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Two quick and easy ways to improve your fundraising ask

Nonprofit Fundraising
Baby whale jumping over mother whale

There’s a lot of pressure when it comes to writing a fundraising ask.

You have to say the right words, tell the right story, give the right evidence, etc, etc.

It can be daunting.

And I’ve seen many people paralyzed by the pressure.

“Should I say it this way? Does this make sense? Do you think this will work? Maybe I should do more research…”

Well, to help relieve some of this pressure and keep you from getting stuck, here are two quick and easy ways to improve your fundraising ask.

Give them something they can see

Let’s try a quick exercise…

Close your eyes and try to picture yourself doing each of these things…

  1. Saving the whales
  2. Supporting the arts
  3. Ending poverty

How did that go?

Were you able to clearly see yourself doing these things? Or did you find yourself wondering exactly what it meant?

What exactly were you doing when you were saving the whales?

What did you see when you were supporting the arts?

How exactly were you ending poverty?

It’s not easy to visualize these things, is it? In fact, the more you think about it, the more confusing and frustrating it can become.

Now try to picture yourself doing these things…

  1. Sign this petition to end the cruel captivity of whales.
  2. Ensure your family can enjoy the Nutcracker next season.
  3. Keep her in school by contributing to her scholarship fund.

Were these things easier to see?

If so, then that means they are much more likely to get you to take action.

This is important.

When people imagine themselves taking a specific action they assess how it makes them feel.

Your job is to give them something concrete they can imagine doing.

And make sure the emotion connected to this action is one that drives action.

In other words, you want them to feel high arousal emotions such as happiness, anger, or disgust.

You don’t want them to feel sad or content. Those emotions won’t encourage them to take action.

Make sure your appeal gives your readers something tangible, something concrete they can picture.

The more clearly they can see themselves doing these things the more emotion they will feel.

Telling people their money will support the arts or contribute to the end of poverty is extremely vague.

No one really knows what that means so no one can really picture it happening.

As a result, they are not emotionally engaged and are less likely to take action.

Engage their emotions by give them something they can see.

CLICK HERE to learn how to tell Emotional Nonprofit Stories!

Establish urgency

I see this missing from a lot of nonprofit fundraising asks.

Nonprofits focus a lot on the “problem” which can be effective at engaging emotion and showing need.

But without urgency, people can decide they’ll take action, they’re just going to do it later.

This is bad. Really bad.

Deciding to do it later let’s them off the hook. They think they’ll still do it, so they’re not saying “no” to your need.

They feel good about themselves because they are going to do something.

But most of them will never actually get around to taking action.

Their emotions will shift and it will no longer seem as important. Or they’ll just completely forget about you.

You need to make sure that you establish urgency in your fundraising ask.

Make sure they understand they need to act now. Not later, not anytime it’s convenient, and definitely not at their leisure. Now!

When done well your fundraising ask will arouse the emotions of your audience and it will establish urgency so that people understand they need to take immediate action while their emotions are high.

So how do you create urgency in an ask?

Does your campaign have a deadline? If so, let them know they need to act now before time runs out.

Is there a specific person who needs help now? Good. Tell their story in the ask and let your audience know they need to act now before it’s too late to help them.

Do you have a matching donor lined up?  Great! Let them know they need to act now in order to secure the match funding.

Don’t let them think for a second it’s okay to do this later.

They need to act now, while they’re thinking about it, and while they’re emotionally invested in your story.


There are likely other ways to improve your fundraising ask, but these two tips are easy to implement and won’t take a lot of time to apply.  

Make sure you have these covered in every fundraising ask.

  1. Give them something they can see themselves doing
  2. Establish urgency

Keep doing good work,


3 comments… add one
  • Thanks Jeremy, at first I was highly indignant because no matter what I tried-well, it all failed. That’s TREMENDOUSLY discouraging. But all of a sudden just when I thought I had tried it all a new thought came to me. I’ll keep you clued.

    • Jeremy

      Please do keep me posted, Bertie. This job can be thankless and frustrating, but don’t give up. Keep learning and keep applying what you learn.

  • This is useful as I am launching a fundraising for tree planting and scholarstic materials.

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