In all of our work with nonprofits, one challenge that comes up time and time again for our clients is fundraising. It seems there is never enough money to do all the incredible things that are on your nonprofit’s list.
We hear your struggle and want to help. Our team of nonprofit experts has put together a series of fundraising tips in our Nonprofit Fundraising 101 series in hopes to multiply your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts and impact.
Let’s get started by talking about the foundation of it all. The Ask.
There are multiple avenues in which to make an ask to your donors, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages. You can send a written appeal through your newsletter, start an online crowdfunding campaign, host an event, or make an in-person ask.
There is nothing right or wrong about any of these avenues of asking, and although there are many different ways to make an ask, there are a few things that are imperative to honing your ask regardless of the way you make it. These are truths that have stood the test of time and are proven to increase your chances of a positive response.
Know who you are asking
One of the most important pieces of advice that we can give you about honing your ask is to be sure you know who you’re asking.
Don’t just know their names, but learn as much about them as possible. Build a relationship with them, or have someone who is connected with your cause introduce you to them.
Know how they got connected with your nonprofit. Have they ever given to your nonprofit or volunteered before? If so, to what? How frequently? What size gifts did they give? How did they initially get involved? And what appeals have they given to in the past?
This information will give you insight into what they are passionate about. Knowing details like these can help give you an idea of the ask you should make and the capacity of their support.
Know about their career, hobbies, their family, as much about them as you can in building a relationship with them. If they’re a teacher, interested in education issues, or have children in school, they might be a good candidate to approach about giving toward a new school building. Or maybe they have a child who loves soccer: they might be a good candidate to ask about giving to your nonprofit’s summer sports camps for underserved kids.
The more you know about your contacts, the better you’ll be able to connect them with the areas of your nonprofit they are passionate about, and thus are more likely to give to.
Individual Vs. Group Asks
Though it is always important to know who you’re asking, it’s not always possible to make those in-person or small-group asks. So let’s take a look at the different strategies of working with smaller or larger groups.
- Small group/individual ask
When asking an individual or small group to give to your organization, you will want to tailor the ask specifically to them. Like we talked about above, find out what makes them tick, where they connect with the most in relationship to your nonprofit. Formulate your ask around that specific area of need that relates to them. When tailoring your ask in this way, you are much more likely to get a yes in response.
- Larger groups/mass communication
When approaching a larger group with an ask (like at an event or through crowd funding or a mass-mailed appeal), we would encourage you to present your audience with a few different options. Share asks with varying levels of giving amounts, so that donors of every giving capacity feel as though their contribution, no matter how great or small, can make a difference. Pair specific asks with the impact they will have.
Focus on a story, not general numbers & statistics
Stories are some of our most powerful tools of communication. People connect with stories and can see themselves in them. Stories help people identify with a situation and have empathy for an issue.
When presenting a need in your ask, be sure to connect it to a story that makes that ask real. Let them see who will be helped by their contribution and how it will serve a pressing need.
The not-so-powerful statistic
Let’s say your nonprofit is in need of a new school building for the children that you serve in rural Malawi. When presenting your ask, don’t only focus on the statistics about the lack of education for children in Malawi: that 80 percent of kids don’t make it past the fifth grade because they need to be at home helping their family with farm work, or that schools pack about 100 students in a classroom on mats on dirt floors instead of in desks to learn.
Of course you can and should use these statistics. But they should be used as evidence and support for your specific story.
Choose the story of one
People can connect much better with the story of an individual instead of the larger group. Tell the story of one of the kids who will attend the new school. Let’s call her Charity. Tell of Charity’s life, her family, and her history with education. What are her current circumstance in life and learning? What would her fate look like without this new school?
What is Charity’s experience like at her existing school? Does she walk an hour each day to attend? Does she share a desk or book with multiple students, or sit on the floor? Share a picture or video of her. Put a face to the issue you’re trying to address in your ask.
Point to the impact of the gift
Once you tell the story, you’ve set yourself up to make your ask. Now it’s time to connect your story to the impact that a donor’s gift will make.
Point to the impact
Once you’ve told the story, introduce your ask. “Your donation can help make a difference in Charity’s life, providing her an opportunity for better education. We need $X to build a new school that will lift Charity and other students like her off the dirt floor, attract more teachers, minimize class size, provide an inspiring space that’s naturally heated and cooled, and facilitate students learning.
Talk about the impact that the new building will have and how it will change Charity’s life and the lives of the other children who attend.
Then make your ask
“Would you invest in Charity’s life and education by partnering with us to build this school?” Make the connection between your story and the need, showcasing the impact that a gift would have in Charity’s life, changing her circumstances and the hundreds of other children like her.
Be specific with amounts
When making the ask, do not use arbitrary numbers. Know the specifics of what you’re asking for. Know how much specific items cost and the breakdown of pricing for components of your nonprofits’ needs before you make the ask.
In our example of the school above, if you’re working with a major donor who you may know has the capacity to give a large gift, be bold in your ask. Maybe even approach them with the full amount needed.
If you’re dealing with a donor who has a smaller- or medium-sized giving capacity, you can present your larger number goal, but break it down. If they can only give $50 or $1,000, they can still feel like their contribution will make an impact. With our example of the school above, you could break down the costs by having someone give toward buying desks and chairs, windows and doors, chalkboards, keeping the electricity on, etc.
The costs of these items broken out are a lot less than the building as a whole, yet they connect donors back into your story. It’s been proven that when you break up your ask into smaller obtainable chunks, more people will respond than if you ask for a larger amount.
Build trust through thanks and proof of impact
One of the most important things in donor relations is building and establishing trust. Two things you can do to build trust is send a prompt thank you and proof of impact to your donors. Always thank your donors, no matter how great or small their gift, and be sure to send proof that their gift did what you said it was going to do.
In the case of our example above, share pictures and videos of the progress of the school that’s being built, the finished product, and an update on Charity and the other children as they attend the new school.
This thank-you note and proof of impact will build a relationship of trust with your donors, so that when they are ready to give again, they are confident your nonprofit is a viable partner that can be entrusted with their money.
Follow these five guidelines to honing your ask and see how they can help your nonprofit in your fundraising journey. Be sure to read upcoming posts in our Fundraising 101 series, and let us know if we can help you in your journey to make a lasting difference by filling out our inquiry form. We’re Wanna Pixel, technology for social good.