Ask For What Your Donor Wants, Not For What Your Organization Wants

What does your donor want

Here’s successful fundraising in a nutshell.

Don’t ask your donor to do what you want her to do,


Ask her to do what she wants to do.

Big difference.

Let me pull this apart for a moment…

“Asking your donor to do what you want her to do” is done with your organization in mind. It’s how you think about the action of your donor.

Here’s what this looks like:

“Will you please support us?”
“Join with us as we…”
“Will you partner with us?”
“Will you help us continue this good work?”

Notice who is primary in each example pulled from my files? The organization. They talk about the organization, first and foremost. Is the donor involved? Of course.

But it’s mostly about the organization. The organization doing its work.  

Make Your Ask About Your Donor

“Asking her to do what she wants to do” is done with your donor in mind. It’s talking to your donor about what she cares about in the way she thinks about it.

(Note that’s different than the way your organization thinks about it. This is why fundraising is so hard.)

Here’s what “asking your donor to do what she wants to do” looks like:

“Will you send X to one person today?”
“Will you make a difference for one person today?”
“Will you provide one person with an X?”

Notice that the organization isn’t even mentioned? Those examples are all about the donor, the beneficiary, what the donor’s gift will accomplish.

The next time you’re asking your donor to make a donation, don’t ask her to do what you want her to do. Don’t ask her to make a donation or to partner with your organization.

That’s about you. That’s about your organization.

Instead, tap into her story. She loves to help people and causes she loves.

So ask her to help a person!

It’s simple to understand, but hard to do; you’ll raise more money if you ask her to do something she already wants to do.


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

One comment on “Ask For What Your Donor Wants, Not For What Your Organization Wants

  1. This is so good it is like chocolate. You pulled this apart wonderfully. Slowly I am getting it. You are right when you say that it is easy to hear, but it is much harder to do. It is especially tricky when your organization is over 60 years old and in all that time has raised money by telling others what we believe God has directed us to do.

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