How to Ask For Donations in Person: A Strategic Guide to Fundraising and Effectively Asking for Donations and Money

How to Ask For Donations in Person: A Strategic Guide to Fundraising and Effectively Asking for Donations and Money

When it comes time to ask for donations, there really is no more powerful way than speaking to them directly. And yes, while this may seem intimidating or even scary, you’ll be surprised how much more effective asking for donations on a personal level can be than asking for donations over the phone, or in an even more impersonal email.

There’s something about the spark or connection between two people that just doesn’t transfer in other forms of communication. And making the ask in person, people can look into your eyes and hopefully see your passion, drive and your commitment to your cause. This even happens at large a fundraiser with hundreds of individuals gathered. These personal nuances provide compelling reasons for individuals to contribute.

You should also look at it from your supporter's point of view as well. Often times when you call them or send them an email, you’re actually interrupting them in some way. They could be busy shopping, at work juggling various tasks, or in the middle of other important activities. These interruptions can hinder their ability to fully engage with your cause.

Conversely, when you speak with them face to face, you're more likely to have their undivided attention. This setting allows them to truly focus and absorb what you're saying without the common distractions that come with unexpected phone calls or emails. A personal conversation provides a space where your passions can be fully heard and if done well, felt. Plus your prospect can’t just say they’re busy and hang up on you!

Of course, there’s an art to making these requests effectively, and we're here to guide you through it. In the following sections, we’ll share essential tips to enhance the power  of your personal appeals. By the end of this guide, you’ll not only grasp the nuances of asking for donations directly but also feel more confident and assured in your approach.

Understanding Your Audience: Asking People to Give a Donation to Your Nonprofit

When it comes to successful fundraising, the cornerstone of effective communication lies in a deep and nuanced understanding of your audience. This involves more than just a superficial knowledge of their names or backgrounds; it's about immersing yourself in their world - understanding their core values, their driving interests, and the factors that motivate their decisions and actions. By understanding them at this deep level and tailoring your stories in a way that not only resonates with them but also amplifies the influence of your communication significantly, your chances of getting their pledge will increase as well.

When trying to engage likely donors effectively, it is crucial to delve deep into their donor profiles. Understanding their passions, their values, and what ignites their enthusiasm allows you to craft conversations that align with their interests which translates to a greater interest in your cause and mission and makes the ask a lot easier.

Online platforms like PayBee, which facilitate comprehensive records of all interactions with donors and even encompasses your social media profiles and other management tools and services in our software specifically created for charities and foundations, become invaluable for building your donor profiles and stewarding them through the donor cultivation cycle. Our platform enables you to track every email, phone call, and meeting, making sure that you are always prepared and informed for future connections.

Once you have a firm grasp on what truly matters to your audience - their deepest passions and values - the next step is to align your communication accordingly. Your pitch or ask should not only deal with how your non-profit seeks to alleviate issues they care deeply about, but also demonstrate the hands on affects your organization has made. Demonstrating how their personal contributions can perpetuate positive change is key. This approach not only informs but also empowers them to make a meaningful difference by supporting your cause.

Using storytelling to do all this is one of the best ways to both get your cause across, as well as closing your likely donors and getting them to make a real donation. It’s not just about conveying a story; it’s about weaving a narrative that connects your non-profit’s mission with the personal values and passions of your support base. Effective storytelling goes beyond mere facts and figures; it builds an emotional bridge, making your cause not just understood but felt.

Moreover, in these narratives, it's essential to include examples of real people or communities who have been positively impacted by your work. These stories should paint a vivid picture of the difference your organization makes, providing a clear and compelling reason for why their support matters. This method is particularly effective in closing the gap between perspective interest and actual donations, as it aligns your mission with the values your audience holds most dear.

The essence of impactful communication in fundraising ideas lies in the meticulous understanding of your audience. By tailoring your message to align with their values and interests, and by employing the power of storytelling, you can not only convey your cause effectively but also inspire action and foster lasting support for your cause. This is how to ask for donations.

Preparing Your Pitch: Crafting a Compelling Story Using The AIDA Copywriting Technique

When you’re speaking to people and making a donation ask to support your nonprofit, you are effectively trying to close them. To close simply means getting your likely donor to do what you want them to do after hearing your pitch, in the context of a nonprofit, it’s making a donation to your charity.

