Reframing the Ask - Supercharge Your Fundraising

By Nicholas Longtin | July 2021

Graphic about new ideas - how to rethink fundraising.

I work with many development directors and staff in the development departments of nonprofits. Many of our wonderful nonprofit clients engage with us to produce online fundraising events, integrate donation systems and support fundraising efforts through their online presence. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Shawna Nelsen-Wills, advancement director for Emma Norton Services, to pick her brain about how organizations can approach fundraising.

Under Shawna’s direction Emma Norton has grown their mission considerably and had stellar success with fundraising. Keep reading to learn more about how reframing the ask can help your organization supercharge fundraising.

Approaching The Ask Differently

Almost all nonprofits conduct direct fundraising efforts which require them to explicitly ask individuals and companies for money. While many nonprofits are great at this and employ effective strategies to court different audiences it can be uncomfortable for some staff, especially team members who are not in the development department or don’t have a lot of experience in fundraising.

A shift in mindset and approach can be useful to overcome hesitation and to empower more staff members to contribute to this critical fundraising work. One approach I really like is framing the ask as an “investment” and not simply a donation. Essentially that’s what nonprofits are asking, for donors to invest in their mission. This approach seems especially effective for nonprofits that deal with housing, education, food security, healthcare and other missions that directly affect people in major life changing ways.

Most people want to live in a community that is prosperous and has a robust economy of highly skilled workers. Asking to “invest” in your collective communities education can be more persuasive than simply soliciting donations for an education based nonprofit.

A scene from a powerful fundraising video showing the organization's impact in their community.

During their virtual event College Success Foundation featured a powerful video showing exactly how their work is benefiting the community by putting more students through college and skilled workers on the front lines of the pandemic. 

Involving Your Entire Team

Another great piece of insight Shawna offered our webinar viewers was leveraging more of your organization's staff in fundraising. The concept that everyone in an organization should be fundraising, not just staff in the development department, can make a huge impact in your fundraising efforts. Again, framing the request as more of an investment and less of a donation can help with spreading your fundraising efforts throughout the organization.

Most likely your entire team is invested in the organization's mission and passionate about achieving the goals your nonprofit has set out. Many times just some simple tools and extra motivation is all that’s needed to turn more of your staff into fundraising rockstars. Equip everyone in the organization with the same tools the development department has found effective, and encourage the team to leverage their own networks and contact to bring more donors on board.

Make It Tangible

Another great way to improve fundraising is to create a real tangible connection between the dollars donated and the impact it has. Simply asking for donations in any amount or using a thermometer based indication of fundraising needs is not always the most effective approach. I have seen many clients leverage specific donation levels along with what those dollars will be used for to great effect.

This approach also showcases how well your organization can deliver services to those in need and make donors feel much more connected to the work you do. Many people feel better about giving knowing the exact impact those dollars have, and how far their money can go to do good in the world.

A fund a need example where donations are shown with what impact they will have.

In the footer of  Emma Norton Services website is a donation area showcasing exactly what donor's funds can go to and the impact donations have. 


My Conversation With Shawna

Here is part of my conversation with Shawna which goes into more depth about how she has approached online fundraising and the ask. If you find her insights useful I highly recommend you register for free to watch the entire webinar and see the rest of our great fundraising tips.


Topics: Nonprofit Help