Asking for Money at an Event

One of the things that never fails to surprise me at least a little bit is when someone comes up to me at a fundraising event where I have stood on the stage in front of them and asked for money and thanks me for how I handled the appeal.

I mean who would ever think that people would thank you for asking them for money? But when you stop to think it through it actually makes sense.

So many people have spent long evenings at fundraising events, often poorly run. They have experience. (Be sure and look at our videos and materials on how to do a great fundraising event.) Even at well-produced events, it’s common for the person who does the appeal, or “makes the ask”, to just be confusing and vague.

Will Donors Thank You for Asking them for Money? A Nonprofit Resource by DonorFarm

Most often it’s because the person doing the presentation is uncomfortable and not sure how to go about it, then they stumble along and everyone in the room gets uncomfortable. It really does not lead to great results!

So here are a few things to remember when it’s time to do the appeal at a fundraising event.

First of all just come to terms with the fact that a fundraising event has one actual purpose, to raise money. Everyone there knows that the purpose of the event is to raise money (unless you didn’t really do your planning and promotion right). So make it easy for them to just give money and maybe they will actually appreciate it! Here is what I like to do:

If everyone in the room knows the answers to those three questions they are pretty much ready to write a check.

Remember Your Giving Checklist - DonorFarm

Item One

Remember you have to make sure they know why they are going to give. We talk about this all of the time on DonorFarm because it’s foundational to pretty much everything else related to nurturing donor relationships. Here are the three main things everyone has to understand:

  1. What is the problem you are working to address?
  2. What are you doing to address it effectively?
  3. How is my giving tonight going to help you do it better, faster, or more of it?
  4. If everyone in the room knows the answers to those three questions they are pretty much ready to write a check.

Item Two

Have some mechanism for them to make a donation. I like to use a simple giving card. It has a place for their contact info, a two sentence summary of what’s going to be done with their donation, and some suggested giving amounts so they know the ballpark for the size of their donation. It should have a way to give by credit card, maybe a way to say they can get their employer to match their donation or a way to let you know they want to give a gift of appreciated stock or something else that requires further interaction.

Keep it simple and walk them through it verbally. It’s not that they can’t figure it out, but just simply and smoothly walking them through the card gives them time to process the idea of making a good donation and it will increase the amount given. Resist the temptation to just say “Here is a giving card, fill it out and turn it in whenever you like.” That’s easier, but you won’t raise much money.

Item Three

Make sure they know what to do with the card at the end of the evening. We almost never suggest they take it home and think about it. It’s far better the ask them to turn it in before they leave. And not just drop it in a basket or something, but have them hand it to one of the people who work for the organization, or to you, the person who did the appeal. That way they have confidence that you acknowledge their donation and are taking personal care of it.

What Motivates People to Give?

We have all had it happen, you’re walking down the street and someone comes up to you and asks you for money. There are a million stories, some of them genuine and some made-up scams.

Regardless of the truth of the story, if you give someone a couple of dollars on a street corner it probably isn’t going to change their life. At best it’s a kind gesture on your part.

This represents a certain kind of giving, we call it “benevolence”. 

  1. It’s usually a one-time thing. 
  2. It rarely makes a lot of difference to the giver or the recipient.
  3. You can expect it to be quickly forgotten. 

None of that makes it a bad thing to do, benevolent giving is something we should all probably find was to do. But it isn’t what you’re looking for. There are two types of giving, benevolent giving is one but the far more important one to you is what we call “investment giving”. 

What Motivates People to Give?

Investment giving has a different set of characteristics.

  1. Investment, by nature, demands a return. Something specific happens because of it.
  2. Investment demands value. The result has to matter or have actual worth.
  3. Investment produces something that lasts.

Most often when people think of investment they are thinking of financial accounts that grow over time, and the return is an ever growing amount of money to provide for your future.

We all get that and we should probably all do more of it. When people participate in “investment giving” they are placing funding in the hands of an organization that they believe is going to use that money to accomplish something specific that they believe needs to be accomplished.

What Motivates Donors to Give? A Nonprofit Resource by DonorFarm

If I believe in saving the baby whales then I am going to quickly realize that on my own I can’t really do much that makes a difference. But if I can find an organization that is doing a great job accomplishing this cause that I care so much about, and then I put money in their hands so that they can do more of it, do it faster, or do it better, I am actually making a financial investment and anticipating a return that is saved baby whales! 

