In the business of fundraising and nonprofit operations, the million-dollar question continues to be something that you think the industry would’ve perfected by now:
How do I/we ask for donations?
It’s an intimidating process, to say the least, and even when you know that you have a strong donor base and audience, it can still be difficult to figure out the best way to put that question out there. Fortunately, a little planning can go a long way. Here are a few basic tips to help you get started on your donation quest, no matter what you’re collecting funds for.
Decide Who and How to Ask
This will require you to consider whether you will reach out to current, repeat donors or if you need to ask prospective donors that have yet to contribute. There are several types of donors:
The funds that you are trying to raise and the cause behind them will generally help you determine which audiences to reach out to first. If you’re a newer nonprofit, you may not have a collection of well-segmented audiences. In that case, you might just need to ask everyone that you possibly can. For those who do have enough to segment—get to work if you haven’t already. That will help you narrow things down.
Then, there’s the “how” of asking for donations. Are you going to create a social media campaign? Send out donation letters? Create a Kickstarter or other fundraising campaign online? Choose the channels where you’re most likely to find your audience.
Tailor Every Message
Whether you’re calling, emailing, or sending an owl with a donation letter, you need to take a personalized approach to every single ask. Don’t just create one generic, form-fill donation email and insert a new name in each copy. Talk to your donors. Share your vision. Get them on board. One at a time.
And, while you’re tailoring the message, don’t let the ask get buried in the romancing—you do need to appeal to people, but the ask should be straightforward and not cause any room for question. If you don’t come right out and ask for donations, they might just assume that you’re updating them on the goings-on and that’s that.
Make It Simple
Once you’ve made the request, you need to make fulfilling it easy. Don’t expect people to spend hours trying to figure out where and how to donate, whether to mail a check or donate online, and how to learn where their funds are going. Make the process straightforward, and send people directly to a branded, informative donation page that handles the rest for you.
Don’t Forget Gratitude
You should respond with thanks to every donation, within 24 to 48 hours. People will be more likely to be repeat donors if they feel you’re attentive and appreciative. You could even consider creating custom donor signs and hype them up with unique lighted displays and more, taking your thanks to a whole new level.