4 ways to improve your fundraising ask

Excerpted from my new book, The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand: Motivating Donors to Give, Give Happily, and Keep on Giving.

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  1. Have credentials and show them. If you qualify for badges from watchdogs like the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, or other local or niche groups — show them! Make their logos visible. It doesn’t matter what you or I might think of the usefulness or completeness of such ratings. Donors look for these things, so bite the bullet and put them out there. Watchdogs aren’t the only source of credentials that can help donors trust you. Other types include endorsements from respected celebrities, endorsements from other organizations, and ratings or reviews from trusted publications or sites.
  2. Let donors speak for you. People trust other people more than they trust you. Many donors look for social proof — word from real people — that a charity is what it says it is. Give your donors a voice in your fundraising. This is easiest to do online, but even in noninteractive media, you can have donors talking, sharing their good experiences and why they give.
  3. Be open about your finances and governance. Freely sharing information says a lot to donors about your trustworthiness. Make it easy for them to see your financial statement, annual report, and IRS 990 forms. Post them, and publicize where they can be found. Better yet, go beyond just posting general financial information. Make it clear to donors how you intend to spend the money they send you. What’s the cost breakdown of this offer? Why is it so cheap (or expensive)? How much goes to overhead? Show them with pie charts to make it easy. The fact that you share the information is the important thing. Don’t be discouraged if “nobody reads it.” For many donors, probably most, the availability is more important than what it actually says.
  4. Ignore your lawyers. If you must have disclaimers, write them in plain English, not in the obfuscatory jargon of lawyers. Legalese is inherently hostile and feels untrustworthy. Don’t cover your butt at the cost of coming across as evil.

The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand is available at:


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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