This guide goes into the basics of nonprofit donation requests.

Donation Request – Nonprofit Catalog

Donations are the foundation of the nonprofit industry. Without them, nonprofit organizations wouldn’t be able to reach their goals and create positive social impact. That’s why it’s crucial to have compelling donation requests.

What is a donation request?

A donation request is fairly straightforward—it’s a letter, email, or other type of message asking for a donation. When you receive a call asking you to donate to help fund animal shelters, or when you receive an email detailing how your money would help build houses for families in need, there is a donation request being made of you.

How do you make a donation request?

Making a donation request can be a daunting task. Convincing people to part with their hard-earned money can be challenging. However, doing some research ahead of time to develop a clear outreach plan can greatly improve your chances. One of the first things you should look into is who you can request donations from.

Who to request donations from

Nonprofits can request donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations.

Here are the most common groups that nonprofits request donations from:

  • Individuals. Reaching out to as many interested individuals as possible is important for a successful fundraising campaign. Donations from individuals can vary in size, but you should make sure to show your gratitude regardless.
  • Corporations. Corporate giving and corporate social responsibility are on the rise, so reach out to corporations for donations. Companies can offer workplace giving programs such as matching gifts or volunteer grants to incentivize donations from their employees.
  • Foundations. In 2021, foundations donated a total of $90.88 billion. A critical source of nonprofit funding, foundations often require applications to consider giving to a nonprofit. When you research foundations, look for those whose missions align with yours.

Each of these overarching groups is made of individuals with unique motivations and interests. For example, foundations will tend to give grants to different types of organizations based on their unique charitable mission and goals. Some corporations will be more likely to offer a matching gift program than others. Make sure that your research is robust and you have a sufficient understanding of each prospective donor group.

When to make donation requests

There are no hard and fast rules about when donation requests can be made—in fact, you can ask whenever you want. However, there are certain times during the year when donors are prepared to make larger gifts. Take the opportunity to make your request during these times:

  • Events. Make the most of your fundraising events by including a clear donation request. Ensure that your attendees know how to make a gift to your organization, whether that’s through an online page or a physical collections box.
  • Year end. It’s estimated that 30% of annual giving occurs in December, with 10% occurring in the last three days of the year. If you have a yearly goal, consider reminding donors about it sometime at the end of the year. Or, follow FundraisingIP’s suggestion and host a year-end fundraising event!
  • Giving Tuesday. This annual event is a global day of giving centered around positively transforming communities and the world. This day celebrates generosity and all donations. Take this opportunity to request monetary or in-kind donations, such as asking for supplies for your volunteer program!
  • Cause months. Every month has specific social good causes tied to them. For example, October is famously the breast cancer awareness month. If your cause has a month associated with it, ensure that you promote your nonprofit during that month and request donations.
  • After crises or urgent challenges. For example, if your nonprofit helps find loving homes for shelter animals, you could ask for donations after receiving a surprise influx of 100 new animals. Supporters will be motivated to donate to help mitigate your organization’s most pressing challenges.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to limit your donation requests to just special days like Giving Tuesday or other major event days. You can ask for donations all year round to help fund your nonprofit’s ongoing projects and programs. You know your donors the best, so make sure that you pick times when they are more likely to make gifts.

Ways to make donation requests

There are numerous ways to make donation requests. Here are a few:

  • In person. Making an ask in person is especially effective at fundraising events. Remind attendees that they can make a donation, and guide them through how your donation system works. You may also make in-person donation requests during one-on-one meetings with major donors. Since you’re asking for significant contributions from these individuals, setting up a one-on-one meeting shows that you’ve put time and thought into your request.
  • Email. Email donation requests are very simple to set up, and you can even personalize them to include the recipient’s full name. Include eye-catching graphics and information about tangible goals that the donors’ gifts will go towards.
  • Phone calls. A tried-and-true method for donation requests, phone calls are a great way to contact donors who value human connection. Consider using them to connect with demographics that might not use technological devices often, such as older adults.
  • Social media. Making a donation request through social media can help you reach a wider audience. People from all over the country (or even the globe) can easily access information about your campaign. Make sure to post on popular platforms like Facebook and Instagram, and ensure that your online donation system is easy to use and accessible.
  • Letters. A handwritten letter speaks to the effort a nonprofit is making to connect with its donors. Some donation request letter best practices include having an emotional appeal and incorporating information on how to donate.

Ensure that you are communicating with your donors outside of donor requests. If donors perceive your nonprofit as only reaching out when you want donations, they will feel that your efforts aren’t genuine, and will be less likely to make gifts. Keep your communication with donors thoughtful and focus on strengthening your connections.

Donation request best practices

Now you know the who, when, and how of donation requests. But before you make your request, make sure you keep these best practices in mind:

  • Research your donors. Not all donors are interested in the same thing. Make sure that your donation requests match the donor to increase your chances of getting a gift. Consider creating a donor segmentation cheat sheet to make sure your communications are appropriate for each donor.
  • Be genuine and transparent. Donors want to know that you’re earnest about your cause and they want to make sure that their money is being used for good. In your request, let them know how you plan to use their donations, then follow up later with updates that show you’re using their gifts how you said you would.
  • Accept rejection gracefully. Not everyone has the means or desire to donate to your organization. Make sure to accept rejection politely and thank them for their time.
  • Show your gratitude. When donors do make a gift, show them your appreciation and gratitude. Consider sending a handwritten thank you letter. Make sure that your writing is personable, specific, and grateful.

Make sure that you have robust fundraising software that fulfills your fundraising needs. The right fundraising software will make donation requests a breeze by allowing you to automatically input donors’ names and ask amounts into your requests. Plus, it can even help you attract more donations by offering a user-friendly, mobile-optimized donation process.

Additional Resources

Nonprofit Catalog – Read up on more nonprofit essentials by exploring our Nonprofit Catalog.

Writing Fundraising Letters – Interested in writing a fundraising letter? Check out Fundraising IP’s templates that you can use for inspiration.

Nonprofit Marketing – Marketing for nonprofits extends beyond simply making donation requests. Learn more from this beginner’s guide to nonprofit marketing.