When its time to stop asking for a donation?

In my line work helping nonprofit leaders to be effective and to raise as much money as possible I encounter lots of naysayers regarding time-honored strategies and tactics. There is both science and art to nonprofit fundraising. There are tactics that clearly have the metrics behind it to support the effort while others don’t have the science behind it but it just seems right. And often your efforts include a bit of both. Why is this important?

In every part of our life we encounter a series of decisions that rest on past experience and sometimes you need to go with your gut because there is no past experience or it’s not 100% clear what is best. Fundraising is no different.

No one ever raised more money by asking less.

In particular, when it comes to fundraising gut instincts very often get in the way of reality. Some fundraisers get cold feet after receiving a series of complaints or comments from people close to them. People have a tendency to manage to the exceptions. This is not the way to go.

If you stop asking for money two things will happen.

Number one: People won’t give. Its that simple. When they aren’t asked they stop giving. Certainly there are exceptions but generally speaking you will  raise less net money when you reduce the frequency or intensity of asking.

Number two: People will begin to forget about your organization and perhaps even think you no longer need support. And the most likely scenario is that people will begin giving to other organizations that are asking for support.

My recommendation is to never stop asking for funds. What I do recommend is segmenting your donor database and personalize the communication based on the giving history of each individual. For instance, if someone is a monthly recurring donor you can minimize, but not stop, some of the ongoing solicitations. Or if someone just gave a donation perhaps you can suppress, or soften the next ask in the next communication. But if someone has not given in a long time or not at all there is no reason to stop asking.

Its a proven fact that the most likely donor is the most recent donor. This plays out in every test I have donor and the results of others. The bottomline is this: ask frequently, never stop asking, but personalize the solicitations and communication based on the donors history and interests.

In conclusion, although I am saying to never stop asking I don’t want to give the wrong impression….  just asking for money is not the point. While you are asking for money you MUST share your vision, tell your story, and draw your supporter in to something bigger than themselves. No one wants to be relentlessly asked for money yet receive no gratitude, no report on how the money is spent, and no idea what the impact is of that support.



Author: Eric Streiff

Eric is a senior-level marketing executive with expertise in all facets of for-profit and nonprofit management, strategic planning, marketing, fundraising, and leading cross-functional teams facing complex marketing, management and fundraising challenges.