Feb 4, 2022

How to Ask for Donations: Step by Step Guide


Many nonprofit professionals are forgetting the foundation of success: how to ask for donations. As nonprofits race to keep up with the latest fundraising trends like crowdfunding and text to donate, it’s easy to forget how to connect your cause with donors in a way that moves them to give.

Our definitive guide examines the different ways nonprofits ask for donations from traditional means to the latest in digital and mobile fundraising methods, while highlighting real life success examples and best practices to help organizations raise more money than ever before.

How Steve Harvey Asked for Donations and Raised over $1 Million in Just One Month

Steve Harvey is best known as a comedian, television host, producer, radio personality, actor, and author. Now he can add fundraiser extraordinaire to his long list of credits. Check out the video above and the story below to learn how Steve put everything he had into asking for donations to raise money to help our nation’s fatherless youth.

How Steve Harvey did it and you can too

The Steve Harvey Charity Ride successfully raised awareness and funds for Mr. Harvey’s foundation. The unique campaign features the comedian live streaming himself biking or walking for the entire 4-hour duration of his nationally syndicated daily radio program while asking for donations for his cause.

Throughout the broadcast he asks his listeners to contribute by online giving on his websites, sending a check by mail and, the most popular way people of contributing, by texting the keyword STEVE to 91999 from their mobile phones.

Text to donate is the most effective way to successfully collect donations on the air because of how simple it is for the people listening to give from wherever they are, and how fast it is for them to complete their gift when they receive an instant reply with a link to a secure online giving donation page.

The reason the campaign was a success is because of the key best practices he followed. He’s been reading off the names of donors that appear in real-time on a live fundraising thermometer set up for him on a tablet placed within his view while he’s exercising. He also passionately tells his audience what he will be doing with their contributions.

Some key best practices are:

  1. Giving easy to follow instructions for how people can give
  2. Recognizing donors by reading their names off as they as they appear in real-time on the live fundraising thermometer set up on a tablet within his view while he’s working out.
  3. He’s also passionately telling his audience what exactly their donations will be used for.

Text to donate can help causes like the Steve Harvey Charity Ride, which are being promoted on the radio because it makes it easy for supporters to give right from their mobile phones by simply texting a keyword to a shortcode to instantly receive a link they can easily click on to give on a secure donation page.

How To Ask For Donations for Your Nonprofit

To be successful at asking for donations for your nonprofit, you first need to clearly understand who your potential donors are, what drives them to give and the different ways that you can make their giving process as easy as possible.

Let’s take a look at what you can do to become a fundraising expert capable of asking for donations for any type of organization.

Donation Asks for Higher Education

With the rising cost of higher education, colleges & universities, along with their various departments, associations, and the foundations that support them count on charitable contributions to survive. In fact, higher education institutions typically entrust the important job of asking for donations from students, parents, alumni and staff to highly seasoned professionals who are specially trained to understand what it takes to fund everything college-related from academic to artistic to athletic programs.

Now, with the right solutions and technology, just about anyone is able to ask for donations for higher education and enjoy the ability to collect secure donations in-person, through the mail and online from websites, emails, text and social media for whatever they need.

Types of Donations to Ask For

  • Scholarships
  • Awards
  • Endowments
  • Gifts-In-Kind
  • Equipment
  • Cash
  • Real Estate
  • Securities
  • In Memoriam
  • Legacy Gift

Who to Ask for Donations

  • Students
  • Parents
  • Fans
  • Teachers
  • Alumni
  • Foundations
  • Corporations
  • Local Businesses

Ideas for Asking for Donations

  • Car Wash Campus Brigade
  • Greek Talent Show
  • Alumni Cocktail Party
  • Decorated Dorm Tours
  • Campus Top Model

Donation Asks for Faith Based Organizations

Faith-based organizations count on the generous support of their devoted members in order to fulfill their purpose whether it’s through collection plate offerings or regular tithing practices. Churches, temples, missions and ministries may also ask for donations for other expenses like capital improvements, mission trips or other special projects. By adopting online fundraising with mobile friendly forms organizations can simplify their entire giving process and make it easy for their supporters to connect and give from any device.

Online fundraising can also make it possible for organizations to do more good when they enable recurring giving options, which can increase contributions by as much as 4-times more each year, compared to offerings made by supporters as one-time gifts.

Types of Donations to Ask For

  • Cash
  • In-kind Goods & Services
  • Equipment
  • Automobiles
  • Mission Trip Travel Vouchers
  • Land
  • Securities
  • Memorial Gifts
  • Legacies

Who to Ask for Donations

  • Congregations
  • Members
  • Supporters
  • Staff
  • Large Companies
  • Area Businesses
  • Foundations
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Community Groups

Ideas for Asking for Donations

  • Bingo Bash Social
  • After-Service Pancake Breakfast
  • Food Pantry Bag Drive
  • Rummage Sale
  • Family Fun Run

Donation Asks for Healthcare Organizations

In addition to the funding, they receive from private and government insurance programs, foundations, and individuals paying for the cost of healthcare, hospitals, clinics, treatment centers, research associations, and other healthcare organizations are finding new and innovative ways to ask for donations to fund their work and programs. One way these organizations are raising the funds they need is by turning to patients who have been cured of a serious illness and who are now happy to give back to those who made them well.

Add crowdfunding as an option and suddenly grateful patients and their family members become advocates empowered to channel their gratitude via personal peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns they can set up to raise money on the organization’s behalf. These volunteer fundraisers can then share their custom crowdfunding pages with their network of friends and families via email, text, and social media.

Types of Donations to Ask For

  • Cash
  • Pro-bono Services
  • Grants
  • Endowments
  • Land Holdings
  • Appreciated Securities
  • Planned Giving
  • Legacy Gifts

Who to Ask for Donations

  • Patients
  • Families
  • Friends
  • Volunteers
  • Medical Professionals
  • Corporations
  • Foundations
  • Patrons

Ideas for Asking for Donations

  • Gift Wrapping Ward
  • Sexiest Doctor Competition
  • Community Health Fair
  • Fit for Life Relay
  • Benefit Gala
  • Patient & Staff Art Auction

Donation Asks for Human Services

Organizations dedicated to helping people in need know how to ask for donations for human services using a multitude of different fundraising methods. They ask for donations in person at large gala events to benefit the homeless and outside local businesses where they count on foot traffic to fill their collection boxes to feed the hungry. They set up mobile responsive websites to ask for donations to educate underprivileged youth and promote their crowdfunding campaigns and petitions for justice on social media.

Above all else, the human services organizations who are most effective at asking for donations are the ones that focus first on building relationships and trust with supporters before asking them for money. Instead, they invite supporters to attend a free event, sign up to get text updates or volunteer to help the cause. The point is to connect prospects to the heart, soul and purpose of your mission first, which will then compel them to give.

Types of Donations to Ask For

  • Cash
  • Payroll Deduction
  • Gifts In Kind
  • Grants
  • Major Gift
  • Tangible Personal Property
  • Endowments
  • Real Estate
  • Stocks & Securities
  • Planned Gifts

Who to Ask for Donations

  • Individual Donors
  • Volunteers
  • Supporters
  • Recipients
  • Fans
  • Professionals
  • Staff
  • Corporations
  • Local Businesses
  • Community Groups

Ideas for Asking for Donations

  • Gala Event
  • 5K Run/Walk
  • Golf Tournament
  • Online Lemonade Stand
  • Charity Auction
  • Dinner Gala
  • Couples Dance Competition
  • Community Yard Sale

How to Ask Anyone for Donations

Successful fundraisers who know how to ask anyone for donations are the ones who have, over time, identified donor differences which allow them to better tailor messaging and strategy. Instead of applying a one-size-fits-all fundraising approach they draw on available research data and the results of their own past fundraising campaigns to refine their pitch, with just the right words and sentiment in order to get the best response from whoever it is they are asking for donations. For example, how they approach a Millennial donor might look very different than the way they would ask for donations from an older contributor from the Greatest generation.

By appealing to individual preferences you’re able to more effectively influence different donors’ decisions to give. Let’s take a closer look at this diversity should affect the way you ask for donations from different groups of people who may be interested in supporting your cause.

Asking Millennials and Generation Z for Donations

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennials or those born between the early 1980’s and mid 1990’s and Generation Z born late 1990’s to early 2000’s (aka Gen Z) now make up the majority of the workforce in the United States.

In order to remain visible and top of mind to this new workforce, your organization must be able to ask for their donations using their preferred technology and channels for giving. Remember, if your Millennial and Gen Z donors are working, they’re earning a paycheck, and that means they have an increased ability to support the causes they care about, as long as you make it easy for them to give.

Interesting Facts About Asking for Donations from the Younger Generations

  • Millennials and Gen Zers respond best to text messages
  • They contribute to causes they care about or ones their friends’ support
  • Many are inspired to donate to a charity through a social media message
  • Both are active and stay up to date on social media feeds
  • They are likely to donate via mobile
  • Most will watch online videos before making a gift
  • Younger generations are open to fundraising on behalf of a cause

Best Ways to Ask for Donations from Millennials and Gen Zers

  • Use text messages to ask for donations, invite and remind donors of upcoming events, update them on campaign status, and thank them for their support
  • Connect and engage with younger donors by sending links to videos, photos, posts and sign-up forms they can share with their network of friends and family.
  • Empower them to fundraise on your behalf with mobile-friendly crowdfunding pages they can promote peer-to-peer across their social networks.

Asking Women for Donations

In general, past research has shown that women give to more charitable causes and organizations than men.

Numerous studies have been conducted examining each genders’ giving preferences and practices. Whether influenced by socio-economic or other factors, the research reveals distinct differences that are relevant for educational, faith-based, healthcare and charitable nonprofit organizations who want to know how to ask for donations from women.

Just as your organization should tailor your strategies and tactics to engage different generational groups, you should also consider developing different ways to target women vs. men to positively affect the success of your fundraising efforts.

