Starting Your First Fundraiser? Here’s How to Ask for Donations

Young girl holding up a sign for her lemonade stand
| 7 min read Fundraising Strategy

Most of us have been in a situation where we’ve needed to ask for help. If you’ve been in this scenario, you can agree that it’s a difficult task. People don’t want to feel like they’re a burden, and it’s easy to experience shame and failure when thinking of reaching out for support.

Asking for donations is no different. People often say that the hardest part of crowdfunding is asking for help with money. Requesting donations can be daunting if you’ve never done it. Don’t worry, you can overcome the feeling of vulnerability that comes with asking for help by following our donation request tips. Our team will teach you how to ask for donations and how to create a sense of urgency.

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The fundamentals of how to ask for donations online

1. Inspire giving by truthfully telling your story

As the saying goes, honesty is the best policy. People want to trust that their donations are going toward a legitimate cause. Be honest in telling your story to reassure those who are looking to help. If a donor connects with your story they will be more willing to donate. Encourage potential donors to visit your fundraiser page to get more details—and to become part of your journey with their donation. To learn more about storytelling, take a look at our guide on crafting a compelling fundraiser story.

2. Tailor your message to who you’re 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 request, keep your wording informal and bright. For someone such as a colleague who may respond better to a formal approach, deliver your message accordingly.

Try a fundraising letter

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. It also shows that your request is about more than money—it’s about the relationship.

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 in a certain amount of time, and you’ll likely see a spike in donations. Keep in mind that even negative consequences can still be framed in a positive light. Our blog on the psychology of giving is a good resource to reference for similar tips.

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. Additionally, email is great for online fundraising without social media since it’s efficient, low cost, and easy to track your progress. Successfully reach your fundraising goals by taking advantage of these fundraising email templates.

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 donation page 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 clear-cut 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.” Visit GoFundMe Causes to see more examples of how certain donation amounts can help.

7. Get creative with how you ask

You don’t need to use a formula when it comes to crafting your donation requests. 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. Here are some innovative examples of how to ask for donations:

  • Start your request with the beneficiary’s favorite poem or song lyric.
  • Include photos or videos to make your ask more emotionally compelling.
  • Address the common fears and myths about crowdfunding to provide clarity and reassurance to donors before pitching your request.

Three tips when asking for financial help

You might be nervous about asking for help. It’s good to know that even people who regularly organize fundraisers still get nervous. Requesting donations online can be made easier by using a mental checklist and practicing your approach. Here are a few tips on how to ask for donations:

1. Be specific in your ask

Providing people with specific information is a strong way to grab their attention. In your ask, be sure to break down these three things: your current situation, the reason why you’re fundraising, and your desired outcome.

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

2. Personalize your request

When you ask for donations, focus on more than just the need. Also think about the types of donors 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 with the beneficiary?

Maybe an individual is a family member of the beneficiary. A tip for how to ask for money from family is to bring up this relationship when asking for donations to create more personal, intimate communication, and help boost your chances of getting a donation. Touching on the relationship is important to do with anyone you ask, whether they’re a childhood friend or neighbor.

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.

3. Rejection is inevitable, but that’s okay

You won’t get a donation from every person you ask, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that you did a bad job—sometimes people get distracted or they just don’t have the money to donate. Understanding this, politely follow up with anyone who didn’t donate the first time you reached out. You can also suggest other ways they can show support for free, such as sharing your fundraiser to their online social networks. Make it simpler for them by providing some pointers on how to ask for donations on social media. Using social media fundraising is a big opportunity to turn followers into donors.

The financial support you need is on the other side of fear 

Above all, remember that people enjoy helping others. When you ask for donations, you’re simply tapping into that human impulse. Check out our fundraising ideas to see how GoFundMe makes it easy to raise money for yourself, someone you know, or a cause that is near and dear to your heart. Additionally, read honest GoFundMe reviews to see what others say about using crowdfunding. Now that you know the basics of asking for donations, you can start a fundraiser today and begin raising donations tomorrow.

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Written by caitlin