How to Ask for Donations for Your Nonprofit or Charity
Nonprofits rely on donations to survive and thrive. Do you know how to maximize donor opportunities? This guide introduces strategies to bolster your charity or organization with donations to further your cause and achieve your goals.
How to Ask for Donations for Your Nonprofit or Charity
Nonprofits and charitable organizations rely on donations and gifts to further their cause. Without a steady flow of money from philanthropists, nonprofits will wither and fail. Many nonprofits struggle with asking for donations from their donor base.
There are many ways to advertise your nonprofit's cause, attract attention, and spread awareness of your cause. However, when it comes down to collecting donations, you need to get personal and know closing strategies to ensure you get the funding you need.
Most people find money to be a sensitive topic. Some nonprofit managers or volunteers find it hard to ask donors for their philanthropy. Even if they believe in their cause, the thought of "hard selling" a prospective or existing donor can leave the manager or volunteer scared at the idea of asking for money. The average person doesn't have the skills to handle these pressure situations.
The reality is selling your nonprofit's vision is only a small part of prospecting for donations. When closing prospective donors, you need a strategy to get the success you deserve. This guide aims to teach you the basics of how to ask for donations. Implement these tactics, and you'll experience a huge jump in charitable contributions.
These strategies work whether you're closing potential donors over the phone, via email, or in face-to-face settings. Implement them, optimize your fundraising efforts, and reach your donation goals.
Understanding Your Donors to Boost Donations
Before you pick up the phone or type out an email asking for donations, you need to know who you're prospecting to. Understanding your audience and donor profile is the key to a successful marketing campaign. Knowing who you're reaching out to makes it easier to close qualified donors who want to invest in your cause.
Start with building your donor profile and donor surveys. Look at the demographics of your current donor base and build out the profile using your ideal donor's age, location, income levels, and interests. Understanding these demographic elements allows you to fine-tune and focus your prospecting efforts.
After qualifying a prospective donor, establishing an effective donor relationship is critical. Healthy and productive donor relations encourage long-term relationships between the nonprofit and the donor, allowing for recurring donations for years to come.
With effective donor relationship management, nonprofits ensure their donors continue to engage with communications and keep giving to the cause. Some potential donors could evolve into major players in achieving your financial goals. They might set up endowments or issue huge gifts to your organization. Examples of highly effective donor relationship management tactics include the following.
- Sending personalized acknowledgment letters.
- Private tours of your nonprofit's facilities to show the donor what you intend to do with the funds you raise.
- Invite donors to actively participate in your fundraisers and campaign activities.
- Issuing regular newsletters and reports to show your donors how their contribution benefits your organization.
- Educating your donors on your organizational needs.
The donor relationship relies on the pillars of transparency and communication. Effective stewardship of donations and gifts builds trust with your donor base, making it more likely they'll continue donating to your nonprofit. Examples of effective donor stewardship include the following.
- Sending donation/gift acknowledgments within 48 hours of receipt.
- Creating systems to show how you're using the donations as intended.
- Annual reporting and audits of gifts and donations, creating a paper trail.
- Sending donors follow-up letters for tax purposes.
Crafting a Compelling Story to Capture Donations
Before we start, we need to clear the air around "selling." Many people assume selling is sleazy. They imagine the door-to-door salesman who forced them into buying a set of encyclopedias or knives at their home.
This framing is an incorrect way to think of selling. The reality is selling is a skill set in high demand in every industry – without selling, nothing would ever get done in the world. Everyone is selling something every day. Whether you're selling your partner on what move to watch on Netflix or where to go for dinner, selling gets you what you want out of life.
So, nonprofits need to realize that selling is vital for their organization's prosperity. Mastering prospecting, qualifying, pitching, and closing is necessary to further your cause and capture the donations you need to continue operations.
Speak to any real salesperson, and they'll tell you, "Selling isn't telling." Talking "at" people and expecting them to listen is a surefire way to drive away attention from your pitch. Talking "to" people via storytelling practices works. It captures your potential donors interest because they can relate to your scenario in their personal experience.
The shift to implementing storytelling strategies in marketing isn't new, but it's surprising how many organizations don't understand how to use this highly effective selling tactic. As a nonprofit, you probably have hundreds of inspiring stories you can leverage for your sales pitches to your supporters in your donation campaigns.
