The Top Ten Donation Request Tips for Beginner Fundraisers

Young girl holding up a sign for her lemonade stand
| 6 min read Fundraising Strategy

Thanks to crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe, it’s easier than ever to get support and raise funds for your cause. A key step in the process is donation requests. Perhaps you’ve received donation requests from others (friends, family, your local public radio station, etc.), but never had to craft one yourself. 

Ten donation request tips 

Tip #1: Write personalized letters that emphasize the relationship

While creating your fundraising page and sharing it is a must, sending a personal fundraising letter to potential donors can really boost the number and size of donations you receive.

Writing a personalized letter to each recipient may sound time consuming, but it’s incredibly effective. It separates your message from the dozens of spam requests a person might receive daily. And it shows that your request is about more than money—it’s about the relationship.

Whether you send a printed letter or an email, use the potential donor’s name in the body of the letter, and mention a few specific instances where he or she interacted with you or the beneficiary. Think of it this way: This isn’t just a request, but a moment in the relationship between beneficiary and donor, with the donor choosing where the story goes next. In essence, you’re asking the person to strengthen the relationship.

Tip #2: Turn email to your advantage

One major strength of email: You can ask friends and family to forward the non-personalized portion of the message to their own circle. Consider crafting a block of text they can easily use for that purpose, and calling it out as such in your email. The title of your email can be the title of your fundraiser. For tips on writing fundraising emails, read Use These Fundraising Email Templates to Reach Your Goal Faster.

Tip #3: Think in circles of closeness

When it comes to requesting donations, think of potential donors as occupying a set of circles: the inner circle is close friends and family members who know you or the beneficiary well, the middle circles include work friends and casual acquaintances, and the outer circle includes everyone else, including sympathetic strangers.

Tailor your approach depending on which circle a potential donor falls in. For example, write personalized letters (see Tip #1) to everyone in the inner circle, and use less personalized variations for subsequent circles.

Tip #4: Until a donation is made, view every update as a request

While it would be great if everyone responded to your first request promptly, the reality is many people (even in your inner circle) won’t make a donation until they’ve been prompted several times. In this context, every communication that follows your first one is essentially a donation request.

For those who’ve already donated, an update is an update—but for those who haven’t donated yet, it’s also a request. Keep this in mind as you write fundraising updates. When potential donors see the impact that the donations of others have made, they’ll be more likely to want to jump in and become part of your story.

Posting updates to your fundraising page will reach all circles (you can also create a Facebook page for friends and family to receive updates on your fundraiser). Send more frequent and specific updates directly to inner circle members, especially when those updates are relevant to them. For example, if the beneficiary is getting comfort from a gift donated by a specific person, send that person a personal message of thanks in an update.

Tip #5: Keep it appropriately casual

While formality is a sign of respect when asking for donations from strangers, it can be ineffective and distancing when asking friends and family. Use language that reflects the relationship between you or the beneficiary and the potential donor—and remind them why and how a donation can make a big difference.

Tip #6: Be specific

Give potential donors specific reasons why they should donate to your cause. Public radio fundraising drives often do a great job specifying all the ways the station benefits listeners—take your cues from them. Some ways to be specific include using numbers, making a checklist, and listing expenses. It can also be very effective to get specific with the requested amounts—for example, “A $125 donation will allow Jenny to fill one month’s prescriptions.”

Tip #7: Get creative

You don’t need to adhere to a formula when it comes to crafting your donation requests. Start your request with the beneficiary’s favorite poem or song lyric? Sure. Include photos or videos? Absolutely. Format a request creatively? As long as it works. Veering away from traditional formulas will make your fundraiser stand out. Just make sure the approach you choose fits your fundraiser and motivates people to get involved.

Tip #8: Raise people’s spirits

Beyond raising money, crowdfunding has the power to raise people’s spirits. Every day, we see fundraising pages become sites for loving and supportive communities centered on a person in need. In the face of even the most tragic circumstances, people find unexpected joy in supporting one another. Keep this in mind as you write your story and post updates.

Tip #9: Make it easy to donate

While this is obvious, it can be easy to forget: Make it easy for your potential donor to make a donation. Include the link to your fundraising page in the request, and don’t be afraid to point out exactly where the donation button is located on your fundraising page.

Tip #10: Follow up

Until someone donates, every follow-up is a request for a donation. It’s important to continue updating all your potential donors throughout your fundraising journey, even those who don’t respond to your initial request. In our experience, people who don’t respond aren’t being rude, they’re simply busy—or waiting until their own cash flow improves. Think of it as being gently relentless.

From request to success

You should now have a better idea about how to approach donation requests, and how to set the stage for success. On GoFundMe, we have a wide range of resources available to help you with every other aspect of your crowdfunding fundraiser, from naming your fundraiser to planning related events. And when you’re ready, we’re here to help you launch your fundraiser.

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Written by GoFundMe