Your pitch is the story or conversation you intend to have with them, the actual wording. This can also be called copy and individuals that are excellent at this sort of writing are called copywriters. In essence, you are using tried and true sales techniques to close your client, or donor. When it comes to nonprofit fundraising, your pitch is everything. And how well you craft and present your pitch will reflect in the amount of donations you receive.

Always remember that your donors or potential donors are looking for ways to help the world in some way. That means they have a heart, they have values, they have emotions. Emotions are a very powerful motivator when it comes to compelling someone to support your own mission.

If you can craft a pitch that connects with their own feelings of wanting to change things in a way that aligns with their values, your chances of generating donations will increase dramatically. You want your supporters to understand your mission, but most importantly you want them to feel your mission.

Your pitch or story not only needs to connect with their emotions, but it also needs to be laid out with a final destination or action in mind similarly to a road map. You want to get your audience from point A to point B with as little resistance as possible. You need to inspire and propel your audience towards action, making a donation. This is where the art of copywriting comes into play.

The AIDA model is a classic marketing framework that outlines the customer or donor journey through four stages: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action. It's widely used to structure advertisements, and sales pitches and there is a ton of research behind its effectiveness and it just plain works. Just by incorporating this one copywriting technique into your speech or presentation pages, you’ll greatly enhance your chances of a successful fundraising campaign.

AIDA model for Fundraising

There are only four parts to this model which makes it powerful in its simplicity. The best way to get started is to grab a pen and paper and list each of the four sections, Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action, then a few ideas for what you think would work best for each part.

Attention: This is about capturing the attention of your prospective donors. You need a strong, engaging opening that makes people want to learn more. This could be a compelling fact, a story, or a striking statistic related to your nonprofit's cause. The key is to make it relevant and interesting to your audience.

Interest: Once you have their attention, the next step is to build their interest. Provide more details about your cause, the work your nonprofit does, and the impact it has and plans to have. Use stories, testimonials, or data to make your case stronger. Large visuals while you’re giving your presentation work well to capture their attention even better. The goal is to make the likely donor feel connected to your cause and interested in what you do.

Desire: This is where you work to evoke a desire in your audience to contribute to your cause. Really hone in on the significance a donation can make and how it contributes to a greater good. You can share success stories, demonstrate the positive affects of past donations, and show what more can be achieved with additional support. The focus should be on making the donor feel that they can be a part of something larger and meaningful.

Action: Finally, you need to encourage your perspective backer to take action – in this case, to donate. Make the process of donating as easy as possible. Provide clear instructions, use a simple donation form like the ones we offer on PayBee, and offer various payment methods. You can do all this easily online with our platform and it's easy to start with. It's also important to reiterate the impact of their donation and thank them in advance for their support.

Once you’ve created an outline or first draft, share or email your notes with your board or team and see what ideas resonate with them. Ask them why they chose certain ideas and what you can do to make them stand out and be more impactful. It’s really helpful to get some input and feedback at this stage if you’re not a great copywriter. What matters to you most doesn’t always mean it’s what resonates with others. And this is about your supporter, not you. So do your research and ask for some input, you may be surprised at their comments.

Setting the Right Environment to Ask for Donations

When it comes time to ask for donations whether it’s on a stage to a group of individuals, or one-on-one through an intimate conversation, creating the right environment to make the ask is almost important as your pitch. You can present the best speech in the world at your fundraisers, but if there is a bunch of other things going on to take attention away from your cause, or worse it’s so loud they can’t even hear it, the chances of you succeeding are pretty slim.

So it’s important to think about the actual physical setting before hand. If you are going to speak with an individual, somewhere quiet where there isn’t a ton going on is ideal. You want your conversation to flow easily and not be interrupted by things going on around you. A quiet coffee shop or a B&B brunch may be perfect for intimate conversations like these.

You’re also going to need to be aware of what is comfortable and appropriate to your donors as individuals. One supporter may feel quite comfortable at an expensive restaurant whereas another may feel intimidated and uneasy. The same goes for what your donors may feel is appropriate for your charity. If you are spending a ton of money on a dinner, what does that say about how you’re conducting your charity’s finances?

Of course if you are doing a large fundraising event, you’re not going to be able to cater to each and every individual. But you can strive to make the largest number as comfortable as possible. That means understanding your audience as a group. Perhaps your supporters are all influential individuals in your community and prefer a high class event. Or maybe they are more like your friends and family and would prefer a picnic or other less formal gathering. It all comes down to understanding your donors as intimately as you can.

