Hosting a successful donation moment is the crux of annual fundraising for many organizations. However, we all know that asking someone for money is never easy, and asking a large group can be daunting. You fear hearing crickets when you begin asking for donations. It’s important to plan the levels of giving, prepare a compelling program to inform donors, and to understand your audience. Don’t let your fund-a-need give you nightmares; follow these key steps to make your donation moment a success for your organization’s mission!

A “donation ask” or “fund-a-need” is a common way to raise donations at a fundraising event. During the event program, a representative from the nonprofit organization will request donations from the event attendees. Some organizations will ask donors to raise a paddle or their hand to denote that they are willing to give at a certain level. Other organizations will rely on donors to give entirely using their mobile devices and instead recognize donors using a display screen. No matter the way organizations ask for donations at the event, utilizing a well-planned event program can help increase donations.

Know the power of a motivational speaker.

A member of your organization’s executive board is able to speak excellently about what your organization does, however having someone whose life has been directly affected by your organization’s work will have a much larger impact on donors.

At the Folds of Honor Chicago Chapter Annual Gala, Ginger Gilbert Ravella gave a moving speech to the audience about how, after her husband was killed in action, her five children received secondary school and college scholarships from the Folds of Honor organization. Ginger was able to speak about the impact the organization had made on her life and the lives of her children, and the emotion she expressed inspired donors to give over $65,000 in donations alone that evening.

Utilize visual elements to tell the story.

Photos and video are an impactful medium to inspire donors to give to your cause. For example, if you are an animal welfare organization, show photos of the animals you have helped to help donors visualize the full impact of their donations.

GiveSmart partner Search Inc. showed a video highlighting some of their beneficiaries before the fund-the-need. The video showed the different ways Search Inc. helps people and the breadth of their programs. Not only did this visual example show the variety of ways donor money helps the organization, but it also worked to excite the audience about the cause.

Charity: water is an excellent example of a nonprofit organization that uses photos and videos to tell their story and engage followers and donors. They’ve embraced the power of visual media to spread their mission and directly speak to donors, and it’s working. They put together this 20-minute documentary that tells the story of Charity: water’s start and daily work.

Know who you’re asking.

Different events, by nature, have different audiences and attendees. Those attending an event hosted by your organization’s young professionals board differ from your annual gala audience. The average donation will likely be less, so it makes sense to start the ask amount at a more reasonable level. It’s even a good idea to plant someone in the audience to “donate” at the top level or two. This secures donations and opens up the room for others to donate. Planting donors often warms up a room and eliminates any initial donation hesitations.

Practice makes perfect.

The timing of your event program should be as solidified as possible. Gather the group of presenters to practice the program together in advance of the event. You should also make sure that the audiovisual (AV) components (if you are using photos or videos) are properly connected and the person in charge of the AV knows when the components should play.

By perfecting the program timing you will be able to harness the crowd emotion and use it to increase donations. Expect some deviations on event night, but know that the quality and emotion behind the speaker and presentation is what’s going to truly move the crowd.


Want to talk about how GiveSmart can help make your next donation moment an even bigger success? Get in touch with us here.

Kelsey Woodworth is the Content Marketing Manager for GiveSmart and an Auburn University graduate. Her finger is on the pulse daily for innovations in fundraising, community building, donor relations, and event trends. Kelsey lives in New York City.
Kelsey Woodworth
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