Most people think of monetary donations when they think of fundraising. If you’re trying to support a cause, complete a project, or help a loved one, you likely need to raise money to do so.
How to Ask for Donations: A Guide for Individuals Who Are Raising Money
How to Determine What Kind of Donations You Need
In-kind donations are contributions of products or services. They can range from donated food for an event to equipment or supplies for a building project. Normally, companies make in-kind donations.
You can also ask people to donate their time to your cause, effort, or project. Whether you need help setting up an event, completing a large task, or building a structure, you can ask your community to help!
How to Decide Who You Are Going to Ask
Asking Friends, Family Members, and Peers for Donations
Your friends, family members, and coworkers all trust and care for you. Many organizations struggle with fundraising, because they don’t have any common ground with their donors. When you ask for donations from your friends and family members, you won’t have that problem!
You likely live in the same area as most of your friends and family members. You might see some of them every day! It’s easy to ask for donations from people that are close to you. Even if your peers don’t live in the immediate vicinity, you can likely get in touch with them quickly and easily.
You and your friends and family members might not agree on everything, but when it comes to raising money for a noble cause, worthwhile project, or meaningful event, you’re all probably on the same page. These shared values makes it easy to ask for donations from your peers.
Asking Businesses and Companies for Donations
Large Fundraising Potential
Many companies have Corporate Social Responsibility departments, meaning that part of their business is dedicated to improving their community, region, or country. These divisions are in charge of allocating their budget to worth causes – look into their previously supported causes to see if yours is eligible!
Variety of Donations
CSR departments don’t only make financial donations. They also make in-kind donations and arrange for volunteers from their staff. For example, if you’re raising money to improve the technology at a school, a company might be willing to donate their old computers to a lab.
If you’re able to form a relationship with the company, they might become a partner of yours for a long time. It’s especially helpful when you’re able to offer them something in return, like naming rights for a field or building, or advertise their logo on a sign or uniform.
Asking Foundations and the Government for Donations
Considerable Funding Potential
While most foundations don’t pass out grants to individuals, there are some institutions that make grants for very specific creative or entrepreneurial projects. If you fit the bill, apply, and receive the grant, it’s often for a large sum of money. The same principle goes for governmental funds.
Built-In Spending Guidelines
Most grants made by foundations or the government have strict guidelines for how the money must be spent. While this might seem restrictive, it’s actually a great way to hold yourself accountable if you are eligible and apply for a grant worth a significant amount of money.
How to Select the Right Way to Ask for Donations
How to Ask for Donations with Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding is one of the easiest ways for individuals to ask for donations. Crowdfunding is a fundraising method that enables individuals to set up customized and personal fundraising pages and share them with their networks via social media and email.
You’ve likely seen a few crowdfunding campaigns float through your Facebook and Twitter feeds and wondered, “Do those actually work?”
Yes, they do! Crowdfunding campaigns have successfully helped innumerable people raise money for projects, causes, life events, and charitable efforts.
Crowdfunding works because of the power of social sharing and because of people’s desires to help their friends and family members. When someone shares a crowdfunding campaign on social media or via email, they are essentially asking their entire friend list for a donation.
In the past, it would’ve taken days or even weeks to ask every single person you know for a contribution to your fundraising campaign.
But with crowdfunding, the fundraising process takes mere minutes. People can access your fundraising page instantly and give to your campaign in seconds.
When starting a crowdfunding campaign, it’s important to keep these three things in mind:
1. Upload photos and videos: Media helps people connect to your cause or project. When they see what their donations are going toward, they are far more likely to contribute.
2. Tell your story: Tell donors why they should give to your crowdfunding campaign. Funny or emotional anecdotes can be an easy way to show donors why your campaign matters and why they should donate.
3. Post regular updates: Don’t leave your donors behind! Keep them posted on your fundraising progress and acknowledge their previous contributions to show them that you care.
How to Ask for Donations with Letters
Fundraising letters are a common way to ask for donations from companies or individuals who live farther away.
They are usually 1-2 pages, formal in nature, and detail the exact need that the fundraiser is asking for.
Sending out fundraising letters is a more traditional form of fundraising, but letters can be an effective way to spell out your need and speak directly to the person you’re asking for donations from.
Letters work because they allow you to detail your cause or need and ask for something specific.
They also lend a certain formality to your fundraising ask, a crucial component for asking companies for donations.
Additionally, letters enable your donors to think about your fundraising ask. They don’t feel put on the spot like they would during an in-person ask, allowing them to give more consideration to your appeal.