Timing also plays a role in creating a supportive environment. As we know in the nonprofit sector, year end giving accounts for up to 50% of all donations over the year in December alone. So when possible, try aligning large fundraising events with holiday seasons or other festive times when individuals are in great spirits and more willing to make a donation as a best practice.

When you’re dealing with potential donors on a personal level, timing is still important. We are all busy, have a ton on our minds and are usually scrambling around trying to get things done. You need to create a time when you can sit with your supporter and they aren’t being bombarded with other distractions.

Going to someone’s workplace or even visiting in their homes can be the least pertinent option. If this is the only places for you conversation, at least try to decide on a time when they’ll be the least distracted. Like after closing time, or after dinner when parents have more leisure time to relax and focus on what you’re saying.

The easiest way to think about your setting is to think about yourself. Imagine an individual is meeting you to ask you for a donation, or you’re going to a large gala or fundraising event. What would you envision and expect? What type of environment would help you feel most comfortable? And at what time of year or day would you feel the most at ease with making a gift? If you really sit and think about these questions, you’ll definitely get a better understanding of what type of environment to hold your event and when.

What to Wear When Meeting Your Donor or Donors

Meeting your donors in the right environment is only part of the entire presentation. The fact is, you and your own presentation is all part of the package. Everything from body language to a positive attitude form a difference when you're making a request for donations. So it is wise to consider what you'll be wearing and how you'll present yourself to each of your supporters.

It may seem trivial, but things like having clean nails when you shake someone’s hand, or taking a breath mint before leaning in closer to make a point when speaking to them are all details that become a part of the whole. Your overall appearance for some won’t matter much at all, but for others it can be the difference between them trusting you enough to even make a donation.

Again it really comes down to knowing your audience. If you’re holding a huge gala fundraising event and show up to your own fundraiser in shorts and a stained t-shirt with your pitch crumbled up in your hands as you go on stage, many of your potential donors will be turned off immediately. In their minds you are being looked at as incompetent, or not wealthy enough to even afford proper attire. Both thoughts instill anything but confidence in your ability to run a profitable nonprofit.

But again, there is the opposite spectrum. If your holding a close knit social gathering like a Sunday pot luck picnic and show up in an expensive suit and tie, you’ll be looked on as being snobbish and out of touch with the laid-back social nature of the event. This can be the same as wearing a Rolex when you know many of your donors wear a Timex. Again, these little details matter to your donors. Maybe not all, but most definitely some of them.

So dress appropriately for the occasion. Understand the attendees and what they would be expecting you to wear and look like. Be yourself, always! But also be appropriate. You’re connecting with these individuals because you’ll be asking them for money. Money is a personal matter for most and when dealing with money on a personal level, there will always be certain expectations. The more you can align with their specific expectations, the more you’ll build trust which will often result in support for your cause.

Handling Objections and Concerns When Asking for Donations

In a perfect world people would always give to your charity each time you made a donation request simply out of the kindness of their hearts. Sadly, this isn’t one, so objections or concerns are part of asking for donations and rather than fighting our reality, it’s best just to be prepared for these objections and handle them as best we can.

One important thing we’d like to mention here is never take an objection personally. People aren’t saying they don’t like you or trust you, they are simply voicing their feelings at that moment. There is nothing personal about it, and the less you can take it personally, the easier time you’ll have accepting and refuting their objections. No one is successful at getting a donation every single time they ask, no one!

We’ve provided a list of some of the most common objections or concerns we see when asking for donations from individuals. We’ve also given what we believe is the best course of action for each one to help you get batter at overcoming their objections and do the close.

Objection: "I don’t have enough money to donate."

Response: This is probably the most common objection you’ll encounter. You’ll need to emphasize that every little bit helps. Clearly explain how even the smallest gift can create a serious change. Offer options for smaller, recurring donations which might be more manageable for them. And remember, once an individual gives a donation to your charity, the chances of them giving again greatly increases, no matter what the size of the transaction is.

Objection: "I don’t know where my money is going."

Response: Provide clear, transparent information about how donations are used. Share success stories and specific examples of your charity's influence. Let them know that your charity’s finances are public record and available on your website for complete transparency and all donations are recorded and submitted to the IRS. This builds trust and demonstrates accountability.

Objection: "I already donate to other causes."

