Fundraising and Finance
A Guide to Asking for Donations
March 7, 2019
Running a campaign is a huge task that can’t be completed alone.
An effective campaign requires a lot of help from both volunteers and donors, but a lot of people feel uncomfortable asking for donations. Though it may be uncomfortable for some to ask for money it is necessary for any successful campaign.
There is nothing wrong with asking the people who support you to contribute to your campaign’s success!
But, where do you start? How do you ask someone for money?
Here is a simple overview of how to prepare for and make “the ask.” Follow these steps and start your campaign on the track to success!
Prepare the Ask
The First Ask
Before you jump on the phone or hit the pavement, it’s important to figure out what you’ll say and how you’ll say it.
Get someone you trust like a family member or a friend and record yourself asking for $50 on either a phone or laptop camera. Don’t prepare. Just see what comes naturally. after you’re done, ask for feedback. If you’re uncomfortable or don’t know what to say, remember this will get easier with practice!
Consider Your Attitude
Make sure to consider your attitude when you ask for donations.
If you aren’t comfortable asking for donations – don’t worry. Most people aren’t when they first start out. But, money is necessary for any campaign. Without money, there would be no way to communicate with your supporters and without communication, there’s no campaign!
Make sure you’re confident to ask for contributions and can convey that confidence to others.
Think about it.
If people don’t think you’re confident in your campaign, then why would they be inclined to support you? You need to make sure other people see how much you care about your campaign.
Consider Your Credibility and Viability
How and why will you win your campaign?
As a candidate asking for donations, you need to be able to distinguish yourself from others. Consider what makes you the right person for the job and what are the circumstances that will contribute to your success.
Perhaps this is your professional experience or community involvement. Maybe there is an incumbent stepping down.
Everyone’s credibility and viability is different, take a moment to consider yours. Make sure you are comfortable and able to convey this to your donors.
Review and Practice Your Ask
Watch the recording of your initial ask and take notes on your attitude, confidence, and whether you use lots of filler words like “um” or “like.”
Consider whether you effectively communicate your message or if there are elements of your ask that need improvement. This may feel uncomfortable at first, but this is the process to figure out what works best for you. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect!
Asking for donations is all about practice, repetition, and time. You’ve got this!
Make the Ask
Now that you’ve practiced and figured out what you want to say and how you’ll say it, it’s time to try it! These steps can be applied to any type of ask (in-person, email, phone call, etc.). Remember: you’re ready for this.
Ready. Set. Ask.
1. The Greeting
This is more than just saying “hello”.
When you greet a possible donor, it’s important to establish a connection.
This could be a shared interest, mutual friend, or common ideology. Remember, building relationships is about asking questions and listening. Be sure to avoid talking at the potential donor.
No one wants to listen to a politician extensively talk about themselves! Find a connection, and then listen.
2. Pivot to Your Credibility and Viability –
This takes some intuition and practice.
During your conversation, find an opportunity to shift the discussion to how and why you’re going to win your race. Keep it short and sweet, but make sure to engage them and convey why this race is important.
3. Close the Deal
You’ve done all the prep. It’s time to make the actual ask.
Don’t lose your confidence, ask for what you need!
Be specific about how much you want and why you need it. Provide tangible uses for the money, like buying radio time for an ad. People are more inclined to give money if they know what it’s being used for.
Give them a deadline for when you need their donation. Make it clear why you need the money by a certain date.
Above all else, create a sense of urgency and a sense of purpose.
For example, you may ask a supporter for $200 before Friday so that you can buy radio time for next week. A request like this is specific, provides a tangible use for the money, and the short time frame encourages them to contribute now.
4. Be Quiet
This one is difficult, but once you make the ask you need to stop talking and wait for an answer.
We’re serious. Do not say ANYTHING.
Silence is awkward. No one likes it. Make them break the silence and tell you yes or no.
If they say yes – Awesome! Record their information and contribution amount and be sure to thank them for their generosity.
If they are unsure – Negotiate. If they aren’t sure about the amount you asked for, ask for a smaller amount (but still be specific). If you asked for $200 before Friday, ask for $100 now and maybe $100 next week. If they’re still unsure ask what they’re willing to give. Then be quiet again and let them respond.
If they say no – That’s okay! Not every call will go perfectly, but make sure to thank them for their time. A “no” is just letting you know where to spend your time and energy.
5. Thank Donors –
It’s important people who contribute to your campaign know how much you appreciate their support.
Make sure to send follow up thank you notes or emails to those who donate. This will help the donors feel appreciated and encourage them to contribute again!
6. Record and Track Responses
This is important for both your financial records and so you don’t make the mistake of contacting the same people over and over again.
Go Raise Money!
Now that you have an idea about how to ask for donations it’s time to try it out yourself!
For more information on “Making the Ask,” be sure to check out the NDTC’s online training that goes into more detail about campaign fundraising and asking for donations here. Remember, running a campaign isn’t a one-person job!
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