How to Make the Right Donation Ask Every Time

Use our donation ask formula as a template to create the perfect donation ask every time.

We all dread the moment when we have to ask a donor to give to our cause. Donation ask templates can only go so far and we can only ask so many times in so many ways.

How is it that some people are more successful than others when they ask for donations? We were recently asked on Twitter:

So, here’s our answer: Not really, no. Converting a small donation amount isn’t any different than converting any other kind of donation.

This is how you can ask for the right donation every time. At the end, we’ll give you a donation ask template, but it won’t be useful unless you do all the work first. Asking for donations requires true storytelling with a carefully crafted message.

Starting Point: Why Are You Raising Money Online?

First, you probably already know why you’re raising money online, but it helps to frame this in a written format.

Write down the answers to these questions:

  1. What is your monetary goal? How much do you want to raise? By when? How often?
  2. What does donating to you achieve? What will you do with the money?
  3. What kind of fundraiser are you using to achieve this?

To the last question, you might not have a complicated answer. You might just have a donation button on your website. Some other types of campaigns include:

  1. Tip jar or coffee campaigns for online creators
  2. Recurring donation campaigns
  3. General one-time giving funds
  4. Day or Event-specific fundraisers (like Giving Tuesday)

The type of campaign you choose to run, might change in the next few steps. Or you might choose to add a new campaign on top of your regular giving efforts.

Step 1: Find Your Donor Goals

Every donation ask should start with your donor. First, think about this question:

Who are your donors? Why do they give?

If you’re an online creator, your donors might be your friends and family to start off with but in time, you will develop a more diverse group of donors outside of your personal influence. You will have donors who are your peers and donors who are fans and give because they discovered your work and love it. The goals for each type of donor are entirely different, so how you speak to each also varies.

If you’re a nonprofit organization, your donors also vary. Think hard about the ways in which you can group your donors. Knowing your audience groups helps craft the messaging you need to ask for donations.

Your messaging doesn’t need to be long-winded, but it does need precision. Be blunt so that when it comes time to craft this messaging creatively later on, you know exactly what you mean by it. These are statements you would never tell your donors. You will use only them to create your donation asks.

Write Down Why Donors Give to You

If you already have donors, what drives them to give? Why do people support your organization? If you don’t, why should people donate?

Don’t think of things like, “because our cause helps [insert mission statement].” Think more literally and selfishly. What psychological reason do people donate to you?

Some examples of why people donate are: 

  1. To fulfill a sense of belonging, or join a community.
  2. To get social recognition, as in the case with a lot of social media challenge campaigns.
  3. To achieve self-actualization, because it’s something they truly believe in and is part of their identity.
  4. To fight statistics or add to them. (Many analytical minds fit in this category.)
  5. To get a tax deduction. Hopefully, this isn’t the case with your donors, but occasionally this is the reason for larger donations.

Try to stick to one or two to simplify your messaging. Or, aim one reason for giving toward each type of donor.

It’s also important to remember that you will not actually say anything about these “reasons for giving” in your messaging. They are only here to help guide you while you write.

Step 2: Create a Background Story for Key Messaging

So, you know why you’re raising money and you know why your donors give. Now, you need to connect the two.

You need to find the story that speaks most to your desired supporters. Does your current fundraising campaign present itself in a way that’s best suited to them? Could you make it better by changing the style of online fundraising? Or, does your story just need a boost?

If you need to tweak your fundraiser, do that first. Then come back to this step.

Create a Narrative Checklist for Your Donation Ask Backstory

Gather the details of your campaign, statistical facts and data to support your work, volunteer stories, impact stories, and the key messaging you chose in the kickoff meeting. Think about anything that paints a positive picture of your cause.

Then, craft three different stories with different key messages targeted to different kinds of supporters (individuals and businesses). You might even consider creating three different landing pages for each narrative. Here are some examples for different kinds of organizations.

Backstory Examples

1. Women’s Shelter Backstory Example

Jane Doe used to spend her days searching for shelter and her nights protecting her children while they slept. Now she is striving to turn her life around and give her kids a better future.

By day, she spends her time with her 3 and 4-year-old girls in the Kinder-wing of our women’s shelter. At night, she attends business school while our in-home attendants ensure the safety of her daughters. This Giving Tuesday we’re raising money for more women like Jane with a challenge-your-friend fundraiser.

We’ve all been in hard places and wished there was someone there to help out. You can be that someone for women in Citadel City. This Tuesday, when you give to our cause, send an e-card to someone who helped you when you needed it most. All donations will be doubled by Construction Contracting, who’s working on building our second home for women and children, opening on January 1 next year.

Key Points

  • Who gets help and how (women like Jane and their children).
  • What money is raised for on Giving Tuesday (new women’s shelter – more
  • women).
  • Why they need the money on Giving Tuesday specifically.
  • Incentive to give with an e-card.
  • Inspiration to give by putting you in Jane Doe’s shoes and telling you that
  • you can be a helping hand for others like her.
  • There’s a partnership with a construction company.

2. Environmental Organization Example

It’s your world. You hold its future in your hands. Will you let it crumble? Or will you join us in  holding it together? 11% of emissions that create climate change are caused by deforestation. This Giving Tuesday, we’re gathering to plant trees in the City Park. For each tree we plant, another will be planted in an area of heavy deforestation thanks to our sponsoring partners, Arbor International. Sign up to join a team, or start a team of your own. Each team is responsible for raising at least $500 by Giving Tuesday. We’re looking for local residents and businesses to join us in making our community and our world a better place.

Key Points

  • This cause affects everyone directly.
  • What they’re doing and why with statistical facts.
  • How they are helping here and elsewhere.
  • A sense of belonging.
  • Competition through fundraising teams.
  • Invitation for local businesses.

Step 3: Craft Your Donation Asks

Now that you’ve molded the backstory for your donation ask, it’s time to actually ask donors to give. To do this, generate a series of smaller statements to direct people to the larger story.

Start with vision statements. What is it that your organization believes in? Write down a few of those. Then, add statements addressed to the potential donor, using “you.” Tell them what they can do to help in a way that speaks to the donor goals you established in the first step. Finally, find a creative way to ask them to contribute. Don’t push and don’t use guilt. Make it sound exciting.

Donation Ask = Your Organization’s Missional Values + “You” Statement + Ask for Action

Example Donation Asks

1. Women’s Shelter

We see women like Jane every day and we believe she can turn her life around. If you could give a helping hand to Jane by sending an e-card to someone else who helped you when you needed it most, who would you thank?

2. Environmental Organization

We believe the future world is shaped by today’s actions. You can help combat the 11% of emissions caused by deforestation on Giving Tuesday. Gather your team and get ready. Will you join us to heal the environment?

Use Our Donation Ask Template to Create Your Own

Take these steps to ask for the right amount of money in the right way, every time.

  1. Establish your donor goals.
  2. Write a detailed backstory that speaks to your donor goals and makes your campaign goals clear.
  3. Craft your donation asks using the donation ask formula.

Have more questions about fundraising? Let us know in the comments. You can also join our newsletter to get regular updates on the latest fundraising advice and news.

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