How to Find the Right Words for Your Next Fundraiser

When you are preparing for a donation request or even a campaign, you likely wonder, “What do I say to someone for them to give me money?”

You see the success other Catholic charities have, and you think, “If I can learn what they are saying, I can have the same results.” You think that there’s got to be some formula, some method, some strategy, that if replicated will get people to give.

If you just knew what to say, you would say it over and over and have tremendous. Then you’ll have more than enough donations coming in continuously. You would also have people coming to you ready to give.

You are right. There are specific words, placed in a specific order, that will get people to donate, and today is your lucky day. I’m going to tell you exactly what those words are so you can have life-changing results with your fundraising.

Words are a delicate matter in fundraising, especially in the Catholic context. Words make up the sentences, paragraphs and messages you share with people to get them to take action. Meaning, words get people to give. Words either capture or lose people’s attention and inspiration to give. Words either trigger emotions, thoughts, and decisions that make people donate, or they don’t.

The #1 Reason Why No One Donates to You

Most charities focus on the words they use, but only the ones that trigger an immediate reaction.

For example, a lot of time is spent crafting that perfect emotional response to get a person to respond right then and there. Their appeal leads up to a fast-acting response such as: “Donate now”, “Save these people today”. “Act now”.

Words that direct all the attention to an immediate financial act are putting you in a high-risk situation. It’s like knowing if you play okay the entire game, you still can shot a “hail Mary” to win the game. If you make it, you win, but if you don’t, you lose and don’t get another chance. It’s the same with an appeal. If you are just hoping the words land in the right place, you may win big but not often.

More than likely they won’t. My recommendation is to not place yourself in these situations. I call this hope fundraising, and I’m not talking about the good kind of hope.

Rather, you should be thinking, “What words do I use to inspire this person to stay with me for the long-term and be willing to open their wallet in the long run?”

For more info on this subject, check out the book review I did on the classic: “Why Catholics Don’t Give, And What Can Be Done About It”.

Why Words Matter More Than You Think

You can take another route, one with a more probability of success because you have more time to use words that inspire people and get them to give. You can craft your message with the right words, so when the request does happen, you are shooting a layup rather than a “hail Mary”. This is what I want to focus on with you.

I want you to take the time to craft the right words about what you do, how you do it, and what impact you are having. Then, when it does come time to make the request, it’s easy for you and the other person.

I am going to tell you one of the pillars of fundraising. Get a piece of paper, write it down, tape it to your wall, and look at it every day.

Here is the principle: people don’t give because you asked them. Yes, it’s important to ask. If you don’t ask, you won’t raise much at all. However, people don’t give as a result of the ask itself. Nor do they give because you think your work is important. Nor do they give because you are making a difference in the world. None of that matters in fundraising.

People don’t give because of what you think is important. They give because of what they think is important.

For more insight on this subject, check out my article, How to Inspire Catholics and Get Donors.

The Secret Formula to Writing the Words that Get Donations

I’m now going to tell you which words to use. You will see that it’s not some secret or magic formula. It’s actually straightforward. You simply ask your current donors what inspired them to give.

Plans made after advice succeed. – Proverbs 20:18

Then, you find the common thread (the words that keep appearing) among the answers and use those as your foundation for your next appeal. Yes, it’s that simple. You just ask donors, “what got you to donate?” What was said to inspire them? How was it explained to them? When was it said? Who said it? Why did it have such an impact? I’m a big fan of using surveys, especially online surveys, to collect this information.

I think the reason surveys work so well is because you are listening to people. Listening is extremely important in fundraising because we often get caught doing most of the talking.

You just have to say the right words at the right time. By listening, especially to your current donors, you can do exactly this. If you don’t have any current donors, make a list of people who know about you and your work and ask them, “If you were to give, what would inspire you to do so?” Their answers will get you in the right direction.

Get more insight on how to write, check out my article: How to Write a Clear and Compelling Fundraising Letter.

Practical Steps to Picking the Right Words for Your Next Fundraiser

Your vocabulary is the driving factor in your success. If you aren’t getting the results you want, it’s likely because your words are focused on you, not your donors. Your words are bland, not accurate. Your words are pushy, not inspiring.

The Pray, Pray, Pray, Ask method of Catholic fundraising.

Here is a simple approach for finding the right words and correctly using them.

Pray – Ask what inspires people to find the right words to use.

PrayReflect on Proverbs chapter 20. Then, review, the responses from the survey. Identify the key themes, particularly around how donors see themselves collaborating with your work.

Pray – Identify the words, phrases, and messages that reflect why people are inspired to donate to you.

Ask – Use these new words in your next appeal and request letter.


Question: When is the last time you asked your donors what inspired them to donate and used their responses to write your next appeal?

Brice was born and raised Catholic. After enjoying a successful career in technology consulting with Accenture and PriceWaterhouseCoopers in cities across the United States (Dallas, San Francisco, Paris, Abu Dhabi, and London) around the world, he left it to help his Catholic diocese in London, England with a fundraising campaign. The campaign went on to raise over $60 million, the largest sum ever raised for the diocese and in the United Kingdom.

Learning from professional fundraisers, he figured out the basics and then left the diocese to focus on what he loves most: building Catholic charities that change the culture, save lives, and save souls.

Brice currently lives in Texas and travels the world helping Catholics fundraise. This website is where he shares what he is doing and how he is raising funds for Catholic causes and missions. That way you can move more quickly with your next appeal.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.