Response: Congratulate them on working to create a difference and express your gratitude. A donation to any charitable cause is still a good thing. Then follow up with what makes your cause unique and how their donations can address a specific need that other nonprofits may not. Be sure to note specifics like this in a donor profile of some sort. If someone is already demonstrating they’re will to contribute to a cause, it’s just a matter of time and relationship building before you will be able to persuade them to give to your s as well.

Objection: "I prefer to help in non-monetary ways."

Response: Although this may seem like an objection, it really is a signal that they’re willing to help, just not in a financial way. Offer alternative ways to support your cause, such as volunteering, attending events, or spreading awareness. This response respects their preference and keeps them engaged with your organization.

Objection: "I’m not sure if the charity is legitimate."

Response: Explain a bit about the process your charity needed to go through in order to become a 501(c) and give them your website address so they can look at your credentials and finance reports. Better yet is to guide them to third party websites or even your own social media accounts to see how others see your charity or independent reviews of your organization. Building credibility is key with this type of objection.

Objection: "I don’t feel connected to this cause."

Response: Not everyone is connected to every cause. If your an outreach ministry, some individuals won’t be willing to donate because they don’t have the same views as your specific mission. So instead of trying to convince them of the importance of religion or religious organizations, tell them about the charitable work you do rather than the ethos of your nonprofit. If you are making an impact people may still donate even though they don’t connect with the actual organization.

Objection: "I’ll think about it and get back to you."

Response: Often times when people hear this, they react by pushing harder. This isn’t always the best course of action. We suggest that you simply provide additional information and follow up at a later date. Respect their need to consider the decision, but keep the line of communication open and continue to connect with them at every opportunity.

Objection: "There are too many charities asking for my cash."

Response: Although this statement is most likely true in today’s overcrowded nonprofit sector, what you need to establish with potential donors is what differentiates your charity by emphasizing what sets it apart. Focus on the specific achievements of your organization. Highlight the unique aspects of your mission and how it addresses issues that others might not.

Objection: "I don’t see the impact of my donation."

Response: If they are potential donors, it’s best to tell stories of how donors donations have been used to better the world in your own unique mission’s way. Stories of what you’ve accomplished are great for this type of objection. If you are making an additional donation appeal to an individual who has already donated, be sure you’re keeping them updated on how their contributions are making a difference. Regular newsletters, reports, and personal stories can help them see the tangible results of their generosity and it’ll be easier to ask for follow up giving.

Objection: "I prefer to donate to larger, well-known charities."

Action: Discuss the advantages of donating to smaller organizations, like greater flexibility, more direct influence, and a closer relationship with donors and the recipients of the donations. Emphasize the unique role your charity plays and how it complements the work of larger organizations, and how many larger organizations may miss the smaller collective and how your charity helps fill that gap.

It can be quite valuable to have an actual document for your charity titled 'Rebuttals'. A rebuttal is your response or counter-argument used to overcome objections raised by a potential donor matching their objections with an appropriate response to persuade. You’re welcome to start with our list above and add new ones as you encounter them. Then when you have staff, volunteers or other membership working on raising donations for your charity, you can hand them your document so they can become better at handling these objections as well.

Overcoming Nervousness When You Ask For Donations in Person

Overcoming nervousness when asking for donations face to face for your nonprofit can be a challenge, but it's a crucial skill that can be developed with practice and strategy. Here are some ways to help you manage your anxiety and become more confident in your fundraising efforts:

  1. Understand Your Cause Thoroughly: Confidence in fundraising often comes from a deep understanding and passion for your cause. The more you believe in what you're advocating for, the more convincing you'll be as your passion will spill out into your conversations.
  2. Practice Your Pitch: The better you know your pitch, the less stress you’ll feel about its delivery. Practice your pitch multiple times until it feels natural. You can practice in front of a mirror, with a friend, or record yourself to see where you bog down or really deliver, then work to improve your yourself even more. You can even write it out several times to help remember it like when you were in school studying for an exam.
  3. Start with Familiar Faces: One of the easiest way to get comfortable in front of crowds is to deliver your pitch to people you know and feel comfortable with. It’s the whole idea behind Toastmasters International and is a great way to gain confidence and request feedback from people that want to see you succeed. You can even do this multiple times just to practice and feel more confident. Remember, practice is key for self confidence.
  4. Visualize Success: More of a mental technique,start visualizing your success before making your pitch places your mind in a safe and comfortable spot so that you’re able to think clearly and deliver your pitch easier. Similar to positive thinking, the thought of delivering your pitch and receiving overwhelming acceptance can be a very powerful motivator.
  5. Focus on your Donors, Not on Yourself: Shift your focus from how you are performing to how you can help your donors understand and connect with your cause. One tip from successful speakers is to find three individuals in the crowd to speak to directly. Speak a few sentences to each of them and then go to the next. This gives you something to focus on outside yourself while at the same time making your entire audience feel included in your pitch. This simple shift in perspective can help reduce any anxiety you’d feel from focusing on yourself.
  6. Prepare for Common Questions and Objections: Anticipate potential questions or objections you might face and prepare your responses using the rebuttals we gave you above. This preparation can help you feel more in control during your conversations and not disconnect you from your objective.
  7. Use Relaxation Techniques: Simple relaxation techniques like deep breathing or mindfulness can help calm your nerves before and during interactions with your donors. If at all possible, meditate for a few minutes quietly with yourself and let any tension or nervelessness go before meeting with your audience. You can even listen to some relaxing music before, or do whatever it is that seems to calm you the most.
  8. Seek Feedback and Learn: After each interaction, reflect on what went well and what could be improved. Request feedback from peers or mentors to get an outside perspective. You can even record or video tape your pitches so you can see where you doing well, and where you might need to practice more. Don’t be critical, no one expects everyone running a charity to be a professional speaker. Just be aware of what can be improved on and work towards that.
  9. Attend Training and Workshops: Participating in fundraising training sessions or workshops can provide you with techniques and strategies to improve your approach and build confidence. Organizations like Toastmasters International are also great ways to get better at pitching. The point is you should always strive to become better at personal interactions if you’re going to run a successful nonprofit.
  10. Celebrate Small Wins: Celebrate your successes, no matter how big or small. This has to do with positive reinforcement. The more you see yourself develop and obtain the goal you’re seeking, the more you’ll believe in your ability to do it again and again. Each positive experience is a step towards overcoming your nervousness, so know that and celebrate it.

Remember, it's natural to feel nervous about asking for donations, especially in person. The key is to use these feelings as a motivation to prepare and improve. With time and practice, you'll find that your confidence grows, making it easier to effectively advocate for your cause in a passionate and meaningful way.

If you feel you really just can’t speak to individuals or a large audience, don’t beat yourself up. It may take some of you time and patience to gather the confidence you need. If that’s the case, don’t feel bad with handing the reins to a more outgoing and charismatic member of your organization. You’re working for your cause, not to become a professional speaker. And while it’s great to be comfortable making the ask for donations, if it truly isn’t possible at that moment, it’s best to allow a fellow staff member or member of the board that can. To know your strengths and weakness is strength!

FAQs on Asking for Donations in Person

How to ask for donations giving during a first meeting?

Your initial contact with donors can always present opportunities for making an appeal for donations although it may not always be appropriate. Often times just speaking about your cause passionately and the work your charity has done can be inspiring enough for donors to give. Just don’t push too hard if it’s a first encounter, simply work towards gaining their trust and attention and donations should naturally happen.

What’s the best way to express gratitude to those that donate?

Send a personalized thank you as soon as possible, or even send a text as soon as you leave your meeting. Acknowledge their contribution publicly (if they agree) using your social media profiles and other media tools like email or newsletters. Get your new donor to feel special and part of the group of people that are making the world a better place.

How much should I request when I make the ask?

Asking for money in person should be based on what you know about the individual's capacity and willingness to give. Hopefully by the time you meet with an individual in person to ask for donations, you know a little about them and can come to a better educated guess on the amount you should ask for. But in the end, it will still be a guess and there are no hard numbers to go on. If you ask for a sum and they don't have the funds, offer alternatives, or even a recurring smaller gift each month.

How can I use email Marketing for my fundraiser in a personal way?

Using email is never going to be as personal as an intimate conversation with an individual face to face. It is possible to segment your prospect list in some way and close your emails with donation appeals before you sign off, but simple written words won’t have the same influence as a personal conversation.

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Bill Allen

Bill Allen is an expat that has been travelling the world for the past 25 years. He received his MA in writing in New York too long ago to remember, but has been writing on all sorts of subjects far varied publications ever since. When he isn't writing he enjoys meditating and working on his own website, UpscaleDrinks.com. Feel free to connect with him any time.

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