When writing fundraising letters, remember these two tips:
1. Don’t be too formal: Yes, a fundraising letter is one of the more serious fundraising methods, but that doesn’t mean that your letter should be indecipherable. Keep the letter professional and accessible.
2. Get to the point: Introduce yourself and your reasons for fundraising, but don’t feel obligated to give your entire backstory. A fundraising letter should be no more than two pages. Don’t waste half of your space on fluff!
How to Ask for Donations in Person
In-person fundraising is just like it sounds. You ask for donations while face-to-face with donors.
The asks are usually scheduled during meetings and are the result of planning and stewardship.
When asking for donations in person, you have to be prepared with a proposal and options based on your prospect’s response to the funding request. Be straightforward and transparent.
In-person fundraising, though intimidating, works because it is a personal and direct process.
Asking for a gift in person gives the experience weight, and it tends to be an approach reserved for major gift requests.
For certain situations and with certain donors, a simple email isn’t going to be enough. The donor and their prospective gift warrant the added time and care that come with making an in-person ask.
When asking for donations in person, remember these two tips:
1. Always Be Prepared: Asking for money in person is often a little awkward and intimidating, especially at first. The better you prepare, the more relaxed you’ll be and the more likely it is that you’ll get a yes.
2. Know Your Donor: In-person fundraising gives you the chance to demonstrate how important your cause is and to personalize your request to your prospect, so do your research and know what they need to hear to give.
How to Ask for Donations Over Email
As you may have guessed, fundraising letters are the digital version of fundraising emails.
They are usually semi-customized, sent in bulk, and cover the basics of your fundraiser in a few short paragraphs.
Sending out fundraising emails is a cost-effective and efficient way to ask for donations. While it can be a great tool, be sure to personalize so your donors are treated as individuals rather than an anonymous group.
A fundraising email works because it helps you reach a large audience in an efficient manner.
Emails are also great because you can link directly to your fundraising page, meaning donors can read the email and donate immediately.
Plus, with email software, you can track recipient responses and use the results to improve your approach to messaging over time, learning from what worked and didn’t work in past emails.
When writing fundraising emails, remember these two tips:
1. Customize, customize, customize: While you shouldn’t individually write each email, you should take the time to ensure you’re directly addressing the recipient and including any past info you have (like donation history).
2. Shorter is better: No one likes a long email, so get to the point. Introduce yourself and your fundraiser, ask for a donation, and thank the reader for their time. Use bolding and formatting to highlight key info as well.
How to Ask for Donations on the Phone
Asking for donations over the phone is a way to add a personalized touch to your outreach.
Typically, you’ll identify a shortlist of contacts to call, write a script to follow, and then call all your prospects back-to-back.
Calls give you the opportunity to eliminate anyone not interested and connect with those who are. Don’t forget to follow up after any successful call with a reminder and/or a thank you to the donor.
When you ask for a donation over the phone, you can use a script but have flexibility to personalize.
Donors want to be treated like people, not boxes to be checked. Asking over the phone gives donors a good one-on-one experience.
If a donor isn’t interested, you can politely end the call, and if they are interested, you can cater your ask to what you’ve learned from them. It’s a happy medium between emails and in-person meetings.
When making fundraising calls, remember these two tips:
1. Write a script: You should use a relaxed and casual tone, but it’s best to prepare a script in advance to ensure that you hit all your talking points and have something to fall back on if the conversation goes unexpectedly.
2. Listen to the donor: A phone call gives you the rare opportunity to get immediate feedback from your donors. Listen to what they have to save and let it inform your approach to asking for donations going forward.
How to Ask for Donations for Your Nonprofit
Human Services Organizations
When to Ask for Donations
You might have heard that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Well, did you know that means that October is a cause month?
In other words, some of the most common fundraising causes will often have set periods of time dedicated to raising money and awareness.
If your cause aligns with a cause month, consider running your fundraiser during that time to capitalize on the momentum.
In case you didn’t know, #GivingTuesday is a day of fundraising that takes place yearly, on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
#GivingTuesday is a response to the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and it has grown dramatically in recent years.
Take advantage of the increased giving on that Tuesday, and be sure to put a promotional plan in place to build momentum.
Hosting a fundraising event is the perfect strategy to elevate your fundraising game and bring together new and old donors alike.
You’ll need to pick your event and do all the planning well in advance to ensure that the day or evening of raising money goes well.