Effective storytelling should empower your organization and your community. It's not disingenuous or exploitative. The storytelling process should strengthen your nonprofit's reputation, image, and role in prospective donors' lives and influence their thinking and decision-making to nudge them into donating to your campaign.
Build your story around the four "C's: " character, conflict, change, and context. Think about how your nonprofit's past experiences shaped these storytelling elements and craft a story that touches all of them.
Choosing the Right Donation Platforms for More Money & Bigger Donations
The internet changed the game for nonprofit fundraisers and donation methods. Back in the day, nonprofits were limited to the phone and direct mail via snail mail services as donation channels for donor outreach. Today, there's a plethora of ways to implement fundraising tools for your campaigns.
Crowdfunding – Peer-to-peer fundraising platforms like GoFundme, MightyCause, and Fundly allow nonprofits to ask for donations with a click of a link. Donors can give instantly, without talking to anyone at the organization.
Mobile – Nonprofits can accept donations from mobile devices using QR codes and text-to-give links. It's a great way to receive individual contributions, allowing for a seamless, user-friendly, effective donation process.
Online donation page – Nonprofits can set up a donation portal using a payment processor on their website. Accept donations online via credit cards, e-wallets, and bank transfers for fundraising initiatives. Your donation page should have intuitive and user-friendly navigation.
eCards – This strategy is great for seasonal campaigns around the holidays. Christmas, 4th of July, and other public holidays or special events during the year present ideal fundraising opportunities with custom cards designed to celebrate the occasion and raise cash.
Email campaigns – Make email outreach or drip campaigns encouraging support for donations from your existing donor base. It's a great way to farm your database and optimize ongoing fundraising activities via newsletters.
Merch – Selling merch like t-shirts, posters, coffee mugs, and other branded products builds cash flow and gets your brand identity into the market where your donors can spread awareness of your nonprofit and its mission.
Fundraising events – Donor events like golf days, gala dinners, and conferences are great donation opportunities. The advent of the internet and software suits allows nonprofits to host hybrid virtual/physical events that capture more eyeballs and more money from your fundraisers donations.
Auctions – Auction fundraisers gives you an opportunity to raise funds and create engagement with your donor base. Auctions are the ideal event for gala dinners, conferences, or webinars.
An effective fundraiser should incorporate a mix of all the strategies mentioned above to maximize your fundraiser's donations. Plan your strategy with your team and use the platforms that resonate with your organization and its goals.
Creating Effective Letters for Donation Requests
Writing "donation appeals," or fundraising letters, is one of many effective fundraising techniques for enticing prospective donors to support your organization's cause. A donation request letter is ideal for asking for financial support from individuals and families, small businesses, and corporations.
Donation letters can ask for cash or gifts like office equipment. They also make ideal outreach strategies for requesting volunteer support for your mission. However, your donors probably receive appeals from many organizations, so how do you make your message stand out in a noisy marketplace? You need to write a letter that separates you from other organizations looking for funds.
Wording the perfect donation letter is a skill and includes the following components.
Header – Including your nonprofit's name and logo.
Nonprofit Contact Information – The phone number and physical address of your nonprofit's headquarters. List relevant contacts, your website, and the relevant email address.
Personalized Introduction – Addressing your appeal to the donor directly via a personalized introduction improves response rates dramatically and boosts donations. Software tools can manage this process using custom values in a CRM system.
Donor Relationship Acknowledgment – Mention your relationship with the donor and thank them for their past support if they've donated to a previous campaign. Segment donors based on prior campaign interactions. Make them feel important.
Structure your donation letter with a strong opening addressing the donor and their role in your organization. For instance, opening with a line like the following.
"Dear John, You've been integral to our organization's success over the last few years. We want to thank you for your support and donations to our mission; without you, we wouldn't be able to achieve our goals."
Your story should utilize the following format.
Your Organizational Needs – What do you want to focus on? For instance, if you're an animal shelter, you could write a story about how contributions to your last campaign helped save the lives of over a dozen dogs from euthanasia and find them new homes. If you're a school, you can talk about how your donor generosity funded a new library and improved the student's learning opportunities.
