do your donors’ interests lie? What organizations do they already donate to? This sort of information makes it much easier to know how you’d like to approach them when the time comes to meet!

  2. Create a relationship: No one wants to feel like they’re being treated like a walking wallet. If you’re meeting with donors in person, you’re working as the face of your organization—a good relationship with you is a good relationship with the nonprofit!

  3. Build your pitch and donation package: Have a script (although don’t sound scripted) prepared and an idea of how much you’d like to ask for. Also know how to take a “no” gracefully—this will preserve a future relationship even if you don’t get the donation this time!

  4. Follow up: Whether or not people donate, thank them for their time. If someone was considering a donation, a good follow-up might be just what they need to say yes.


In person meetings are best for:

  • Asking for major gifts

  • Working with planned giving donors

  • Connecting with businesses and big corporations

Over the Phone

Gathering donations over the phone is an especially useful way to connect with individual donors! It doesn’t use a lot of time or resources, and is an opportunity to connect personally. This is especially valuable for smaller organizations.


Carrying out phone donations requires three steps:

  1. Reach out to existing supporters: You’re more likely to get a positive response if you aren’t cold calling strangers! Connect with the people who care about your mission, but could use the extra nudge to donate. This is where a donor management system comes in super handy.

  2. Have a pitch ready: Training your callers with a script makes sure all the information you need will be given to prospective donors. A list of answers to common questions will also make their jobs a lot easier. But make sure to train them to be natural about it—no one likes feeling like they’re talking to a donations robot.

  3. Follow up: Not only will this help you make one more personal connection, it will also give you an idea of how your calls are being received! Even mixed feedback is useful data on how you can improve in the future.

Pledges

When you need to fundraise with urgency, nothing gets the job done quite like a pledge campaign!


These campaigns are often made as a response to a major crisis or emergency, and empower people to take action. Their high-speed nature brings in a massive amount of support very quickly, and from a wide range of people.


Pledge campaigns are also designed to both reach trusted supporters and new potential donors, which gives them amazing reach. A strong marketing campaign and trustworthy pledge software are essential! Some examples of pledge campaigns include:

  • Public television drives

  • Radio station drives

  • Phone pledges


Custom Apparel or Swag

Custom apparel and swag brings your nonprofit’s brand into peoples’ homes! Having an object (or experience!) to connect with makes your donors feel more connected to your mission. And if it’s a fashionable bit of clothing, it could even be a conversation starter that brings in new donors.


Product fundraising is especially convenient when it comes to online fundraising. A well-made shop on your website can serve as another revenue stream, as well as help you build up your contact list. Explore swag options like:

  • Branded mugs, t-shirts, or bumper stickers

  • An exclusive tour of your organization

  • A call with a prominent member of your nonprofit


Make sure your swag is something that people actually want! A cool brand initiative will help you make the sales you need. You could even consider pairing with a popular artist to reach a wider audience!


So where does the ask come in? Getting your swag set up at events, allowing donors to add it on when they register for programming, or simply having a store all give you opportunities to ask for donations. The swag is the conversation starter, and the donations are the goal!

Common Questions When Asking for Donations

Now that you have some strategies for asking for donations, there might be some logistical questions on your mind! Here’s a brief Q&A featuring the most commonly asked questions around soliciting donations:

Does my organization need 501(c)(3) status to ask for donations?

Your organization doesn’t need 501(c)(3) to ask for donations, but it’s a good idea to have. Having this status qualifies donations as tax-deductible—which is ideal for your donors! Ultimately, you can start collecting donations whenever you’re ready, but waiting until you have your 501(c)(3) will help you in the long run.


Note that if you do collect donations as a 501(c)(3) organization, it’s important to give donors donation receipts. This is what will actually allow them to claim their donations on their taxes.

What is the best way to ask for donations?

There really is no single best way to ask for donations. The strategies that work best will depend on the size and needs of your individual organization. But one thing is true across the board: you definitely want to take a multichannel approach!


Using multiple channels will bring in donations from many different places. This reduces the stress of depending entirely on any one strategy. For example, if your direct mail didn’t elicit the response you hoped for, your phone banking and social media presence could make up for it.


Be sure to collect data about what is and isn’t bringing in donations. This will help you track donor patterns, and give you an idea of where you can improve!

Should I create a donation website?

Yes, you should absolutely create a donation website! With a website, anyone anywhere can donate to you through multiple currencies. It will also make your life much easier if you can directly link to your donation website in your CTAs. Keep things simple for your donors.


If you’re feeling daunted by the idea of working out how to ask for donations online, look into getting a donation website builder. The right software will take the tedious work off your hands so you can get those donations in faster and more efficiently!

Is it safe to ask for donations online?

If you are using the right software, it is safe to ask for donations online. Be sure to use forms that are Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant. This will keep your donors’ payment information safe and encrypted.


What Donation Software Should I Use?

Now that you know some best practices for asking for donations, let’s go over logistics!


Donor software makes the donation process user-friendly for both your donors and your organization. Having the right tools in place will allow you to collect donations, track giving habits, and keep your donors happy.

Online Donation Form

An online donation form on your donation website is a huge timesaver, and makes the donation process simple!


An attractive, easy-to-use form can:


  • Cover the administrative work of collecting donations

  • Gather donor information into your database

  • Encourage impulsive giving (or setting up recurring donations!)

  • Accept online payments

Donor Management System

The right software shouldn’t just complete transactions—it should also gather and manage information about your donors.

When people donate to your organization, your donor management system should keep track of their:

  • Contact information

  • Donation history

  • Event attendance


On top of this, your software should make donor lists, automate communications, and issue tax receipts.

Event Software

Hosting events is a great way to boost donations, but it takes a whole lot of planning. If you combine the right event software with donor management software, the most important (and often most tedious!) work can get done in one go.


While you bring in the donations, your event software can do things like:

  • Send out invites and updates

  • Manage RSVPS

  • Create schedules

  • Provide virtual platforms for networking

Campaign Analytics

You’re going to want to boost your donation website across multiple channels in order to give it the attention it deserves. Using something like Google Analytics will let you know how each of the channels are performing.


This information will highlight your successes and show you where you still have room to grow!

Looking for the Right Software?

Wild Apricot has online donation forms, a donor membership system, AND event software all in one place! If you’re ready to start receiving donations, sign up for our 30-day free trial.

Ask for Donations with Confidence

Asking for donations is all about finding the strategies that work best for your organization. Think about the resources, time, and budget you’re working with—and about your objective! Once you feel confident in your goals, choose the options that you believe will best reach your unique pool of donors.


Keep in mind that this is a learning process! Every attempt at securing donations is an opportunity to learn and improve for next time. Just be sure to stop and celebrate your successes along the way.


Want to save yourself some time and resources as you work out your strategy? Check out our ultimate guide to asking for donations online!

 

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