The Secret to Making an Irresistible Ask

Customization is key. I think this is a maxim any successful fundraiser understands and upholds. Oftentimes, however, organizations don’t personalize the donor experience until after the donation. Handwritten cards, personalized videos, tokens of appreciation—fundraisers are consistently looking to reinvent how to say “thank you.”

Don’t get me wrong—these follow-up practices are important. But what about before the donation? Chronologically, that is when customization is vital; it allows the prospect to feel completely comfortable and confident as they approach the decision to donate.

Regardless of target donation size, fundraising requires acute attention to detail and skilled stewardship. While a fundraiser may treat a major donor to a meal or invite them to a nice event, each donor relationship—whether on or offline—should be handled with unique care and consideration. This is where customization comes into play.

To reference a classic Justin Timberlake song, remember this: “What goes around comes around.” Investing time into building deeper donor relationships by customizing the experience demonstrates to prospects that you care for them in the same way they should care about supporting your nonprofit.


But the question still remains: How do you customize the ask?

Revamp Your Donor Portals

Too often, online donor portals are dull and devoid of any sort of personalization. It turns the donation process into an emotionless transaction, possibly deterring future contributions.

To this problem, customization is a solution. At the top of the Chronicle’s Philanthropy 400, United Way Worldwide accomplishes this by allowing donors to choose which region they want their gift to directly support. Paired with a vibrant color scheme and sharp graphics, United Way’s page is simple yet inspiring.


Devote time towards designing a donor portal that allows benefactors to feel connected. You can post testimonials from recent patrons, or, if the individual has given in the past, allow them to track their past gifts and see their direct impact in a personal portal. Above all, ensure that your giving page is simple and engaging.

Collectively, these small changes can revolutionize the donor experience for the better.

Ask for Feedback

Fundraising is an interpersonal field. As a steward, it’s important to understand the ever-changing needs of your nonprofit to keep it thriving—the very reasons that donations are necessary. At the same time, it can be beneficial to ask prospects and donors how they envision the future of the organization and how they want their potential gift to make an impact.

Start with these questions:

      • What do you like about our current initiatives (both specifically with fundraising and for the overall organization)?
      • How do you want to see our organization grow and improve?
      • Is there anything you feel we should do differently?

Not only will you gain valuable insight and various perspectives on potential new ways to advance your nonprofit, but asking for feedback can also strengthen the relationship between your organization and its constituents. People love knowing that their opinions are valued and appreciated, plus giving donors a say in your organization’s future can spark continued involvement. With the donor happy and your nonprofit progressing, you’ve created a cycle of success.

Get #Connected

We live in an age dominated by social media. It’s how we make connections, stay updated, and keep in touch with our network of friends and family. Whether you’re pro- or anti- social media, it is an undeniably powerful tool in the fundraising world—specifically when it comes to customizing the ask.

Utilize the wealth of information on sites like Twitter and Facebook to get to know your donors before asking for contributions. It’s as simple as looking at what posts they have liked or what they’ve been posting about recently. From a favorite sports team to content they’ve “liked” on your organization’s page, such information can help jumpstart meaningful conversations.

By understanding donors’ interests and passions, fundraisers can better personalize conversations and therefore get individuals involved in ways that personally matter to them.


In sum, stewardship can go a long way. In the nonprofit fundraising world, you can maintain this by personalizing individual donor experiences from the outset—by customizing your appeal. By forming a collaborative community between donors and fundraisers, a beautiful cycle of support and success is born.

Again, what goes around comes around. JT understands it, and you can too.

Watch this episode of EverTrue TV to learn more about making a better ask!

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