Help me with charity fundraising
January 22, 2013 6:00 PM   Subscribe

Short version: what are the best practices when asking for charity donations?

Long version: I volunteer at several organizations, and light fundraising is an expected part of our duties. (Generally, this means requests for things like auction donations.) Unfortunately, I'm really shy at talking on the phone, and ten years of selling Girl Scout cookies hasn't cured my hesitation at asking strangers for money (or gift certificates, or movies, etc., not bigger ticket items.) I recognize that local businesses deal with these requests all the time, and we do provide tax deductions for the value of the item, along with promotion of their name/logo on our press materials. Have you done a lot of charity work? Have you worked at a company that has handled a lot of charity donation requests? Is there a good script I can/should follow for a better and more efficient conversation? Specific information that I should know to provide upfront? Any suggestions welcome. Thank you!
posted by jetlagaddict to Work & Money (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've been a board member for a few non-profits and have gotten some training on fundraising. One of the things to remember about asking for money is that if you feel your cause is worth your time you should absolutely feel ok about asking others to support it. And people genuinely like to support groups who do work they value. Case in point - yesterday I was lucky enough to hear Morris Dees - the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center - speak. The guy sitting next to me said quite proudly that he had been donating to them for years. I was happy to say to him that I had too - we felt pride and ownership in supporting their work.

I'm not sure if it's easier to ask people you know or strangers for donations but generally the script is something like this: hi I'm leslie and I'm a volunteer with My Wonderful Org. We're having our annual auction/shindig/run and we're soliciting donations to help us keep providing X to the community. We know that your bakery/bar/t-shirt store has wonderful thingies and wondered if you'd donate to our event. [keep it simple, to the point and friendly. It's easier of course if the list you're calling has been pre-selected in some way]

One caveat/derail to this - I'm a visual artist and like all artists I get constantly asked to donate my work to fundraising auctions. This is a bum deal for artists because US tax law (lazily assuming you're in the US) only permits artists to donate the cost of their materials. So if your organization wants artist participation I'd urge you to either solicit a donation of time - consulting/critiquing or the like OR a split of proceeds with the artist. /derail.

If you really hate doing this and it makes you squirm remember that you value the organization and what they do - or just tell them you're not the person to do that task!
posted by leslies at 6:39 PM on January 22, 2013

I've raised money for my alma maters, the Junior League, Team in Training, a bunch of charity balls, several hospitals. And I'll tell you flat - I hate making those calls.

Here is how I make myself do it. First, I write a letter to introduce the charity and send some of our introductory materials. I also say that I will call or stop by on a specific date. Now, I've committed. It doesn't matter that no one reads those letters. I wrote it. I signed it. I'm going to call you.

That's what gets me past the shyness of it all.
posted by 26.2 at 7:09 PM on January 22, 2013

I'm surprised that the organizations you're with haven't given any guidance. They should. Ask if you can observe a staff member asking for donations or if they can give you a template.

As you said, it's great to have a script to go by. It should include an elevator speech about the organization and what they do. The script should also include a description of what the donation will be used for and why that's important. Finally be sure to mention benefits to the donor (publicity? a plaque? name in the newsletter? tax deduction).

I'll 2nd leslies about asking artists for donations unless your organization directly benefits artists or the artist has some personal connection to your organization.
posted by entropyiswinning at 7:37 PM on January 22, 2013

2nding everything said above. Also, consider doing anything possible to avoid cold calls. So, ask around and see if your friend who has a business can donate something and her friend and that person's friend and so on. You want to have some kind of connection no matter how tenuous.
posted by fieldtrip at 8:08 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have raised a couple million for charity and I love making those calls. Preferably, asking someone to donate an item and write a letter on your behalf to other members of her/his network with a way to get in touch with you will save a huge amount of time.

Here is a script:

Hi, my name is X and I am from Y charity. We work in your community and I wanted to reach out to you and tell you about who we are. (Tell them who your organisation is and then what you do.)

I am collecting donations for an auction we are having on Z day. The goal of the auction is to raise A large amount of money for B cause.

Companies that have donated already are C, D, E, F, and G and some of the great items include H, I, J and K and the items are going to only be available for a bid that night. Maybe you want to see our auction catalog and buy a ticket for the night?

If you donate an item you will be able to attend free of charge (is that true?)

Would you like me to send more information about the auction and then I can follow up with you? (Follow up to ask for what they can give and be prepared with a variety of options).


I know we are a new charity for you. We are right down the street. Do you think you would have time to come over and see what's going on?


If you can get the prospect to come in, you can close the sale in person. You have to be sure to follow up. Good luck. MeMail me if you need more ideas.
posted by parmanparman at 12:11 PM on January 23, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you again for all of your help! No, as this is a sort of specialty group within a bigger group, and because the raffles are relatively low-key, we don't get special training. I'm going to try to pair with a longer-term board member next time to see how they handle calls. These were all very helpful, and I hope I'll have more success soon.
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:18 PM on February 22, 2013

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