Every charity fundraiser should include a donation appeal, also known as a raise the paddle, a direct donation, or Fund-A-Need. This is the moment for each and every guest to feel they have been a part of the cause. The donation appeal is the opportunity to give a donation of any dollar amount to the charity. It takes very little work on the part of the charity, but for this fundraising technique to bring in the most donations, there are 5 golden rules to consider.

1. Appeal to the heart, not the head

According to a recent study, conducted by Wharton School of Business, if organizations want to raise money for a charitable cause, it is far better to appeal to the heart than to the head. To put it another way, feelings, not analytical thinking, drive donations.

A heart appeal looks like this: Any money that you donate will go to Rokia, a seven-year-old girl who lives in Mali in Africa. Rokia is desperately poor and faces a threat of severe hunger, even starvation. Her life will be changed for the better as a result of your financial gift. With your support and the support of other caring sponsors, Save the Children will work with Rokia’s family and other members of the community to help feed and educate her, and provide her with basic medical care.

A head appeal would be more like this: Food shortages in Malawi are affecting more than three million children. In Zambia, severe rainfall deficits have resulted in a 42% drop in maize production from 2000. As a result, an estimated three million Zambians face hunger. Four million Angolans — one-third of the population — have been forced to flee their homes. More than 11 million people in Ethiopia need immediate food assistance.

2. Provide a private option
When attending a charity event, guests are drawn to the cause, and invariably want the opportunity to participate by making a donation. Problems arise when the guy sitting next to you raises his hand and makes a $10,000 donation when all you have to give is $50. The charity wants all donations regardless of size. Providing a private option allows each guest to donate the amount they are comfortable giving, without the entire audience knowing the amount donated. This can be easily facilitated using a mobile bidding platform that can send a text to the guests to guide them to the donation page on a mobile device.

3. Strive for 100% participation
It is important to know what your audience is capable of giving and providing donation amounts that suit your audience. For example, a benefit that is celebrating inner city students that are awarded scholarships for college may attract an audience that has less ability to give. Having the opportunity to give as little as $5 may be the right amount for some of the guests. You will have a satisfied and gratified audience if everyone is able to participate.

4. Have a professional lead the call
The biggest mistake that charities make is asking an inexperienced board member, executive director or even a celebrity to do the ask for donation. Unless this individual is experienced in this type of ask, it can be devastating to the effectiveness of the appeal. A professional auctioneer or associated individual who knows how to address the audience is crucial for the donations, be plentiful. If there is confusion amongst the guests as to how or when to donate, they simply won’t donate and the charity will miss the opportunity.

5. Use your time wisely
Giving to a cause at a charity event is the primary purpose for guests to attend this type of event. However, this doesn’t mean that they want to spend half of their evening listening to an auctioneer or master of ceremonies asking for them to open their wallet. Most guests appreciate a quick and effective call to action. A donation appeal that calls for 8 – 12 donation levels with an auctioneer calling out the bidder numbers of all the donations at the various levels is time-consuming, cumbersome and, quite frankly, boring. It is much better to allow any high donations to be highlighted (if the donors wants the recognition) then let the rest of the donations be made electronically via the guest’s mobile device. This will take a fraction of the time. Additionally, since all donations are added electronically, a tally of all donations made can be easily determined. If desired, the charity can share this total with the audience and there can be a feeling of fulfillment to cap off a successful event.

Request a demo of GiveSmart for more help with your next fundraising event.

Brandon Stec is the Director of Marketing at GiveSmart and an Indiana University graduate who's worked across sports and tech over the last decade. Brandon has sat on several boards of Nonprofits in Chicago and Kansas City. He resides in Chicago with his wife, son, and dog, Mango, and is a published author.
Brandon Stec