For more advice on hosting and planning your next fundraising event, check out this helpful checklist and use it to your advantage.
The end of the year is a hugely charitable time. People are in the giving mood, and you can use that to raise money for your cause.
Specifically, November and December will be busy times. In fact, giving in December accounts for 30% of all annual donations.
That said, the end of the year is the perfect time to kick your fundraising into overdrive and really close out the season strong.
Best Practices and Tips for Asking for Donations
If you’re an individual looking to improve your approach to asking for donations, try out one of these eight tips:
- Be Realistic — Realism is crucial when it comes to fundraising. Know your limits, set attainable goals, and only ask people for money that they can reasonably donate.
- Be Proactive — You have to drive your fundraiser forward. Make plans and stick to them. Go to the money; it isn’t going to come right to you.
- Utilize Your Network — Although it can be tough to ask friends and family for money, your network will be your best resource in your fundraising effort.
- Prepare in Advance — Asking for donations will be far easier if you map out your solicitation strategy and practice your ask before going into any meetings.
- Know Your Prospects — The better you know your potential donors, the better you’ll be able to cater your ask, so get to know them!
- Recruit Help — You don’t have to go it alone. And you shouldn’t go it alone! Ask close friends and family to join the effort so you can broaden your potential donor base.
- Make It About More Than Money — When asking for donations, truly tell your story and why you need the funds. Focus on cause and effect rather than strictly finances.
- Always Acknowledge — Whether someone chooses to donate to your cause or not, they deserve a thank you for listening. You never know who might give down the road.
If you’re at a nonprofit and looking to improve your approach to asking for donations, try out one of these eight tips:
- Invest in Good Software — Find fundraising software that fits your needs and your budget. Look for platforms that support online fundraising and efficiently track data.
- Train Your Staff — You have valuable team members ready and willing to help your organization succeed, so give them the proper training to do so.
- Perform Prospect Research — Either in-house or through a screening company, you can perform a prospect screening and learn valuable information about donors.
- Create Fundraising Scripts — If you have a team of people calling prospects and asking for donations, provide them with a tested script to follow.
- Vary Communications — Some donors like email while others prefer text. Vary your communication style so that you can reach everyone.
- Try Out Peer-to-Peer — With peer-to-peer fundraising, you can ask supporters to fundraise on your behalf, organically growing your network.
- Tell Your Story — Donors want to know the story behind your cause and what their money will accomplish, so be sure to tell them!
- Automate Acknowledgments — We recommend automating thank you’s so donors immediately receive an acknowledgement and know you’re grateful.
Why and How to Thank Your Supporters
Acknowledgements are crucial for any fundraising effort, big or small. People like to feel like their donations didn’t just disappear into the ether.
By acknowledging donors promptly and genuinely, you show that you appreciate them, not just their contributions to your fundraising efforts.
Acknowledging donors also shows other supporters that you care about the people that contribute to your campaign. This could in turn lead to more donations down the road!
There are a few ways to let donors know that you appreciate their contributions:
1. Send out cards or letters: An old-fashioned thank-you card can go a long way. You should send cards within a week of receiving a donation.
2. Use social media: If you’re Facebook friends with your donors or follow them on Twitter, post your thank-you on social media to let everyone know how much you appreciate their donation.
3. Write emails: For a more personalized approach, send out emails to each of your donors. It’s like writing thank-you cards but without the cost of a stamp or envelope!
Tools to Help You Ask for Donations
With crowdfunding software, you can quickly set up an online donation page, share it, and start collecting donations. It’s that easy.
Using peer-to-peer fundraising software, you can empower your biggest supporters to fundraise on your behalf and thereby expand your reach.
If you work for a nonprofit and are reading this, a CRM could help you significantly improve your donor data management (and stewardship by extension).
Participating in a peer-to-peer campaign? Knowing how to ask for donations is key because you need to be prepared to solicit donations from friends and family members.
If you want to learn more about peer-to-peer fundraising, we have a guide that’s full of tips and resources to help you get started.
Now that you know how to ask for donations, it’s time to start fundraising for your cause, project, or event. Crowdfunding is a great option because it’s quick and easy to set up.
Learn more about the ins and outs of crowdfunding with our complete guide! You’ll have everything you need to get started.
A common way to ask for gifts is through fundraising letters. Whether you’re sending direct mail or emails, it’s important to write a professional and concise letter to your potential donors.
Get our fundraising letter templates to help you solicit donations from family members, friends, coworkers, and businesses.