Asking for Donations: A Guide for Your Non-profit Cause


Asking people for money is hard. For most of our lives, we've been told that it's incredibly rude. However, if you work for a non-profit, your organization runs on the kindness of strangers, also known as the donation pool. Without donations, non-profits fail and cannot do the deeds they set out to do. Donations are the backbone that keeps the lights on and keep all of your causes funded.


But, there is still that ever present and nagging question. How can you elicit donations from individuals and organizations? There is a proper etiquette that dictates how best to do this., but what are the boundaries without seeming that you are simply being rude or begging for money?


While these can be tricky waters to navigate, there are a few avenues to look at when it comes to getting donations for your non-profit..

The Basics

The basic thing that you need to know about non-profits is that they operate almost solely on donations. Whether you're holding an event and collecting fees at the door or you receive a large check from a private company, these are all donations that will be reported and given to other organizations or causes. Very little money stays within the organization and is mostly used for basic supplies and paying the small staff that works for them permanently (most labor in non-profit organizations is exclusively volunteer). 


There are a few ways in which people elicit donations. Three of the most common are asking in person for donations, crowdfunding, and holding events. These are specific etiquette rules and reasons behind why companies choose to use one method over another. If you're beginning your own non-profit or just beginning to work for one, it is important that you understand the basics of each.

Where Do You Look For Donations?

It might seem tricky to navigate who you should look toward to get foundations. The biggest source of donations for a non-profit is individual donors. Nearly three-fourths of all contributions to non-profits come from individual donors who are drawn to the cause and mission. 


The next source you should explore for donations is corporations. Corporations often have their own existing social responsibility initiatives. They often have a specified type of non-profit they can donate to or they have a cap on the amount of money they can give to each individual non-profit. However, they are also more likely to give out donations as it benefits them the most. 


Foundations can also be a good source for funding for your non-profit. Foundations are other charitable organizations that can issue grants to a non-profit organization based on their mission, size, and where they are located. Sometimes, these grants are simply awarded as they are asked for and, other times, foundations have applications where the grants can be applied for. 


While it might seem hard to talk to everyone about giving you money, it becomes more and more natural as you do donations. Often, having a script helps.

Asking In Person

Asking in person for donations is one of the most common ways to gain donors. However, it is often not the most convenient and cannot be used for every donation. Asking in person for donations is usually done in one of the following scenarios:


- You have received a large donation from this person or company in the past. Large donors often appreciate seeing a face to go with their donation and knowing where their money has been used. 


- Potential donors who you have already spoken to. This is a great way to follow up with donors who have said they intend to donate in the future or who have the potential to make a larger donation.


- Local businesses. Asking for donations in person from local businesses is always a good first step. It is often beneficial for local businesses to work with local non-profits. By developing a face-to-face relationship with them, you develop the potential to more or larger donations in the future.


- Large corporations. If a large corporation has a headquarters nearby, asking for donations in person is often better to develop a relationship with the owners and company. Corporations receive unsolicited requests for donations all the time. By showing up in person, you increase the likelihood that the company will consider your request or get you in touch with someone who will be able to further assist you.


These meetings are normally more extended than an e-mail and can better help you to lay out the mission of your organization and the particular projects that the funding will go toward.


Crowdsourcing donations is a new and popular thing to do. If you have a specific needs for funds, you can set up many sites that will allow individuals to donate. It often reaches people that your cause otherwise would have not contacted. Sites like GoFundMe, Indiegogo, and Kickstarter are used by major companies. Each site has its own format that attracts different donors to the platform.


Each of these platforms works better for different foundations types. Some have incentives for donors and other platforms can just operate without this incentive. These platforms help your campaign to reach new people and donors through their unique marketing and funds are deposited directly in your business' account.

Holding an Event

Holding events can be done in one of two fashions. The first thing that you may do can be to hold the event in conjunction with a business or other venue. This way of holding events can be less profitable for your cause because the company or venue will want a certain percentage of the proceeds, usually in exchange for allowing you to use the space. This, however, means you can name the price of admission to the event, as well as ask for donations to your business.


Other non-profits have the ability to hold events on their own. For instance, a symphony orchestra has their own event space they can use to raise funds. This means that all proceeds immediately go directly to your cause. 


If you are planning an event, it is important to think about what kind of following your organization has and what option will be most beneficial to you and allow your organization the largest opportunity for donation. 


Non-profit organizations operate mostly based on the generosity of strangers. While the first few times you ask for donations can be nervewracking, it becomes immensely easier if you know your options for fundraising No matter which direction you choose to go with, understanding how important these potential donations are to your company's future is essential. Whether you're a crowdsourcing person or someone who wants to meet with donors in person, choosing the best donation technique for you will automatically make your work more successful.