The following information will help you adapt your messaging and fundraising methods so you can better reach and engage your very important female donors by knowing how to ask for donations.

Interesting Facts About Women Donors

  • Research reveals that women tend to be more empathetic and more charitable and are more actively involved in the charities they support than men.
  • Regardless of their marital status, women, compared to their male counterparts (and most men overall), are more likely to give and give higher amounts, and with the exception of Gen-Xers, are more likely to give than men across every generational group.
  • Women also have a higher expectation of being shown the effectiveness of their contribution.
  • Women spend more time per month on a smartphone checking email compared to men.
  • Plus as part of the 97% of Americans who text at least once a day.

Donations Best Practices for Women

  • Incorporate moving stories and images that genuinely convey your organization’s passionate purpose on your website, social media and mobile-friendly donation pages to spark the emotional response that compels women to give to your cause when you ask for donations.
  • Build donor confidence that can result in repeat giving by regularly sending text messages to your female supporters with photos, videos and other updates that show exactly what is being accomplished with their donations.
  • Set up mobile-friendly donation pages for all of your fundraising campaigns and make it easy for women on the go to text to donate with corresponding keywords and shortlinks they can share with their circle of friends, family and colleagues on social media, text or email right from their mobile phones.

Making a Live Donation Ask Best Practices

During the early planning stages of your fundraising campaign, build your org’s story library and plan out what content will be used throughout your event. These priceless videos, letters, quotes, etc. can be repurposed over mobile messaging, social media and your website as well.

Optimize your planned live ask for donations by incorporating these simple tips:

1. Give supporters a way to give instantly with mobile fundraising keywords or links. Smartphones are the world’s best impulse-giving capturing device!

2. Weave your organization’s story into your ask. Keep it short, but make sure supporters are clear about what your org does.

3. Make supporters feel special by showing and/or telling them how their donation makes a – without it, your cause wouldn’t exist/make an impact.

4. Use incentives or exclusive opportunities to motivate additional participation or encourage larger donation amounts, but don’t rely on this alone. (Especially if real rockstars aren’t involved)

5. Recognize and thank donors in real-time with the live event fundraising thermometer. Donors will feel special in the moment and others might feel compelled to give like their peers.

6. Mobile-friendly online forms encourage donations from those unable to attend – they can still make a difference from anywhere!

5 Ways Asking for Donations Is Just like Dating

The similarities between raising money and dating definitely apply not just for startups, but for nonprofit organizations who are also trying to attract the right donor and keep them engaged and supporting their cause for a long time to come. Here is our own list of 5 ways that asking for donations is just like dating and how you can take advantage of the similarities to build strong donor relationships.

#1 – Believe in yourself. Make sure that anyone assigned to speak to donors, in person or on the phone, especially during fundraising drives, is passionate about your cause. Sure any warm body can read off a bunch of statistics and facts about your purpose when asking for donations, but if your volunteer and staff aren’t feeling it, neither will the donor.

#2 – Don’t make it about money. Asking for money up front is no way to treat a potential supporter. Instead, first help your donors to feel like they mean more to your organization than just dollars. Ask them for their email and mobile number so you can keep in touch. If they were interested in your mission in the first place, they will love getting regular text updates from you telling them about what you’re doing, the challenges you face, and the important role they play in making things better. In no time, they’ll be engaged and a part of your world so that when you do start asking for donations, their emotional investment in your cause will compel them to give.

#3 – Align yourself with a strong support network to survive and replicate. Crowdfunding can help you multiply your efforts to reach more potential donors. This type of peer-to-peer fundraising embodies the survive and replicate concept when you to set up mobile-friendly crowdfunding forms to capture your org’s story, impact image, logo, and fundraising goal (what you need to survive) and then empower family, friends and social networks to raise funds on your organization’s behalf (your efforts replicated).

#4 – Put yourself in good company. In dating, people seem to be more attracted to those who others find attractive. The same holds true for new donors because they are more likely to give to a cause for the first time if they know others who are supporting it, whether it’s their friends and family or famous celebrities or personalities they admire. This is another reason why crowdfunding is so effective. Not only is the ask coming from someone familiar but they can also check out who else has donated right from the mobile-friendly form.  Another example of how well this concept works is how attendees at a fundraising event are motivated to give when they see the names of other donors displayed on-screen on the live fundraising thermometer.

#5 – Appeal to (donor) emotions. We’re now right back to where we started… passion. Not only do your people need to feel it so donors do as well, but passionate appeals must be incorporated into every aspect of your organization’s brand. Donors give because they feel an emotional connection so make sure that you bring your passion to your website and Facebook embedded donation pages…to your text message updates that keep supporters interested and engaged…and especially to every direct ask so you can get your donors to respond with open hearts and open wallets.

Before asking for donations, start building a strong relationship with your donors that can last a lifetime by sharing your passion at every turn, engaging them with text messages that do more than just ask them to give you money, and by empowering them with crowdfunding to play an important role in your organization’s success.


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