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.

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!