Effective fundraising strategies are pivotal to the long-term sustainability of non-profit organizations. One of the pillars of a successful non-profit fundraising strategy is having a committee that masters the fundraising ask. Sometimes this is referred to as the art of the fundraising ask among development professionals, as it is indeed an art form. While the task may seem daunting at first, our tips, guide, fundraising ask script and fundraising ask letter template will help your organization build the skills towards successfully mastering the art of the fundraising ask.
Types of Fundraising Asks
Remember that asking for different donation levels and sponsorship needs may require a slightly different approach. You may be soliciting donations for:
- Major gifts
- Planned giving
- Fundraising event sponsorships
- Purchases of large ticket items – gala tables, house or vacation raffle tickets
- In-kind donations
- Corporate sponsorships
Cultivating Donors Comes Before the Ask
Donors give because they feel a personal connection to your organization or cause. They want to know that their money will make a difference and that they are appreciated. These things have to come before a gift is made – not after. That’s why the stage known as cultivating donors is so vital to a fundraising ask. If you are requesting major funding from an individual or business, be sure you have laid the groundwork by establishing a personal connection first.
Tips When Crafting Your Perfect Fundraising Ask
Here are some tips to keep in mind when crafting the ask:
- Have a relationship with your donors and prospects so that the ask can be an easily introduced without the feeling that you have only spoken to them to solicit donations.
- Try not to use the word “consider” in your ask – unless you aren’t expecting an immediate call to action.
- When possible and especially when asking for a major gift donation, conduct the ask face-to-face.
- Make every ask as personal as possible by relating to potential donors in ways that show why this particular ask is natural for them to do.
- Be specific in what you are asking for – don’t leave it to donors to determine an amount to give.
- Practice and role play with people on your board or committee.
- Show the bigger picture, than relate to how they can make an impact.
- Do not take rejections personally, everyone (including the best fundraisers) will experience “no,” and sometimes “no” can mean “not right now”.
The Fundraising Ask Script for Individuals (First-Time and Repeat Donors)
Let’s face it, asking for donations can be intimidating. You don’t want to appear nervous when talking to a prospect, but confident and proud. One way to get The Ask right is to practice and role play with your fundraising committee or development staff. It may feel unnatural, but the more you practice, the more at ease you will be when doing the actual ask. Whenever possible and especially if the ask is a big one, be sure that the person within your organization or committee who has the closest relationship to the prospective donor does the asking.
Here are the pieces to consider as part of a solicitation for donations:
- The Personal Catch-Up: Touch base with your friend or family on pleasantries, such as how their family, job or business is doing. Treat the conversation as you would normally if you were to catch-up with them over lunch or at the supermarket.
- Introducing (or Re-Introducing) Your Non-Profit Involvement: If the person you are speaking with isn’t familiar with your involvement in the non-profit organization, introduce what your role is at the organization and your own personal reasons why you’ve become involved in the cause. If they are familiar with your involvement, remind them of your reasons why you have become impassioned with the cause and your reasons for pursuing your role at the non-profit organization.
- Discuss the Importance of the Needed Resource: Whether the fundraising ask script tackles the ask for a donation, volunteer time, purchasing an event ticket or other need, discuss the project, effort or cause at hand to give context to why the cause is important. One of the important steps of the fundraising ask is to be as definitive as possible, so that they can understand the larger picture of the cause. For example, the effort for this particular year can be similar to the following:
- Raising $50,000 to support an arts and sports program for 2,500 students from five underfunded elementary schools
- Raising $100,000 to support a self-sustaining clean water program in an impoverished area of South Africa
- Thirty volunteers willing to donate their time or food to help with the Thanksgiving dinner for those in need of a hot meal for the holidays
- Add the Personal Touch to Your Involvement and Their Prospective Involvement: Explain to the potential supporter why this cause really touches your emotions and why it made you decide to support the cause. Then explain to them why you see them as an ideal person to support the cause at hand. It can be because they support similar causes, demonstrate characteristics that would be a great fit to supporting such a cause or other reasons. This part of the fundraising ask should be unique to the person being addressed, such as the following examples:
- First-Time Donors: Some examples are that they volunteer with other causes, they are personally generous and kind, they have always been supportive with your endeavors or they have always loved getting involved with causes in need.
