In fundraising circles, it’s known as “the ask” – that moment when you ask someone to make a donation. The ask typically happens at three main points in the crowdfunding process.
The first ask is made to your (or your group’s) closest circle of friends and family. This happens after you’ve posted your fundraiser, but before you’ve shared it widely. It’s an important step in the process because people are more likely to donate when they see that others have already donated – and the people who are most likely to donate are in your closest circle.
The second ask happens when you share your fundraiser with everyone, everywhere – on social media, in person, at events etc. But after a few weeks or even days, you might find that your fundraiser starts to slow down. Don’t panic! That’s all part of the process.
The third ask happens when you go back to friends, colleagues and other people you know and ask them one last time to make a donation.
Each of these moments requires a specific approach and use of language. We’ve put some tips together to teach you how to ask for donations in a range of situations.
Our tips on how to ask for donations
1. Remember to tell your story
Not everyone who you ask will know what your situation is. Whether you’re contacting them by email or asking them in person, remember to tell your story and tell it well. If you have a longer story that contains many details, in your initial request keep it short and sweet. Encourage potential donors to visit your GoFundMe fundraiser page to read the full story – and to become part of it with their donation.
To find out more about how to tell your story, have a look at our storytelling tips.
2. Tailor your message to the moment
The best way to receive a positive response – and a donation – is to appeal to each person’s individual interests, keeping their personalities in mind. If you know a donor would respond better to a warm, lighthearted email, keep your wording informal and light. For another donor who would respond better to a formal approach, deliver your message accordingly.
And if you’re raising money for a charity or a non-profit organisation, remember to emphasise the tax benefits of making a donation to your cause.
Get more tips on writing a fundraising cover letter.
3. Explain what will happen if they don’t donate
Darren Binder, the founder of City Dogs Rescue, says that it’s important to convey a sense of urgency when sharing your fundraiser. Without that urgency, your potential donors may wait before they donate, which means that you’ll have to ask them again at a later point. If you explain what will happen if you don’t succeed in your crowdfunding efforts, you may well see a spike in donations. Bear in mind that even negative consequences can still be framed in a positive light. TV and radio charity appeals do this well, saying things like, “If this is something which is valuable to you…” or “If you’d like to keep receiving all these benefits…” Follow their lead in keeping things urgent yet positive.
4. Keep a positive attitude and expect people to donate
Don’t be discouraged by the people who turn you down at first. Remember that people have widely differing priorities with their budget and their cash flow. You can’t predict when people will offer support, so keep your chin up and hang on in!
5. Start the relationship and strengthen it
Does your cause address an on-going need or is it a one-off thing? If it’s on-going, you need to view a donation as the beginning of an on-going relationship with the donor. Whether your cause is short or long-term, donors should feel like they’re part of your fundraiser and part of the unfolding story. Stay in touch – updates and thank-yous are vital here. The worst thing is when donors only hear from you when you’re asking them for donations.
Traps to avoid when asking for donations
You might be nervous about asking for donations or feel that you’re being too demanding. Don’t worry! – even seasoned fundraisers still get nervous every once in a while. Asking for donations can be made easier by using a mental checklist and practising your approach.
Here are a few mistakes we’ve seen people make when they asked for donations and how you can avoid them.
1. Not knowing what you’re asking for or being vague about it
It’s important to have clearly defined goals when you set out to ask for donations. Are you raising money for medical expenses? If so, list the expenses that you need help with. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in thinking about how you’re going to ask for donations and then forget to communicate exactly what you’re asking for clearly. Make sure your objectives are clear. State them near the top of your fundraising page and at the beginning of any donation request letters.
2. Being overly formal
While you could ask organisations to donate to your fundraiser, the majority of your potential donors will most likely be people who know you (or the beneficiary) personally. So there’s no need to be overly formal. In fact, it’s counterproductive, because it creates distance and makes people feel awkward. If you are warm, genuine and human, donors are more likely to respond in kind.
3. Not knowing who you’re asking
When you ask for donations, don’t just focus on the need. Think also about who you’re asking and what their understanding and needs might be. For example, when approaching a potential donor, ask yourself:
- Why does this person care? There is a reason you contacted him or her for donations. Keep that reason in mind and communicate it when you approach each potential donor.
- How does your potential donor know the beneficiary? Maybe they were childhood friends with the beneficiary or their neighbour. It’s appropriate to mention this relationship when asking for donations to create a more personal, intimate connection and help increase your chance of success.
- Why would they have reservations? Consider why someone might not want to donate and then try to address it if possible. For example, some people may worry that they can’t afford to make a large enough donation to make a difference. By addressing this concern and listing specific expenses that can be paid with small donations, you can get more people to contribute.
4. Being scared of rejection
You won’t get a donation from every single person that you approach and that’s perfectly normal. It doesn’t mean that you did a bad job of fundraising or that the people you asked are terrible people – sometimes people get distracted. Bearing this in mind, you can politely follow up with anyone who didn’t donate the first time you contacted them.
5. Being fake
Use all the tools available to you – words, pictures, video, prizes, themed donation parties – the possibilities are nearly endless! Giving your fundraiser personality and vibrancy can make a world of difference to your results.
6. Being too vague
This no-no applies to almost every aspect of your fundraiser, from description to donation requests. People are deluged with information. Vagueness doesn’t grab anyone’s attention –specificity does. Clearly state why you’re fundraising, what the current situation is and what the desired outcome is.
Be specific when listing your expenses too. Some successful fundraisers itemise every expense – not just an expensive item like an operation, but also the money for petrol or taxis to get to doctors’ appointments etc. Potential donors will appreciate that level of transparency.
Now you’re asking for it! – get the donations that you need
Most of all, remember that people generally love helping other people. It’s part of human nature! When you ask for donations, you’re simply tapping into that very human impulse. If you make it enjoyable, you’ll be on your way to raising lots of money for your cause. For more advice, you can also read our Eight Donation Requests Tips for Beginner Fundraisers.