Maybe you should give some deep thought to what kind of giving you are motivating when you talk to potential donors. When people give to you are they really understanding what problem you’re solving, how you do it effectively, and how you will do it better if they help to fund your work? If you can legitimately say that yes, your donors understand all of that and are motivated to give then they are investing.

Otherwise, your donors are probably just being polite, being nice, and giving you a little something just out of the goodness of their hearts. In other words, they are making small donations they don’t really care about instead of larger investments because they are passionate about your cause.

DonorFarm has all sorts of great materials and ideas that will help you to make the best possible presentations to current and potential donors. Keep watching videos, listening to podcasts, and reading blogs to learn more and more about how to grow and nurture great donor relationships!

Effective Events Donors Will Love!

One day we were talking to the founder of a great organization who was telling us how they needed help making their donor events great. He went on to tell us how every year the organization would ask him to bring groups of his friends to their annual fund raising event, but he was always hesitant to do it. His reason was that he was actually embarrassed by the events because they were so poorly done.

Be sure and grasp what was going on here. You couldn’t find a person who was more “bought in” to what the organization was doing. He was the founder and the whole thing was birthed out of his own vision and passion!

Help Your Best Donors Bring Their Friends to Events — A Nonprofit Resource by DonorFarm

He had invested unknown quantities of his own money to make it happen and had watched over the work for years. But he was embarrassed, not by the work or how it’s done, but by how poorly the donor events were produced.

So he hired us, we created a fabulous event, and the organization started taking giant steps forward with the backing of a whole new crop of generous funders. 

It’s not easy, but…

It’s not easy, but it’s kind of simple. Here are some keys to doing a great, effective donor event that the people who attend will actually love:

First Key

Think about the donors who you want to have there. Wow, so many organizations totally mess up on this one. I hear them say things like, “OUR DONORS don’t like nice dinners, they want us to spend our money on programs, not events.” And so they have events that are failures and that nobody likes going to and they can’t figure out why.

Maybe because they need to come to terms with the truth of this fact: NOBODY likes going to poorly done events at tacky places. If you want to get your wealthiest donors to bring their wealthiest friends then maybe you should think about having it at a place they might actually enjoy being at.

Second Key

Make sure you have a great presentation. And by great, I mean one that doesn’t drag on longer than people want to listen. Here is a rule of thumb, nobody should be talking for more than about ten minutes about the work of the organization.

Oh, I understand that you have a lot more than that to say, but this isn’t your chance to tell all that you know. Just make sure you get across these three things in as few words as possible:

  • What is the problem your organization is there to solve?
  • What is the solution that you provide?
  • How is the donor’s next donation going to make a difference?

Remember that some things can be communicated verbally. Some can be communicated through great, short pieces of video. Some things can be reinforced by brief messages on a screen through a powerpoint presentation that just rolls during dinner. Some things can be stated on a very brief print piece at each place setting. Use all of these things, and others, to get your message across without making your guests wish you would bring it to a close.

Third Key

Remember that you have competition. I know, I know, non-profit organizations aren’t here to compete with one another, they are here to solve problems and help people. Great. The point is that there are a lot of great organizations out there doing a lot of great work and donors have to make some choices. They are only going to attend a certain number of events. They are only going to write a certain number of checks. Be sure and do things right and maybe your organization will be one that they choose.

Team DonorFarm!
Jessica Ching & Marshall Pennell, Founders of DonorFarm

There is so much to producing a great event for your donors, and here at DonorFarm we will keep presenting material that will help you. The main thing is to be ready to make some changes. Reject the idea that is so common among non-profit leaders, the idea that “I do events right and present my message in the best way, there is something wrong with all of those people who just won’t attend or give!”

Do something that donors will love, present your work in a way that makes sense, ask for funding in a way that is compelling and simple, and you’re going to see some good results. And keep coming back to DonorFarm to learn more about growing and nurturing great donor relationships!

When Should I Focus on Fundraising?

It happens over and over again in our work with organizations far and wide. Leaders of non-profit organizations come to us with the great idea that if they could do one great fundraising event every year, they could raise all of the money they need for their operations. Then they could forget about fundraising for the rest of the year. Brilliant!

No. Not brilliant. I mean in a way who wouldn’t want to take one major, often difficult process and make it into a task that you can complete once a year and go on with life? The problem is that fundraising, done properly, doesn’t work that way.

The focus of DonorFarm is growing and nurturing DONOR RELATIONSHIPS, not just raising money. And donor relationships don’t work that way.

When is the Best Time to Focus on Fundraising? A Nonprofit Resource by DonorFarm

What we have often told the clients who hire us for our consulting services is that the funders of your organization are not some faucet you go to when you need something, and then walk away until you need something again. It’s more of a pipeline that has to constantly be flowing. It’s a process.

