100 Effective Phrases to Use when Fundraising

The vocabulary we use as fundraisers is very important. We want to ask people to donate. But we don’t want to push their boundaries. This can be a difficult balance to maintain. I’ve seen how some Catholic organisations, unfortunately, cross this line, coming across pushy and needy.

Blog 10 - Language RESIZE

I admit to having crossed these boundaries too. I have used the classic fundraising words (“donate now”, “we need your help”, “please donate”) that I hoped would push people to act immediately. I was quite uncomfortable when doing this, but I wasn’t aware of any other way to fundraise.

This ‘need’ mentality would eventually divert all my attention to money. Nothing else mattered but getting donations. Luckily, I realized quite quickly this strategy wasn’t a viable, long-term solution. The number of donors wasn’t increasing. Nor were the funds. Being ‘needy’ wasn’t a sustainable way to fundraise.

If you look at today’s culture, we constantly say “I need this” and “I need that”. I was doing the same thing: needing donations.

I decided to fast from these two words: “I need”. My hope was to see if my results would improve. They did. My fundraising accelerated beyond expectations. I began building more relationships, finding many new donors and raising, even more, funds. It was incredible.

So here are three tips I learned for how to improve your language when you fundraise:

1. Use the word “want” instead of “need”

This may sound like a trivial change or even a more blunt way of expressing yourself, but it actually positions your fundraising on solid ground. When you use the word “want”, you shift your perception of fundraising: it moves you forward rather than keeping you afloat.

Countless saints have accomplished incredible works without money. The same applies to you. Receiving or not receiving donations does not determine whether or not you will carry out your mission. You, therefore, don’t need money. Additional funds would be helpful, but money is not the driver of your organization.

2. Don’t lower your expectations

When we operate from a position of neediness, we immediately lower our expectations. We think, “If we don’t get funding, we cannot accomplish what we want.” Neediness turns us into egocentric individuals. We shift our attention from helping others to helping ourselves.

We certainly need family, friendship, satisfying work and hobbies. We need faith, hope, and love. We each have our list of the essentials. But it is a short list. It should not include a particular £500 donation or £20,000 grant. Why? Because there will always be other donations and grants.

I, therefore, recommend you don’t make concessions and change your mission based on the amount you raise. With God’s graces, you will always find what you are looking for.

3. Focus on relationships, not outcomes

You can never control how much money you raise. Why? Each donation is the result of a someone’s decision to give. This personal and private decision is something you cannot control, but what you can control, more or less, is the relationship between you and the person.

I recommend that your vocabulary is focused on building solid, authentic and personal relationships.

When you focus your language on relationships rather than financial demands or outcomes, you stay rooted in your mission. And the deeper these roots are, the more opportunities will come your way to building relationships with people who will want to donate.

Donors are looking for Catholic organizations which authentically communicate with them. You can achieve this by using words that demonstrate connections and impact, rather than ‘neediness’.

Joyously use words like “want”, “ask”, “would like”, “enjoy”, “join”, “connect”, “engage” to improve your fundraising and attract more donors.

Remember: this shift from “needing” to “wanting” starts with the words you use. It then continues in your daily communications. Finally, it is grounded by how Catholics perceive your organization and respond.


Discussion question: What words do you think works best in Catholic fundraising?

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. Mother Mary and Saint Joseph, protect us as we announce the good news of God's beloved Son, Jesus Christ.