7 Tips on Asking for Donations — It’s Intimidating, We Get It

When it comes to asking for donations, most of us head for the hills.

We get it. It’s intimidating to ask other people to part with their hard earned cash. They might ask, “Why?” And we might not have a great answer.

At its heart, fundraising is helping others connect an existing passion directly to your cause. We don’t convince donors. We help them realize that they already care.

Once donors believe that your cause truly matters, giving almost becomes an afterthought. Of course they’ll give! The question simply becomes how much to ask for.

But until then, you won’t have to sweat your fundraising ask if you follow these seven tips:

7 Tips on Asking for Donations


1. Research Your Donors to Read Their Minds

The words you want them to say: “Wow, it’s like he read my mind!

How do you get to that point? You research your donor as an individual, but you also have a broad depth of general research on the kinds of people who donate to your nonprofit as a whole group.

You need to be able to answer these questions if you want to get into a donor’s heart:

  • What kinds of words do they use? What do they talk about when they’re feeling passionate?
  • What do they care about? What other causes are they a part of?
  • Do they have a history of giving?
  • What are their common objections, fears and concerns about giving?

Thanks to the web, we have more access to information about our donors than ever, as well as the ability to survey our donors and examine how they talk about our cause.

Note, however, that if you survey your donors or ask questions of a potential donor, you have to learn to read the answer behind the answer.

We have to address the fears and risks every donor feels, even if the donor herself can’t identify them out loud. And then, we get to connect their existing passions and desires to your NPO, using the same language they use.

In other words, understand your donor base so well it’s like you’ve read their minds.

Don’t worry, this is easier than it sounds if you follow the next six tips…


2. Practice, Practice, PRACTICE – And Then Practice Some More

The best way to dominate your donor visits, get more funds and create real, lasting connections with your nonprofit … is to PRACTICE every aspect of your ask.

In other words, by the time you are actually sitting in front of a prospect, you should have rehearsed the many paths the conversation could take MANY times before. Understanding your talking points, how you’ll graciously address common objections and the exact way you’ll frame your ask allows you to stop thinking about these things and just focus on talking with the donor.

Practice your ask. Can’t emphasize it enough.

Run through how you’ll call them on the phone. Plan on how to structure your meeting. Decide how long you’ll small talk at the beginning, and how to transition smoothly into the ask itself. Leave no stone unturned!

The key to this:

  • Practice out loud.
  • Then, practice in front of a mirror.
  • Then, record yourself on video practicing.

It’s painful, but you’ll learn things about your delivery and be far more confident and free when it comes to actually making the ask. Don’t skip this step.


3. Never, Ever Surprise Your Prospect

If your potential donor is ever surprised you’re asking them for money, something is deeply amiss.

Make it clear in your first call or contact that you’re interested in talking to them about your cause and how they might be able to get involved. Make it clear that, while you’re interested in them as a person, there’s a deeper purpose for your visit. That way, they’ll be able to prepare their response, objections and questions.


4. Stop Being Boring (It Isn’t Worth It)

Boring feels safe. No presenter who just reads bullet points off a PowerPoint instead does it because they want their audience to eagerly contemplate running from the room.

Nope, they do it because it feels safe. Reading a PowerPoint feels like an easy way to tell your audience all the info they want and be sure not to forget anything important. But instead, you fail to keep your audience engaged.

The actual way to be safe is what we discussed above: PRACTICE. Then you won’t need slides, and you can focus instead on not being boring.

Don’t be scared of sounding weird or too forward by asking things like, “What do you think is the biggest challenge we face in this area?” Provoke interesting reactions that are memorable, not boring, formulaic encounters.

Of course, your real goal is to make your donor both catch your enthusiasm and feel understood. But to get there, you need let yourself be not-boring enough that they can have fun talking to you.


5. Ask for Advice – You’ll Usually End Up with Money

The old fundraising maxim applies here:

“Ask for money, you’ll get advice. Ask for advice, you’ll get money.”

What most people truly want is to be heard. Asking for advice means that they will freely tell you the secret thing they are most passionate about, as well as their biggest fears about giving.

And most importantly, the donor will feel valued and important. Which they are! They’re the ones whose enthusiasm makes changes happen in the world. So ask them for their input and impressions.

For more tips on the advice visit, check out Gail Perry’s great article on how advice visits can open any door in town.


6. Your Secret Weapon is Pointed Silence

Our culture HATES silence. We want to fill it. This is one reason why extroverted salespeople and fundraisers can do worse than introverts.

But often times, the most important, meaningful thing – the thing your prospect REALLY wants to tell you – won’t be said if you quickly fill the silence.

Bad Fundraiser: “What’s the most important thing about the environment to you?”


Donor: “Well, I think environmental damage is a pretty big problem. We’re hurting the environment forever and we don’t even realize it!”


Bad Fundraiser: “Yeah, you’re so right! That’s why our Program X is so important! Let me tell you… [Donor hears: “blah blah blah”]

NOOOOOOOO—don’t do this! Your funding for next year will die a thousand painful deaths.