The Solution & Result – What result do you want to achieve with your campaign? Give your prospective donor an idea of what success looks like for your campaign.
The Hero – Make the prospective donor the hero of your story. The words you use matter. For instance, "This success wouldn't be possible without your donation." Donor recognition is vital for securing their support for future campaigns.
Call to Action (CTA) – End your appeal with a clear CTA outlining the request or action you want the donor to take.
Closing – Thank the donor and digitally sign the document for a personalized effect.
Digital Fundraising Strategies for Asking for Donations Online
Social media and email campaigns offer nonprofits a highly effective strategy for reaching out to potential donors to receive online donations. There are plenty of online fundraising ideas that yield amazing results, from text campaigns to social media tactics and strategies. For instance, setting up a landing page for your campaign allows you to capture email addresses from people in exchange for a value offer, such as a free ticket to a gala dinner.
After capturing your leads via a donate button and donation form, add them to a CRM system and feed them a drip email campaign showing your organization's message, past successes, current endeavors, and fundraising goals. As the prospect moves through the funnel, they confirm their support and interest in your cause, and the drip campaign ends with a CTA mentioning donation incentives.
Facebook is a fantastic marketing tool when you learn how to use the business ad manager function. Set up custom marketing campaigns using custom audiences and look-alike audiences. Fund an ad campaign and promote it to your target audience for donation drives.
It's a good idea to A/B test three or four ad templates over the first week and analyze the data. Look at your engagement with each advertisement in your FB ad manager profile. Choose the best-performing ad and pump advertising dollars into a campaign to push it in front of your audience and extend your reach on the platform.
Social media strategies should include campaigns on platforms your target audience uses. Each offers a different media strategy that center around creating traction with prospective donors. For instance, you'll use Facebook for news and long-form content. Instagram is ideal for image-based marketing tactics that make a visual impact, and TikTok is great for pushing short-form video content like donor testimonials.
Monitoring your data, analytics, fundraising metrics, and donation percentages is vital to ensure you're getting the most out of your marketing budget. Some nonprofits may also benefit from running Google Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns, but it's subject to your budget, as this strategy can be expensive and offset your fundraisers donations.
Face-to-Face Donor Fundraising Tips to Close Huge Donations
Making donation requests to supporters via email and social media is easy for most nonprofits because there's no direct engagement with the donor. Your digital marketing strategy does everything for you, and you can automate a large part of the campaign with the right software solutions.
Most nonprofits struggle in face-to-face donor engagements. The thought of asking your prospective donor for thousands of dollars might seem ludicrous and induce anxiety. However, face-to-face donor engagement is a highly effective fundraising tactic when you know how to sell and pitch your campaign and organizational goals.
You'll need to learn how to ask for money. Practice your pitch and its delivery to get results. Confidence breeds competence. You'll need a thorough understanding of your prospective donor profile. If you're dealing with a "whale" (a donor with deep pockets), you'll need a sense of their background, so do your research before you request the meeting.
Learn how to listen more than you talk. If you pay attention during the pitch, the prospect will tell you everything you need to know to close them on a sizeable donation. Master tonality and body language, and learn how to leverage verbal and physical language to boost rapport with the prospect and gain their trust.
The idea is not to manipulate the prospect but to lead them through the sales process from start to finish to receive the required outcome from the engagement. Try the following tips to make the most out of your face-to-face engagements.
Smile as often as possible and maintain a positive attitude to exude confidence, capture attention, matching their behavior. People like to talk to high-energy people they find enthusiastic and sharp.
Ensure you are present and focused in the moment. Donor communications matter. Pay attention to every word your prospect says, and listen more than you talk.
Sit with good posture. Slouching presents a lack of confidence to the prospect, and they'll want to cut the meeting short because they don't see any value in talking to you.
When you move in for the donation ask, lean in towards the prospect by shifting to the front of your seat.
Keep your hands on the table or in your lap. Don't cross your arms – this body language signals you're not listening or don't care about what the prospect is saying.
Always agree with the prospect. Refrain from using negative language like no, can't, won't, impossible, etc.
Always thank the prospect for their time, even if they refuse your grant request. You never know; they might change their mind or decide to donate in the future.
Ask the prospective donor if you can keep in touch with them if you feel they might be able to donate in the future.
