How to Ask for Donations (And Get People to say YES)
What a great feeling it is to a donation, big or small. Or how about the rush of a successful fundraising campaign? I remember one in particular. It left my whole charity wide-eyed and cheerful! We were thrilled to be able to move forward with several exciting projects we had been planning.
This rush, however, can short-lived. You see, being successful in fundraising, or for that matter receiving a large donation, is great, but once you start new projects, you then have to run another fundraising campaign and hunt for even more donations to keep your projects going.
Generating donations is, therefore, a never-ending cycle. Once you get one, you have to get another to continue supporting the growth that the first donation brought you. After the second, you’ve got to get a third.
You get the idea.
If you want to maintain momentum, then let me just tell you now – this cycle must, unfortunately, never stop. Fundraising must go on. The good news is that I have developed four steps to help you get a regular stream of new money coming in.
1 – Understand why donors give
First, try to understand why your current donors give. In all likelihood, it’s not because of facts or logic. Nor is it because of anything you said when you first asked them to donate.
Instead, they most likely give because of emotions. More so, they give to you because you understand their emotional needs for responding to a specific problem (which your organization specializes in) and have a plan for responding to it.
By learning what the common emotional needs of your donors, you can improve your organization’s story and clearly communicate it to potential donors.
Once you start doing this, you will begin to notice new people with similar attributes to your current donors. This will save you a lot of time because instead of running around everywhere, speaking to everyone and hoping someone will give, you already know exactly who would love to connect with your organization.
You will, in other words, know your target message to attract people who will have an affinity for your work. It may feel strange to think you have a specific donor type. However, every Catholic organization has a personality, and this personality, like any individual’s, attracts a specific group of people. Therefore, knowing who you best connect with and why you do helps you to connect with more people.
2 – Build relationships
It’s important to remember that every donation you receive comes from the hands of a person. Donations are a “people transaction”. People give because of the personal connection they’ve made with you.
Therefore, spend time making as many personal connections as possible. This may sound like a lengthy process but, trust me, spending quality time with people (especially one-to-one) is the best way to lay the path open for your next big donation.
Having already identified the emotional needs of your existing donors, you can communicate much more easily with potential donors.
All my large donors have been from people whom I spent quality time with. By the time it came to ask, we already knew each other very well, making “the ask” much easier. They wanted to support me, and I wanted them to share in the mission of our organization, working together towards a common goal.
3. Ask for donations in the right manner
With the first two steps I’ve mentioned thus far, you can establish the emotions, words, and relationships and began spotting potential large donors. These steps are the foundations for “the ask”.
I have no tips for entirely relieving the stress related to “the ask”, but I can offer you three points of advice for making the process easier and more effective.
The first is to recognize that, in my experience, the most successful donation requests involve interrogative questions, not verbs. Verb-led questions, such as “will you donate…” or “can you give …” push the person to make an immediate ‘yes/‘no’ decision. Sometimes the person will jump right into saying ‘maybe’. These are all dead-end responses because they don’t allow for open dialogue. You never want an immediate response.
Instead, you want dialogue. This is achieved by asking questions with “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “why”, “how” and “which”. Open questions allow a person’s response to be informed and reflective, encouraging him or her to draw on personal emotions and insight.
My second piece of advice is to not be afraid of proposing a specific amount or range.
Third, once you’ve asked, be patient and listen! It’s critical to stop speaking. Now is the time to be on the look-out, to discover what the person is thinking. Engage with them and let the conversation open up.
4. Aim for a definitive response
The final step is to leave the meeting with a definitive response. Now, it is time to encourage a clear ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. Never leave a meeting with a ‘maybe’. Though you may feel you’re pushing to get an answer, remember that you’ve already spent time building the relationship and the other person has too. He or she agreed to the meeting, knowing that a donation would be asked (be absolutely clear about this beforehand).
The amount itself may still need to be defined, but the person has heard your request, taken it to heart, and will now make a decision about how much if they’ve said “yes”. You don’t want to be chasing the person for weeks or months to get a decision. This will be tiring for both you and them, so I recommend you avoid this situation at all costs. It will help if you spend time building up the relationship before “the ask”.
What happens if they say “no”? That is perfectly fine and acknowledge this. This is not the end of the relationship, and make sure that it isn’t.