- Repeat Donors: Remind them of what the organization was able to accomplish because of their donations. Present photos, articles or other visual items that can show how far the organization has come because of their contributions.
- Present the Ask: Whether the fundraising ask is for a ticket, a donation or their time, be direct with the ask so that it clearly allows for them to say “yes” or “no.” Avoid presenting the ask in a way that allows them to consider it later (such as “will you consider”), which leaves room for two issues:
- Disconnecting from Emotion: They are no longer emotionally connected to the ask in the conversation when they say “let me think about it,” which allows them to easily say “no” later.
- Postponing an Answer: Allowing time to think about it means that they can perpetually delay considering it and leaves for room for unnecessary follow-up that never intended to lead up to a definitive answer in the ask.
When doing the fundraising ask script, present it in a sincere, clear and direct manner, such as the following:
- Will you buy a table to our event and support our after-school program, and help the students in need of the program?
- Will you donate [given amount needed] to our cause to help support the research for Alzheimer’s? Supporting this research means a lot to me because of the way I’ve seen it affect my father.
- Will you donate [give amount needed] to help us accomplish this program that we need for this year?
The Fundraising Ask for Business Sponsorships
Understanding and articulating the ways in which prospective sponsors benefit from working with your organization is very important. This becomes the foundation for selling sponsorship opportunities. Everyone likes to help out a great cause; however, companies are looking for a win-win relationship when investing in your organization. Be sure to explain exactly how sponsoring your cause or event will provide value to the businesses you are prospecting.
So The Ask for local sponsors is similar to a personal ask, but should always focus on the benefits to the sponsoring organization. In the above step on Adding a Personal Touch, remind the small business of why their participation in the cause is a great step to further give back value to the local community. Some examples include:
- “You have always been an important part of our community, serving as a restaurant where families can come, eat and bond over your great food for over 30 years. It would be a great contribution to help build the future of those families as a sponsor of our local school’s color run.”
- “As you know, [certain type of disease] has affected our local community greatly, even affecting customers that have come to your business for years. Will you help us as a sponsor to support the research for this cause?”
Read more on how to get sponsors to support your crowdfunding event.
The Fundraising Ask Letter for Local and Corporate Sponsors
While local businesses can be reached much more easily, corporate sponsors are often accustomed to non-profit organizations reaching out to them for donations. Since corporations often allocate a certain amount of their finances towards corporate fundraising efforts, matching gifts, grants and donation programs, begin with an online search. Many times, they already have a procedure or web page in place for submitting a fundraising ask letter or inquiry. If there is just an email to inquire about donations or sponsorship, here is a fundraising ask letter template to invite a conversation to further discuss sponsorship opportunities. Remember that the goal of a letter or email is to get a face to face meeting, where you can make a personal connection.
Dear [Name of Contact Person],
I am reaching out to you on behalf of [organization name.] We are an organization that [input cause, effort or other description]. We have accomplished [list accomplishments] because of sponsors that have helped us reach our goals over the past 3 years.
This year [describe the goals for the year, the event that is being held or other projects] and we are looking for your support as a sponsor to help us.
I have attached [informative flyers, brochures, etc.] to help you see what we have been able to accomplish so far. We still have more work to do and would love to speak to you on helping us achieve these goals.
Aligning with our organization can also benefit your corporation. [Describe how here.]
We are offering the following sponsorship benefits and are also happy to discuss a custom package to meet your goals. [Now include a full list of the types of sponsorships and benefit packages that the organization is seeking.]
Let us know when we can reach you to speak more about this opportunity.
Mastering The Art of the Fundraising Ask
Remember, practice makes perfect! You can overcome your fears and create a strong ask with some practice and customization of these steps. The fundraising ask will become a more seamless effort to master with practice. Work with your committee or board members to help gain feedback on your ask and to practice or role play. Build your connection to a prospective donor before you make the ask, and be specific in what you need. Soon your ask will become more effective and help you achieve the fundraising goals for your non-profit organization.