2.1 How to ask donors for money
The vast majority of people become donors only when they are asked. People are turned into donors by being provided with suitable opportunities to contribute. As a fundraiser, it is your request and your approach that lay the foundations for each individual donor relationship. It is your subsequent actions that will sustain – or otherwise – the nature and amount of any further donations and support from that donor.
There is no such thing as a common donor motivation that organisations can simply tap into. Altruism, enlightened self-interest, nostalgia or indignation may come into it. The ‘ask’ can take a whole variety of forms – a phone call reminder about a subscription, a letter seeking a one-off donation, a text message, an email, or simply a collecting tin sitting on a shop counter.
It is the fundraiser’s action in ‘making the ask’ that triggers, creates and shapes the donor relationship. The information that fundraisers have about their donors, and the sorts of communication they then develop with them, determine the ways and the extent to which donors continue to give their support.
Imagine you are working as a fundraiser: the whole asking–giving relationship is often formed and developed at a distance. That distance means that your work with donors and supporters can be difficult. To be effective you must be able to relate to each and every donor and supporter as a unique individual, while managing your work with them as a whole.
You must be able to construct forms of communication with donors that are both mass produced and personalised. You must provide opportunities for donors to become more committed without pestering them or implying that they have not done enough. These considerations all involve some sensitive balancing acts, as well as an awareness of the ethical context.
‘Making the ask’ is a phrase that is often used to describe this vital feature of fundraising work. Your work may involve all sorts of activities, but the success and effectiveness in securing resources and support will be very limited if fundraisers do not, in the midst of everything else, actually ‘make the ask’.