Not a week goes by for me without getting asked “how can we do a better job of fundraising?”

Fundraising is a complex and multi-faceted beast capable of chewing up and spitting out the most prepared and experienced organizations, but there is one thing that I have found that works pretty well

No, it has nothing to do with the technology that you are using or the number of staff you have in your fundraising department.

It also has nothing to do with the amount you are asking for or if you ask for the donation over the phone or in person (although I do recommend asking for a donation in person!)

It has to do with how you FRAME the ask, and that is because…


People dont like being asked for money

Think about that for a second. It’s true, right?

If I asked you for 100 bucks right now, you would more than likely tell me no, even if I said it was for a good cause. This is especially true if you are meeting me for the first time and don’t know me.

Now think about this: You are on Facebook and you see a post from a local nonprofit you have never seen before. The post says “we are in desperate need of funds to help school children in our community buy books and school supplies.” Bank details follow. Maybe there are some pictures of kids playing as well.

Would you donate to this nonprofit? I am willing to bet that you would not. Even though the post says what the need is, there are a few things that may give you pause:

  1. You have never seen this organization before and you don’t know if they are trustworthy (even though they may have an NPO number.)
  2. The message lacks finesse. This is my first interaction with this nonprofit and they are already trying to get to my wallet! I, as a human being, have more to offer than the money the nonprofit assumes I have.
  3. It sounds really desperate. Yes, the urgency is important in messaging but not to the point where it sounds like your donation is what will keep the organization afloat. Campaigns that can gain 30% of their goal within the first week are more likely to succeed, showing that people are less likely to donate to a campaign if they know it has little support.

If you have ever posted one of these posts on social media, I would ask how many donations you got from people who had never seen your organization before. I would guess that the number would be close to zero.

Please note that I am not saying that you should NEVER ask for a monetary donation. What I AM saying is that that should never be the first thing you ask someone who has never interacted with you before.

So how can you make social media work for you and still be a way to work toward donated funds? By switching your message in those posts to:


We would like to invite you to make a difference

That sounds way less brutish than “can we have some money,” doesn’t it? Part of that comes from the fact that you are subliminally no longer asking for one thing (money.)

There are a few reasons this message is less intimidating:

  1. It’s no longer just about money. They can donate funds if they would like or they have options like volunteering, donating items or even simply sharing a post with those they think would be interested in donating.
  2. There are more options open to interacting. It invites interactions like signing up for more information and showing social support with a Like. The interaction is more open versus the yes or no feeling of “money please.”
  3. People inherently want to make a difference and like to feel needed. If someone comes to you because they want your opinion, that feels good. It shows that they respect you and care about you. That same thing applies here.

So, how would we rewrite that above post to get away from “give us money” to “we would love your support?” I would suggest the following:

“X Nonprofit (NPO number) is currently in the middle of our fall book drive! During this annual drive, we collect school supplies, books and other school materials to give students who cant afford them the access they need to do well in school. We invite you to show your support in any way you can, either by donating extra school supplies, making a tax-deductible donation, giving your time by starting a donation box in a local business or church, or by simply spreading the word about our drive! All support is welcome and deeply appreciated! Find out how you can help by heading over to our website for a complete list of drop-off points, bank details and other ways to get involved!”



It is really important to remember that donations of time (volunteers) and in-kind items (donated items) can be just as valuable, if not more valuable, than financial donations. In the US, it is estimated that the average value of volunteer time is equal to $24.14 per hour. Imagine if you had a small army of volunteers out there volunteering 10 hours per week for you!

Remember that I am not saying that you should NEVER ask for a monetary donation. What I AM saying is that that should never be the first thing you ask someone who has never interacted with you before.

If you switch from an abrasive appeal for a quick buck to an invitation to make a difference however you can, you can bet that you will get more interest in your organization, more support, and more long-term engagement with those individuals. People just want to feel needed, after all!

Build Your Donor List, No Matter Where You Are In The Process

Brandon Reed

Founder at Reed Community Consulting and NPO.lib

Brandon helps people help other people. He has over 10 years experience working with small and medium-sized nonprofits in two countries in many different sectors. He has worked at all levels of organization from entry-level service delivery up to the executive director and board president. This experience affords him insight for whole level management of an organization, which he transfers to his clients. In his free time, he likes to play volleyball and spend time gardening with his wife and dog.

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