Here’s how that conversation could have gone:

Superman Fundraiser: “What’s the most important thing about the environment to you?”


Donor: “Well, I think environmental damage is a pretty big problem. We’re hurting the environment forever and we don’t even realize it!”


Superman Fundraiser: “How interesting!” [shuts up and looks genuinely interested]


Donor: [feels like he should talk because of the silence] “… yeah! It’s really crazy. In fact, the other day I was thinking about when I was a kid and would go out and look at the stars in the country and see meteors and all kinds of awesome stuff. But now that the city is so big, and there’s so much light pollution and smog, when I go out with MY kids to our cabin we’re lucky to see anything. It’s so sad.”

WOW. And you were about to start making a generic appeal about one of your programs, totally at random! Now you have so much material to work with, and know exactly the RIGHT program to talk about.

Your donor has practically sold themselves, all because you shut up! You’re fundraising for this guy’s kids’ happiness now, not your program!

Too many advice-givers say “just listen better!” but fail to tell you that means “shut up and allow silence, even if it feels awkward at first.” Great journalists love this technique – it gets them the best interviews and quotes.

By the way, this works in discussions of all kinds – whether you’re negotiating a contract, your salary, trying to understand your significant other or asking for a donation. Use strategic silence next time you talk with anyone. Its effects feel almost magical.


7. Ask for a Specific Amount (Don’t Make Your Donor Do Any Work)

Finally, always ask for a specific amount to contribute to the cause.

Why is this important? Because it takes the burden off of the donor to figure out what size of a donation is necessary. They don’t know anything about your campaign goals. You do. So help them out. Don’t make your donor do the work.

For some great, non-confrontational phrases to ask for a specific donation amount, I recommend checking out Marc Pitman’s excellent post on his favorite major donor fundraising phrases.

We get it. Asking for money is intimidating.

But it’s also an immense privilege. You’re inviting other people to take action on a cause that they genuinely care about.

You’re selling significance. And at the end of the day, most people don’t mind feeling like they’re making an outsized impact on the world.

You’ve just got to ask them to.

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  • Greg Wilson

    Very good advice! Especially #6. As an experienced television anchor and reporter, I have used silence as a tool to get the best sound bites. Just like nature abhors a vacuum, humans hate silence in a conversation!

    • Terry Smith Jr.

      Lol. I like it

  • Pingback: Guide: Converting Volunteers to Donors - Donors to Volunteers()

  • coughycup

    Well done and number 6 is priceless.

  • This is wonderful! Great material right here. 🙂

  • Lorine Edwards

    Good advice it helped me. Thank you.

  • Bŕezzy ßrè ßrè

    I found some of this to be helpful but the awkward silent thing doesn’t make a lot of sense. Well, not in the sense that you can use what your potential donor is saying to ask for funding. What he/she could say could have NOTHING to do with your cause. Then what do you do, lie as if you both have a common cause ??? I think being silent helps period. Talking too much can hurt in any forum. But still helpful info otherwise

    • Elizabeth Ely

      Silence doesn’t mean you agree with them. It means you’re thinking, thinking, thinking while they’re talking, talking, talking . . . even if they’re talking out their butt about nonsense. They just need to get it out. Then the slate is clear and you can talk about what you want to talk about. . . . I once made the mistake of bringing the conversation back around too early, when my prospect wanted to PLAY HIS GUITAR FOR ME. The hell? What? I should have just let him play the damned guitar. There’s time to ask again, you know.

  • stacey wole

    Great advice!

  • Lilian Eaton

    When reaching out for donations I find it helpful to tell potential donors what the nonprofit charity is in need of a how whatever amount we need will be used to help those in need. I then allow them to decide what it is they would like to contribute. Withcauses.org has been blessed with the good fortune of generous donors and we find that accepting donations of any form also helps make all the difference in the world.

  • catherine ndimande

    Thank you for such information. I have tried several times to ask for church donation via letters but have never got any positive response, possibly its how I have asked, what was shared has made me wiser.

  • Red

    Open ended questions it leaves no stone unturned you don’t have to feel foolish about asking the same question in which they’ve already answered but didn’t clarify the best results for donations are knowledge and honesty good luck too all of you seeking donations

  • Armand Mugabo

    great article!

  • Cassandra McNeil

    Great, great read! I am using every tip. Some were new and others were confirmation.

  • Stella Wicker

    If you spell properly and use proper grammar people will be more likely to help you out. One thing that irritates me is when someone is asking for something and they don’t know how to speak, read or write properly. Nobody likes chatspeak, ebonics or other such nonsense. it’s irritating.
    I’m not trying to be mean, but you should go and re-do your whole page and use spell check. More people will take you serious if you change it.

    • Queen Of Spades

      Thank you so much for saying that. Nothing gets under my crawl more than someone who has not taken the time to articulate themselves and/or check their spelling. No offense, but it is the biggest turn-off. Even if you are a child, it’s not cute! You should get adult assistance so that your information is heard and not ignored.