Don't make the mistake of using small talk. For instance, don't start talking about the books on the shelf or their family vacation photos if you're in their office. This might seem like it's building rapport, but the prospect doesn't see value in the communication, and they'll shift their energy to ending the meeting as soon as possible.
Stick to business and focus on the reason why you're there - their pledge to your organization.
The Art of the Follow-Up to Increase Donations
In most cases, prospective donors don't close on the first interaction. They request time to consider your pitch and the merits of donating to your cause. That's okay. Don't consider it a failure if you don't close them immediately. The key to successful selling and capturing donations lies in keeping communication channels open.
If your prospect isn't willing to commit to a donation right there at the meeting, ensure you set up a follow-up meeting. Research shows it takes approximately four to five follow-up meetings or calls to close a prospect in any industry. Unfortunately, most salespeople give up after the second or third follow-up.
Following up is a skill that requires persistence. After finishing your introductory meeting, send the prospective donor a personalized text message thanking them for their time. Use this opportunity to confirm the next follow-up, whether that's an email, phone call, or physical meeting. You'll be surprised at how effective a simple text is at keeping the donor relationship alive.
If your prospect donates at the initial face-to-face meeting, it's a sign that they're hot and may offer recurring donations or grants in the future. Ensure you thank them for their financial support and include them in a donor feedback follow-up campaign. Show them how you're putting their donation to work in the community to achieve your organizational goals and secure future donor pledges.
Overcoming Objections to Capture More Donations
As mentioned, most prospects won't close on the first meeting. Their reasons for doing so could vary. For instance, closing a prospect on a $100 donation differs from closing them on a $100,000 gift. In these examples, you might have to follow up with the prospect several times to close the large donation, while you can close the smaller donor on the first interaction.
During the pitch, you'll feel out the individuals "temperature." If they're hot and giving you language clues like "How do you use donations?" it's a sign they're interested in donating, and you should answer the question and more in for the close.
However, it's more common to experience the prospect throwing "objections" at you. An objection isn't a hard no that they won't donate to your campaign; it's a sign that they need more information and there's something you haven't answered that leaves them feeling uncertain.
Some common objections involving fundraising challenges are as follows:
- "I have kids in college, and tuition is coming up."
- "I have to support my parent financially and don't have spare cash right now."
- "I have medical expenses I need to take care of before I can commit to donating."
- "This donation is more than I budgeted for."
In 99% of objections, the excuse isn't the real reason for them backing out of their donation commitments. Instead of focusing on the objection, try to coax the real reason for their hesitation.
You could use a question like the following to uncover the real reason.
"Tim, I can see you value our organization's work, and I get the feeling you want to donate. But I feel like I haven't explained everything to you clearly. If I did, you would be cutting the check right now. Is there any reason you're hesitating other than what you told me?"
Legal and Ethical Considerations for Donations & Campaigns
Nonprofit fundraising campaigns must adhere to ethical standards regarding prospecting, receiving, record keeping, and reporting on all donations and gift transactions. The organization must have clearly defined policies surrounding the responsible use of donations and gifts.
Nonprofits are ethically obligated to remain completely accountable for all donations received from fundraising campaigns and individual contributions. Donation tracking and donation forms improve accountability for money flows and financial transactions and foster a culture of trust and respect in the current and prospective donor base.
Organizations must respect the donor's privacy and any fundraising ethics concerns or restrictions on donations in their state as part of fundraising best practices and donation guidelines.
Transparency is vital in fundraising campaigns and receiving gifts or donations from patrons. Organizations must regularly inform prospective and current donors and the general public about their use of campaign funds and donations with donor updates.
Effective communication regarding fundraiser campaign activities, accomplishments, and decision-making processes creates public understanding and external visibility, ensuring ultimate donation transparency and trust.
Larger nonprofits can hire or train an in-house or external public relations team to manage their interaction with their audience and market. Nonprofits can bolster transparency by listing the allocation of all funds they receive.
Typically, when nonprofit organizations have high levels of internal discipline and systems monitoring, it shows the public and donors that they can trust the organization, inspiring confidence in its management.
Organizations must clearly state how they intend to use donations. Drafting a written agreement defines how gifts and donations are used to give prospective donors the information they need to make sound decisions.
