How to ask for donations and level up your fundraising!

Have a great idea for a neighborhood project but nervous about how to ask for donations? Join the club!

The first-time crowdfunding club, that is.

Since 2008, we’ve supported nearly 2,000 local leaders as they’ve crowdfunded to make positive change right where they live. Did all of these people turn out to be successful grassroots fundraisers? Yes! Did they all love fundraising and know how to ask for donations when they started out? Heck, no!

Few of us wake up each morning excited to pound the pavement for cash. But once you learn a few basics about how to ask for donations—and after you practice a few times—we can all but guarantee that the process will get easier, seem more natural, and even feel gratifying. Read on for some of our best tips!

How to ask for donations

How to ask for donations

1. You need to ask for donations

Sounds obvious, right? But it’s at the top of the list for a reason. Over the years, we’ve found the number one myth people believe about crowdfunding is that you can just put up a campaign page and watch the money roll in. As great as that sounds, we can promise you it doesn’t happen that way.

Your campaign page is a great tool to have in your fundraising arsenal—but it’s not going to ask for donations from your friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, church group, or classmates. That’s where you come in.

2) Ask in person, by phone, and by personal email—in that order

Our decade of crowdfunding experience has produced great data about this point. In general, we’ve seen that about 50 percent of face-to-face asks result in a donation. That’s far and away the winner, followed by 25 percent of asks by phone, and only 5 percent of asks via personal email. (The stats for email blasts and social media posts? They’re even worse!)

How to ask for donations in person? Fortunately, these conversations can be casual and friendly. When someone you know asks how you’ve been doing, you can say you’re working on a project in your neighborhood and are raising some money for it. Would they consider chipping in $20 (or $50, or $5, as you see fit) to help? Read more from five ioby Rainmakers (ioby Leaders who have successfully crowdfunded large-budget projects) about how personal asks helped them win the day, and check out the video below to see how to craft a compelling story about your project.

3) Be specific! What exactly will your project entail? Where will donors’ money go?

Before they’ll even think about opening their wallets, potential donors need to know your 5 Ws: what your project is, why you want to do it, who it will involve, and when and where it will happen. Make sure you address all these points when seeking support.

When you’re planning out how to ask for donations, it’s also important to make sure people know how the money they give will be spent. If you’re raising funds for a community garden, it’s easy to say that $10 will buy a leaf rake; $150 will buy a compost tumbler; etc. But even less “concrete” projects offer ways to quantify. The leaders behind Memphis’s Hampline bike and pedestrian trail raised close to $70,000 from more than 700 people. They had calculated that a $55 gift would pay for one foot of the new trail, and stressed this in their asks.

The Cleveland Refugee Bike Project.

4) Show–don’t just tell

When you’re considering how to ask for donations, remember the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. Think of how many nonprofit campaigns you’ve seen that feature beautiful natural vistas, or cute kids. Most of the time, seeing makes for believing.

This means that in addition to crafting an ask that clearly spells out the purpose of your project and where the money you’re raising will go, you should think about how you can “show” potential donors the impact of your work. Can you invite them to your project site? Can they meet your community? If nothing else, be sure to make images of your project—photos and/or videos—an integral part of your ask, so donors can visualize why it’s important.

5) If you believe deeply in the work, others will, too

As ioby’s Community and Growth Manager Dana J. Schneider recently wrote for our blog, “When you ask for money, you’re giving people an opportunity to participate in something meaningful. You are invested in your changemaking project, and you’re focused enough to commit significant—and valuable—time to it. It is a gift to ask others in your community to be a part of it with you, and share a role in the project. That’s why it’s very important that you lead with what has been most impactful for you about being a part of the work, and share your enthusiasm authentically.”

How to ask for donations can be a matter of attitude as well as substance. If you’re excited about what you’re doing, the good vibes will come through—and they’re contagious! The campaign page for this community holiday play in Pittsburgh sounds super psyched: “We are excited about our upcoming production entitled ‘The Guardians,’ which will be performed at The New Hazlett Theater on December 18! … The North Side community, and many from surrounding communities, looks forward to this event every year!” Imagine how pumped this project’s leaders must have sounded in person—and then notice that they handily reached their $2,500 goal.

If you’re ready to start raising money for a project on your block but aren’t sure how to ask for donations, talk to us! We can walk you through the steps and get you up and running quickly.

More resources about how to ask for donations: