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How to Ask for Donations Successfully: Do’s and Don’ts

Asking for donations can be scary. You might be worried about being too demanding or making it clear why you need the money. Even seasoned fundraisers still get nervous every once in a while. But like anything, asking for donations can be made easier by making a mental checklist for yourself and practicing your approach. Here are a few do’s and don’ts we’ve collected over the years on how to ask for donations from observing some of our most successful fundraisers.

Do know what you’re asking for

While this seems evident, it’s important to have explicitly defined goals when you set out to ask for donations online. Are you raising money for medical expenses? If so, list the expenses you need help paying for. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in thinking about how you’re going to ask for donations that you forget what you’re asking people to donate to

So make sure to get your objectives high up on your fundraising page, or in your donation request letters.

Don’t be overly formal

While you can ask organizations to donate to your individual fundraiser, the majority of your potential donors will be real people, many of whom know you or the beneficiary and are familiar with your cause. So it’s important not to be overly formal when you ask for donations from potential donors, because it will come off sounding false and could make them uncomfortable. It’s okay to start a conversation with pleasantries—ask them how they’ve been, catch up, and then bring up your cause.

Do know who you’re asking

Make sure you know who your audience is when you ask for donations! Here are a few questions to ask yourself when approaching a potential donor:

  • Why does this person care? There is a reason you reached out to him or her for donations. Keep that reason in mind and communicate it when you approach each potential donor.
  • What relationship does this person have to the beneficiary? Maybe he was childhood friends with the beneficiary, or maybe she was the beneficiary’s neighbor. It’s appropriate to bring up this relationship when you’re asking for donations to create a more personal, intimate communication, and can help increase the chances of success.
  • Why would they have reservations? It’s important to keep in mind reasons why someone might not want to donate, and try to address them if possible. For example, some people may worry they cannot afford to make a large enough donation to make a difference. By addressing this concern when you approach a potential donor, and listing specific expenses that can be paid for by small donations, you can get more people to contribute.

Don’t be scared of rejection

You will not get a donation from every person you ask, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you did a bad job fundraising, or that the people you asked are terrible people. Sometimes life gets in the way, and it’s not possible to donate. But don’t let this discourage you. It’s perfectly fine to politely follow up with people who didn’t donate the first time you reached out.

Do have a positive attitude

That said, don’t go out expecting everybody you ask for donations to say no. Attitude is very important when you’re asking for anything, and if you give off vibes that say you don’t really expect help, you won’t get as many donations. Stay positive, let people know the impact their donations will have on the success of your cause and why it’s important, and try to have fun!

Don’t be vague

This applies to every aspect of your fundraiser, from your description, to your events, to actually asking for donations. The fact of the matter is nowadays there are so many distractions available to people that in order to peak their interest enough to donate to your cause, you have to captivate them. And vague just doesn’t grab anyone’s attention. Be specific. Clearly state why you’re fundraising, what the current situation is and what the desired outcome will be. Give a list of expenses—some successful fundraisers have gone so far to itemize every expense from surgery costs to gas money for rides to the doctor. People appreciate being kept in the loop, especially if they’re giving money to a cause, so specifics are key.

Do think outside the box

When it comes to online fundraising in this day and age, we’re sorry to say there is no template or easy way to success. But a tried and true method is using your creativity. Tell a story—in words, pictures, drawings, or video. Give rewards to donors—send hand-drawn pictures to people who give money. Have a themed donation party—provide games and food and have people donate at the door. Possibilities are endless, and putting in a little effort to think creatively about your fundraiser will make a world of difference.

In the end, when you’re thinking about how to ask for donations online, the most important thing is to relax and have fun. People love to help other people, and if you grab their attention and make it enjoyable, you’ll be on your way to raising lots of money for your cause.

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