How to Ask for Donations for Your Nonprofit or Charity – FAQs
Q: Why is it important to donate?
A: Donating to a nonprofit cause is a selfless act of love and kindness people need in the world. When Prospective donors contribute to an organization they deem worthy, it makes them feel good. Giving back to the community provides the donor a sense of satisfaction, knowing they're making a difference to a cause they believe in.
Giving makes us feel happy; it's good for our physical and mental health, fosters better social connections, and evokes gratitude. Above all, giving is contagious and opens the doors for more community engagement and more donations.
Q: How can I ensure my donation is used effectively?
A: A top donor concern is that their contribution goes to the cause they want to help. Accountability and transparency are essential for the success of any nonprofit. Staying accountable and transparent with all donations and gifts, whether big or small, is vital to maintaining the nonprofits' reputation with their target donor profile and market.
Donors can offer more than just a check to the nonprofit. They could provide skills and services that benefit the organization. When nonprofits and donors collaborate to identify areas to serve to fill a need, it benefits both parties.
Q: What are the benefits of recurring donations?
A: One-off donations are useful and form a large percentage of monies received during the financial year. However, the bulk of finances and gifts received by the nonprofit comes from farming the existing donor base for recurring donations.
Recurring donations stabilize the nonprofit's finances, offering predictability and consistency in organizational funding. Recurring donation and giving programs free up energy and time to focus on donor retention and care, ensuring increased revenue and stable cash flow.
By focusing on farming your current donor database for recurring gifts and donations, you don't need to spend as much energy on prospecting for new patrons. The organization experiences a strengthening of donor relationships and increased loyalty and engagement.
Q: How do nonprofits acknowledge donations?
A: Nonprofits issue gift or donation acknowledgment letters for several reasons. They offer donors proof of their contributions for tax purposes. They also allow the organization to thank the donor directly for their donation and generosity, building the donor relationship for future giving opportunities.
Suppose donors want to claim tax-deductible donations of $250 or over. In that case, the Internal Revenue Service requires public nonprofits and charities to send a written acknowledgment containing information like the organization's name and a description of the donation.
The nonprofit must stipulate the amount if the donor offers a cash gift. They must provide a description if it is any other gift other than cash. The donor must mention if they received services or goods for their contribution, such as concert tickets or seats at a gala dinner.
If the donation benefits, services, or goods received are worth more than $75, they must provide a fair estimate of its value in good faith.
Q: Can I get a tax deduction for my donation?
A: Typically, donors can only deduct their contributions when itemizing deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040), for itemized deductions. Gifts to individuals are not tax deductible, and only qualified nonprofit organizations are eligible for tax-deductible contributions.
When receiving a benefit like services, goods, or merchandise in exchange for contributions, they can deduct the amount exceeding the fair market value of this benefit.
For cash or check contributions, donors must maintain donation receipts of the donor gifts and financial contributions, such as a bank record or written communication from the nonprofit. The record must include the nonprofit's name, the gift date, and the amount gifted to the organization.
In addition to deducting cash contributions, donors can deduct the fair market value of property donated to the organization.
Donations are critical to a nonprofit's success. These organizations rely on the public's generosity and donor support of their cause to prosper and fulfill their mission. Learning how to ask for donations is critical if the organization wants to maximize its revenue opportunities during the year.
However, many organizations struggle with setting up donation campaigns, sourcing prospective donors, and asking for donations. The strategies and tactics in this post outline everything you need to know to optimize your campaign efficacy and attract more donations.
Nonprofits must realize that their donation campaigns are about reaching out to the donor and satisfying their requirements for donating to the organization for optimal donation impact. Effective outreach campaigns foster a sense of satisfaction in prospective donors when they commit to the organization with a monetary gift.
Nonprofits must manage the donation process effectively. Asking for a donation might be the most challenging aspect of the process, but it's not the only concern. Ensuring complete accountability and transparency in donation processes promotes trust and credibility in the market, attracting more donors to the campaign. It's essential to show donor appreciation to create recurring revenue in the future.
It's only through the generosity of the donors that nonprofits experience fundraising success in fulfilling their vision and organizational goals.
To learn more about how you can utilize modern technology tools to increase your own fundraising please schedule a demo with us.