The Three Most Important Elements to Donor Ask Language

Dec 12, 2019Donor Ask Language, Donors, Fundraising, Fundraising Success, Leadership, Nonprofits, Philanthropy, Relationships

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The Three Most Important Elements to Donor Ask Language

There are three important elements to any donor ask language.

While at a conference session early in my fundraising career, the presenter spouted off words to use to ask someone for a gift.

Thank goodness, hands went up as everyone wanted to hear that again. It was golden!

The words rolled off the presenter’s tongue so easily. It was beautifully said. I would have given money to almost anyone who asked the way he did.

These words gave me a track to run on.

Donor Ask Language for a Group or One-on-One

As year-end approaches, you are having events and making calls to donors who have not made a gift this year. These individuals have been engaged with your organization this past year.

Read more here How to Secure Year-End Gifts.

Maybe you are comfortable with asking for support. But maybe an example of ask language would help inspire you.

I want to share that “ask” language with you so you can use it over the phone or in-person to a group.

Here is an example of how a nonprofit might engage donors at an event and ask for their support.

Again, consider this language with a group or one-on-one.

A Scenario for Donor Ask Language

Let’s say your nonprofit offers a well-attended open house, breakfast, or another event for current and potential donors to learn more about your organization.

In fact, in this scenario you greatly exceed your attendance goal. To top it off, those major donor prospects, who you and your board made special efforts to invite, arrive with their friends.

Happily, the board chair welcomes guests as they arrive. Other board members are sprinkled throughout the room making an effort to engage and welcome people, especially those with the ability to make a large gift.

Guest mingle, chat with their peers, meet students or beneficiaries from your programs. They enjoy getting a tour — a sneak peek at the new facility, new space, an enhanced program, for example.

There is energy in the room.

At this point, guests are eager to hear more about the impact of your work. They’re curious.

After a short time, guests gather or are seated to hear brief remarks.

The board chair officially welcomes guests. At some point, the executive director addresses the audience. She shares the problem being solved, evidence of successes, and introduces an individual who has benefited from a program.

Let’s use this example — the executive director introduces to the podium a woman whose life has changed because of a program or service offered by your organization.

The room stands quiet as the woman tearfully but poised tells her story. You see, she was without hope. And now she has the tools, resources, and influencers to make something of her life.

The executive director closes by stating what would have happened if this woman did not receive help. There are more people like her. She asks the audience to consider a gift of support.

Donor Ask Language to Use

Her words are something like this:

Last year, Mary’s world came crashing down. Recommended by a friend, Mary found us.

Because of your gifts, Mary has the help she needs to get back on her feet.

Without help, Mary and countless others are on the street, living a life of hardship, and not getting the care they desperately need.

Your generosity allows those in need to go through the ABC program.

Thank you! We are truly thankful for your support.

Will you help us continue this important work with people like Mary by supporting the ABC program?

Whether it is $100, $1,000 or $10,000, you can make a difference with your dollars.

For instance, with every $10,000 given, 12 more people complete the individualized rehabilitation program and go on to lead a happy and productive life.

It does take time. But with your help, Mary and others can wake up each morning in a safe place and with the help they need to rewrite their story.

Please consider a gift today.

That’s an example in a group setting. However, your language can be the same if you are talking with someone one-on-one.

Let’s take a closer look.

Three Main Elements to Every Donor Ask Language

#1 – State What you are Asking People to Support.

In this scenario, we are asking people to support the ABC program.

#2 – Be Specific in your ask amount.

Here, we are suggesting $100, $1,000, or $10,000. If you are making a one-on-one ask, be specific with one amount. For example, say $10,000 if that is your ask amount.

#3 – Describe the Transformation from the benefit of their gift.

Let people know what life will look like when a person completes the program. Share what life was like before. Then share what life is like now. A testimonial is the best way to share a transformation.

In this scenario, the complete ask sentence would be:

Would you consider a gift of $10,000 to the ABC program so 12 people can receive individualized rehabilitation and go on to lead happy and productive lives?

Consider using this as a guide.

Read more here about How to Clarify Your Message.


My goal as a fundraising coach is to make sure you are successful!

You can secure those outstanding year-end major gifts.

Start by knowing what you want to say when asking someone for a gift. Your words should flow easily and naturally.

Always include these three points in your ask to donors.


Do you use these three elements in all of your asks to donors?

Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at nancy@nancyrieves.com.


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