How to Ask for Donations

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

People often say that the hardest part of crowdfunding is asking for donations. Perhaps you’ve received donation requests from others (friends, family, your local public radio station), but you’ve never had to craft one yourself. Don’t worry, you can overcome the feeling of vulnerability that comes with asking for help by following our donation request tips.

We’ve put together some tips to teach you how to ask for donations—including tips for asking for charity donations and how to create a sense of urgency.

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Donation request tips that make asking for money easier

1. Inspire giving by telling your story honestly

If a donor connects to your story they will be more willing to donate. Keep your first ask simple, especially if you have a long story. Encourage potential donors to visit your fundraiser page to get the full story—and to become part of it with their donation. To learn more about storytelling, take a look at our fundraiser storytelling tips.

2. Tailor your message to who you are asking

The best way to receive a positive response—and a donation—is to appeal to each potential donor’s individual interests. If you know someone who would respond better to a warm, lighthearted email, keep your wording informal and bright. For a colleague who may respond better to a formal approach, deliver your message accordingly.

Asking for personal donations

Sending a personal fundraising letter to potential donors can increase the number of donations you receive. This may sound time consuming, but it’s incredibly effective. It separates your message from the dozens of spam requests a person might receive. And it shows that your request is about more than money—it’s about the relationship.

Asking for charity donations

If you’re raising money for a nonprofit, remember to emphasize the tax benefits of making a donation to your cause. For more information about crowdfunding and taxes, read our blog post Understanding Tax Deductions for Charitable Donations.

3. Create a sense of urgency

It’s important to convey a sense of urgency when sharing your fundraiser. Without that urgency, your potential donors may consider waiting to donate—requiring you to ask them again down the line. Explain what will happen if you don’t raise the money, and you’ll likely see a spike in donations. Keep in mind that even negative consequences can still be framed in a positive light. For similar tips read our blog post about how to use psychology to get more donations

4. Use 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. For more tips and templates read out blog Use These Fundraising Email Templates to Reach Your Goal Faster.

5. Make it easy to donate

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

6. Be specific in your ask

Give potential donors specific reasons why they should donate to your cause. Some ways to be specific include using numbers, making a checklist, and listing expenses. It can also be effective to get specific with the requested amounts—for example, “A $125 donation will allow Jenny to fill one month’s prescriptions.”

7. Get creative with how you ask

You don’t need to use 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.

Pitfalls to avoid when asking for donations

You might be nervous about asking for help. Don’t worry—even seasoned fundraisers still get nervous. Asking for donations online can be made easier by using a mental checklist and practicing your approach.

Here are a few pitfalls we’ve seen people make when asking for donations, and how you can avoid them.

1. Being vague in your ask

Vagueness doesn’t grab anyone’s attention—specificity does. Clearly state why you’re fundraising, what the current situation is, and what the desired outcome will be.

Be specific in your list of expenses as well. Some successful fundraisers itemize every expense—not just a big-ticket item like a surgery, but the gas money needed for rides to the doctor, etc. Potential donors will appreciate transparency.

2. Not personalizing the ask

When you ask for donations, don’t just focus on the need. Think also about who you’re asking, and what their understanding and needs might be. When approaching a potential donor, ask yourself:

  • Why does this person care? There is a reason you reached out to him or her for donations. Keep that reason in mind, and communicate it when you approach each potential donor.
  • What relationship does this person have to the beneficiary? Maybe she was childhood friends with the beneficiary, or maybe a neighbor. It’s appropriate to bring up this relationship when asking for donations to create a more personal, intimate communication, and help boost your chances of getting a donation.
  • Why would they have reservations? Keep in mind reasons someone might not want to donate, and try to address them. For example, some people may worry they can’t afford to make a large enough donation to make a difference. By addressing this concern and listing specific expenses that can be paid with small donations, you can get more people to contribute.

For more tips read our blog post How to Get Donations from These Five Types of Donors.

3. Being scared of rejection

You won’t get a donation from every person you ask, and that’s OK. It doesn’t mean that you did a bad job, or that the people you asked are terrible people—sometimes people get distracted. Understanding this, politely follow up with anyone who didn’t donate the first time you reached out. A great place to reach potential donors is on social media. Learn how to turn your social media followers into donors.

Perfect your ask and get the donations you need

Above all, remember that people enjoy helping others. When you ask for donations, you’re simply tapping into that human impulse. At GoFundMe we offer fundraising so that you get to keep more of the money you raise. Read honest GoFundMe reviews to see what others say about using crowdfunding. And now that you know how to ask for donations, you can start a fundraiser today and start raising donations tomorrow.

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Written by caitlin