How to Ask Donors for a Gift: 4 Powerfully Authentic Scripts

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By Amy Eisenstein

One of the most terrifying moments for most fundraisers (staff members and volunteers) is asking for a gift. And yet, every fundraiser must request specific gifts if they are going to raise significant amounts of funding.

Sometimes simply finding the right language for the right situation makes everything flow together.

Before you ask for money, ask for information. In other words, if you don’t have the answers to a few of these critical questions, you’re not yet ready to ask for a gift:

  • Why did you give to our organization in the first place?
  • What motivates you to continue to give and/or volunteer?
  • Is the future of this organization important to you and if so, why?

In other words, do your homework!

Here are a few more questions to ask your donors BEFORE asking for a gift.

Honesty is the Best Policy

When engaging with a current or prospective donor, honesty is always the best policy.

Don’t hide the fact that you’re raising money. It’s never a good idea to “surprise” the donor or catch them off guard. Let them know you’d like to have a conversation about the needs of the organization and ways they might help.

Don’t worry that they won’t meet with you. If they don’t want to meet, it’s unlikely they’ll give. Better to find that out up front, before you have a meeting and waste everyone’s time.

If you’re nervous, it’s okay to share that with your donor. They can probably feel your anxiety and simply acknowledging the awkwardness of the situation will defuse it.

For example, you might say:

I’m out of my comfort zone here, but XYZ organization and its mission are really important to me.

Honesty really is the best policy. Authenticity will help you built a rapport with your donors, and that’s key to building lasting relationships.

4 Scripts for Asking Donors where Authenticity Shines

Here are four common challenges fundraisers face with specific examples of what you might say for each to express yourself honestly and authentically.

1. Asking Permission to Ask

It’s always a good idea to ask a donor for permission before you ask them for a gift. It shows a great deal of respect. Here are two ways you might do that:

Would it be okay if I shared some of our needs?

Are you interested in learning about ways you might help?

2. Not Sure How Much to Request

It’s always best to have an exact amount in mind before you ask. But if for whatever reason you’re not sure how much money to request, here are two honest ways you can make that clear to your donor:

I have no idea how much to ask you for, so I’m simply going to share some of our most pressing needs. Would that be okay?

And using more specific details related to your cause:

As we’ve discussed, there’s a waiting list for our after-school program. For each additional teacher we hire, we can take 30 kids off the waiting list. We’re looking for people to sponsor a teacher… or part of a teacher’s salary, which costs $30,000. Is that something you could consider?

3. If You Hate Asking

Believe it or not, a lot of people in the nonprofit sector hate asking donors for gifts. If you count yourself among them, a healthy dose of honesty goes a long way:

As you know, we’re here because our organization has a big vision for the future. But it’s expensive to [educate children, clean the environment, shelter animals, provide for the needy, care for the sick, etc.].

And I’ll admit, I didn’t get into this line of work because I love asking for money. What I really love is [helping children, etc.] and I believe you do too. That’s why I’m here today — to ask you to consider a gift of $10,000 to support our work. Is that something you would consider?

4. Asking a Friend

A friend who might support your cause is an obvious potential donor. But how do you ask a friend for a gift? Try the following approach:

I’m here wearing two hats today. I’m going to take off my friend hat and put on my nonprofit fundraiser hat. And no matter what you decide, it won’t affect our friendship.

I care a lot about XYZ charity and I want to share my excitement about it with you. I also want to provide you with an opportunity to feel as amazing as I do when I support such important work.

And if your friend isn’t responsive to your ask:

It’s okay if this opportunity isn’t right for you. But maybe you could point me in the direction of someone who might be a better fit. And I’d be delighted if you would help spread the word about our good work.

It’s that simple.

How to Respond to the Donor’s Reply

Regardless of which of the above scenarios fits your circumstances, at some point you’re going to find yourself waiting for the donor to respond to your request. It’s helpful to know in advance how you’ll respond to your donor’s decision.

In other words, what will you do if the donor says yes, no or maybe?

Lucky for you, I’ve got an entire video post dedicated to that topic. Take a look at this post:

After Asking for a Major Gift: How to Respond to Yes, No, and Maybe »

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