Top Three Tips to Master Donor Persuasion

Persuasion gets a bad rap, and it’s time to change that. Think about it – what sorts of imagery come to mind when you think of somebody who possesses a persuasive quality?

Different people think of different things. For me, when somebody says persuasion I see a car salesperson doing anything they can to “get you in this car today.”

At its core, persuasion simply means getting somebody to understand where you’re coming from so well that they decide they want to believe it too. We need more of that in the nonprofit sector, especially when asking for donations.

There are various instances where you’ll need to possess a persuasive quality. Basically, persuasion happens any time you’re trying to sell somebody on your organization. For example:

  • Chatting with somebody at a fundraising event who is on the fence about your organization.
  • Explaining to random strangers when they ask you, “So, what do you do?”
  • Any time you’re working to cultivate a returning or potential donor.
  • When you’re trying to sway someone to join your board.

Those are just a few examples of where persuasion comes in handy in the nonprofit sector. Now let’s talk about how to do it. Check out these three things to remember next time you’re in a position where you need to persuade someone to love your organization just as much as you do.


1. Remember why you started.

“Fake it ‘til you make it” is a good tactic for some things in life, but this isn’t one of them. The one thing you can’t fake in this industry is your genuine love for the cause. It’s easy to tell if your heart just isn’t in something.

That’s why the first aspect to persuasion is genuine conviction. If you have an infectious love for your organization, others will see that and it’ll help ignite their sparks.

“The one thing you can’t fake in this industry is your genuine love for the cause.”

2. Remember the 3 Cs.

When in doubt, there are three Cs that you can memorize to ensure your conversation heads in the right direction.

Be Clear. Branding consistency is key. If a constituent or potential donor were to hear inconsistencies with your message, it would cause trust issues. Convey the right message in a clear manner for the best results.

Be Concise. Similar to an elevator pitch, you only have so much time to capture someone’s attention. Avoid redundancies and cut out information that isn’t pertinent to proving your point.

Be Calm. When you’re nervous, the donor will be nervous whether they admit it or not. People will either consciously or subconsciously take notice of a quivering voice or shaky hands. If subconsciously, they’ll most likely feel uneasy which will ultimately hurt your chances of successful persuasion.

How can you avoid it if you genuinely have stage fright? There are steps you can take, many of which include practicing so that the message is second nature.


3. Remember, it’s bigger than a donation.

When a business makes an elevator pitch to a potential investor, they might most likely be pitching for a major investment and then going on their merry way. Nonprofits don’t pitch for one sum of cash. Nonprofits cultivate.

“Nonprofits don’t pitch for one sum of cash. Nonprofits cultivate.”

If you’re trying to persuade a potential donor simply to give, you’re making a big mistake. Instead, you should be trying to persuade donors to love your organization. Sure, there’s an element of genuine love that has to be there in order to show somebody the light regarding your organization, but remember that you have the power to take that light and turn it into a sun.


Looking for even more tips? Check out these 21 principles of persuasion from Forbes.

donor persuasion

Lyndsey Hrabik

Lyndsey is a former editor for Nonprofit Hub and Nonprofit Hub Magazine. She now serves as a guest contributor, writing on topics such as social media, technology, marketing and starting a nonprofit.

July 5, 2016

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