    • Rosa-Lia Sunshine M Cabrera

      Yes, indeed there’s an infinate amount of spelling errors,but the most interesting problem is that Butt is spelled correctly, however, Candy the “but” that should be used is not the one we sit on..

    • G. Hylton

      Please try to understand. You are not walking in this person’s shoes.Proper grammar is what you expect to hear and most likely will not happen. This person is pleading for help the best way they know how. Please, Please accept it, donate, move on and stop criticizing.

  • stephen


  • How interesting! 🙂

  • itok

    I apologize in advance to the arrival of this message, I want to ask how to get individual donations. thank you

  • Eve

    It’s really great that people are sharing this inrfimatoon.

  • Thank you, this was very educational and it will help me in the near future in writing new patreon support page.

  • It is common for consumers to buy items that they cannot require
    since they include deals, leading to their investing more cash than they had planned.

  • Rasa

    I’m new with asking of donations, but I hate it.. I feel very bad with asking, because all my life I used to work and to have enough for my needs. Even now I need not much but… what I realised with my short experience: nobody wants to donate when you say true. And many people want to help when somebody writes fake stories about illness, hungry kids and other lies (yes, I realised: the most of thoose stories are lies). But I decide to keep saying truth even if nobody wants to help me 🙂 because I hate lies and I don’t want to be a bad example to my baby… yes, asking for financical help is not good example too, but my baby will always know: I did all my best to make her life better 🙂 without lies and with hard work 🙂

  • Dan Byabakama

    Thanks alot for the message its a good one but the question is “HOW CAN I GET A DONOR” we have got a home for the unprivileged and malnourished children. We discover them and put them in our home to take care of them. our home has now over 10 children and we have used most of the resources we had and now our challenge is giving them good education. so am requesting any for your help in getting a potential donor(s).
    Thank you

  • Lightninbolt

    Something extremely important to keep in mind is to always let the potential donor know if your charity etc is set up in a way 100% of what you collect goes directly to the people or the cause you are involved with. “Non Profit” organization is a huge turn off to many when they know all too well what this can easily translate to ie for every $100 you collect $5 actually makes a direct impact. I personally never have or will donate to a “charity” that takes this route.

    • Randy Hawthorne

      I agree that an agency that spends 95% on overhead is extremely irresponsible and not a charity at all. But putting 100% to the cause is equally irresponsible. You need to hire and retain good people to be stewards of the cause and the programs and services it provides. You just need to be transparent to your donors on how their donation will impact the cause.

  • Randy Lutz

    This is exactly my view on fund raising. An opportunity to partake in your community directly.

  • Tommy McNulty

    Excellent. I am requesting $700. to help me fix the van I live in. So tell me, what’s your feelings about Global Warming?

  • say it with songs@CS

    Did I ask right?

  • Greg Warner

    It’s important to use the word “consider” when you ask. Lots of research has shown that that word softens the ask. I wrote a post about it some time ago if you might want to learn more about that powerful word. http://imarketsmart.com/consider-using-the-word-consider-more-often/

  • Lorraine Ader

    Excellent points.

  • Good article brother. Someone can join us also http://www.sodacorganization.wix.com/helporphanagechild

  • Dave Fallon

    Thank you for the insight. The last point is interesting. Silence does encourage a response I find. But I definitely agree that it’s better to suggest an amount. Please help by visiting our charity christmas cards page http://shop.amnesty.ie/collections/christmas-cards

  • Sandra G. DiVenanzo

    I’m really sick. They think this giant mass in me (surgery is in a week) is ovarian cancer. I created a YouCaring fundraiser 5 days ago because we were poverty level BEFORE I lost my income. My car insurance will bounce tomorrow and my rent is 10 days late. I have a combined total of 2000+ friends, followers & subscribers across social media.

    In that time, I’ve raised a whole $200 after fees (from PayPal and my bank not YouCaring) and have only had 37 shares. There’s been no activity in 2 days. How do I spread the word without spamming all my friends constantly? I already feel like a deadbeat (no matter how sick I am) just for asking for money and shares, but only 37 of 2000 could be bothered to click a button? Only 5 could donate (I even said $1 would be great!)??

    I’m at a loss….please, I’m desperate, does anyone have advice? I’m posting the link so you can read tell me if I’m doing anything wrong

  • jigar

    I need USD 5000 for plantation project , but I never got it…..since 5 years and now my plantation project is loosing hope.

  • Tamás Kucsorka
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    Donation to our bank account
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    please help 1$

  • very nice post

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    http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3f30e5df4207be96ac757b19a88881f66f1e1cca07c8ba92b508eafce27ce633.jpg Hi, we’re currently raising funds to bring awareness to epilepsy. We are also aiding families with expenses incurred by epilepsy. Here’s our link. Thank You goodworxx.org

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    Hey people! My friend is trying to make his first clothing line! Let’s help him together reach his goal and let’s shake the fashion world a little bit! You can do it right here: https://fundrazr.com/31DsFf?ref=ab_76YLia
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