Asking for Personal Donations Is Easy

by Joan Garry

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We’ve all seen it.

That glow in the eyes of a young child who comes home from school over the moon about raising money for something at school….

“We’re sending money to a school in X to help them buy books!”

“We just found out that Carlos has Type 1 Diabetes – we learned all about it and we are going to sell wrapping paper as a fundraiser”

After filling you in on ALL the details, those bright eyed kids enthusiastically ask you to contribute — and they don’t stop there…

They go next door, they FaceTime Grandpa, they might even recruit an ambassador or two to help champion their cause. There is zero hesitation when it comes to the asking (or the giving, right?) — it’s pure of heart and you find yourself drawn in, wanting to be part of that excitement of contributing to their cause…

Well, we sure do have a way of stomping that excitement out of people by the time they grow up, don’t we?

I mean, I see it all the time with grownups who serve on nonprofit boards. It’s no secret that the nonprofit sector has some serious money hangups — especially when it comes to asking for it. Ask them to describe how they feel about asking for personal donations, and you can bet that at least ONE person will say, “terrified.”

Really? Maybe we need to put quotes around the word “grownup”.

Let’s get back to thinking like that bright-eyed 10 year old we all once were. Asking for personal donations for your org can still be just as exciting and easy. In fact, I can give you 10 reasons why — and as a bonus, I’ll write them as if I am a 10 year old (and I often think there is one trapped inside me so it works out well).



Spoken like a 10 year old with color commentary from someone who is not actually 10.

  1. It’s really simple.
    All you have to do is explain the “why” and then just ask.
  2. It’s exciting to think I can fix something big by doing something so easy.
    It can feel overwhelming to think about how you might cure a disease – I mean, I am not a researcher – but raising whatever money you can helps at least a little.
  3. It makes me happy to help.
    Just makes me feel good knowing that I am helping.
  4. I don’t have to persuade anyone.
    I ask someone and explain my “why” and then the person gets to decide. I hope they say yes but I can’t control that. I’ll just ask someone else.
  5. It takes no time at all.
    It takes only as long as it takes to say, “Will you join me?
  6. When someone says yes, my eyes get really big and I feel really good.
    You would think it might matter if they only donate a little but it doesn’t. I feel the same way no matter what they give.
  7. When someone says yes, THEY seem really happy.
    Some people have even thanked me for giving them a chance to be a part of what we are doing. That’s amazing! Giving money to a cause makes a person feel good!
  8. We all become part of a team of people working together.
    It feels really nice for everyone, knowing that we are working together for something important.
  9. I really like that I can educate people about a problem.
    Sometimes when I am explaining my “why,” I can see that people didn’t really understand the problem before I told them about it. Now they know and want to help fix it!”
  10. I think I waste my money buying stupid things and I think lots of people do.
    When I think about how much money people spend on fancy coffee, I like knowing that I can give them a better idea for how to spend their money and it can really make a difference.

OK, so I am not naïve and I know that grownups have a complex relationship with money — way more complex than most 10 year olds.

But maybe it really doesn’t have to be so complicated. Maybe grownups complicate things (my kids tell me this often).


Here’s a thought. Take 15 mins out at your next board meeting during the development committee’s report to talk about this post. Maybe send it out as a pre-read.

Some folks will feel I am oversimplifying; others will identify objections to the premise. And for some, it will strike a chord.

There are no wrong reactions.

The real goal here is to get the wheels turning and offer an alternative view to what far too many of us see as the “terrifying” act of asking for personal donations. Maybe it will help someone at your org overcome their fundraising anxiety or help your team come up with some out-of-the-box fundraising ideas.