If you want people to continue to give, and to give as an investment and not just some small bit of benevolence (look up our stuff on investment giving) then you need to really invest in relationships.

Then when people come to events they are ready to bring friends with them, give generously, and be excited about your accomplishments because you’ve allowed them to really be a part of it with you. So how do you accomplish that?

When Is the Right Time to Fundraise? Always!

Here are some steps:

  • Report back to your donors. Make sure they are aware of what is going on now, what has been accomplished recently, and what is happening next.
  • Give them ways of connecting your activities with their past giving. It’s as simple as acknowledging that, “you know, we couldn’t have done any of this without you and others like you who get what we are doing and are driving us forward!” Say the words, “Thank You!”
  • Don’t always ask for money. Raising money isn’t always just asking for money. It’s investing in relationships. Nurturing interest and good will by making sure that your funders know that their investment in your work has brought a great return in the lives of the people you are reaching.

So when should you focus on fundraising? Always. All of the time.

Raising money is not an interruption in your work, it’s the lifeblood of your work. Your donors aren’t just bystanders who are looking for who to give some money too, they are caring individuals who want to give to the right things that will bring results that they care about!

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to learn and experience as you go through life with your organization’s donors.

DonorFarm is full of tidbits that you can use to make your work better, keep on enjoying the process and keep on coming back to learn more about growing and nurturing donor relationships!

How Do You Find New Donors?

One of the big questions that we are asked by almost every non-profit leader we work with gets right to the heart of things. Everybody is looking for the best ways to find new donors. Technically we call it “Donor Acquisition” but what it really should be called is “the life blood of every organization”! 

Like almost everything in life, donors have a life cycle. I don’t mean how long they actually live, but there is usually a limit to how long they are going to maintain an interest in a given organization and give to them. All kinds of things we do can have the potential to lengthen that donor life span, that is called “donor retention”.

Interestingly enough, if we are good at doing the things that help retain current donors we are also going to be doing the most important things to help acquire great new donors. Let me explain.

How Do You Find New Donors? - DonorFarm

The Next Great Donor

One of the great old guys who I worked with years ago, a guy named Alan, used to talk about the next great donor and he would always say, “They’re right under your nose.” What he meant is that you probably already know your next great donor and they just aren’t giving that way yet. Or maybe you know one of their best friends and you just haven’t been introduced yet.

Either way, Alan’s point was that we should all be paying closer attention to the relationships we already have, how to nurture them better, and how to get our current donors so energized that they are eager to introduce their friends to our work. It’s organic and it’s simple but it does require a specific process. Here is what we recommend:

  1. Make a list of your top current donors.
  2. Make a list of the most interesting / exciting achievements of your work in the past year.
  3. Make a plan for how to make sure your top donors know what you’ve been achieving.

So what’s the point in that you might ask? It’s this. Those people who are your top donors started giving to you because they noticed something good about your work, or at least they were convinced of the potential your work had to do great things. So they gave money to enable you to not only “keep up the good work” but to actually go out and accomplish more!

Since the day they first made that decision their lives have kept going and although it hurts to admit it, you and your work might not have been the main thing they think about every day. What I’m saying is that even your best donors need a reminder of why you’re still an important part of their philanthropic investment! 

Find New Donors for Your Organization’s Work — A Nonprofit Resource by DonorFarm

Put Your List to Action

Take that list of your top donors, use that list of your most current outstanding accomplishments, and start making phone calls. Write emails. Better yet buy some hot cups of coffee and look them in the eye one at a time and give them a report. Get them reenergized and enthused about your work.

OK, so all of that and I still haven’t talked about how to find those important new donors. But maybe you get the point. People love to tell their friends about the great things they’ve discovered, restaurants, hiking trails, websites, you name it. Be one of those great things and then all you have to do is create ways to make it easy for them to tell their friends. A nice dinner they can bring some people to. A program that showcases your work.

What it depends on who you are and what you do, but if you make your top donors proud and give them a classy way to share YOU with their friends they will do it.

The final caveat, remember it better be nice. If you get them to invite your friends to something and then they are embarrassed about the quality of what they brought their friends to you’ll never get them to do anything for you ever again.

I have good news! There are more insights here on DonorFarm that will guide you to how to put on a great event that donors will love, and will be happy to bring their friends to. And lots more great tips and techniques! So search through what we have and keep coming back to see what is new, and let DonorFarm be your resource for growing and nurturing donor relationships!