Asking for a donation generally requires careful planning, developing personal relationships, making specific requests and engaging donors. During the planning stage, successful student fundraisers identify past, likely and potential supporters and prepare a quick but compelling way to introduce the donation opportunity and explain why donations matter. For example, “We are raising $200,000 to provide nearly 500 inner-city school children free hot lunches throughout the school year. Studies show children who eat a well-balanced lunch perform better in school.” Methods for forging relationships, making specific requests and sustaining donor engagement depend on whether students are raising funds for charitable donations or corporate sponsorships, in person or online.

Charitable Donations

Successful student fundraisers acquire charitable donations by building relationships with prospective donors. Host free events, provide volunteer opportunities and share human interest stories or personal anecdotes. Explain exactly how much money is being raised and how the money will be used, ask for specific amounts, inquire about employer-matching gift programs and follow up later to tell donors how the money benefited others. Sending personalized thank-you notes and quarterly updates help affirm and renew donor engagement.

Corporate Sponsorship

Think creatively about what to ask for and accept from prospective sponsors, including cash, in-kind donations and volunteer support. Establish professional relationships with businesses, making a formal request on letterhead and provide clear explanations of who will benefit and how. Include a comprehensive list of the recognition and rewards provided to sponsors. In your correspondence, include a pledge form with a list of suggested donation amounts, an invitation to subscribe to mailing lists and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to make responding easy. Call prospective sponsors who do not respond within 10 days.

Online Donations

Network through crowdfunding sites like Crowdrise, FundRazr and Indiegogo with other social media like Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. Use compelling captions, strong images, and bright colors coupled with a “donate now” button. Mobile apps boost online fundraising by offering donation forms that work on smartphones. Suggested giving levels may lead many people to donate larger amounts than they might otherwise if they are left to make their own, unaided decision. Simplified donation forms eliminate distractions by removing top navigation, search tools, side bar navigation, program ads and event promotions. An email opt-in for ongoing communication nourishes opportunities for future support.

How to Ask For and Handle Donations of Various Sizes

Pursue more generous donations with engaging questions like: “What do you think are the biggest challenges we will face in this area?” Listen, affirm, and ask for a specific amount. For example, “Absolutely. That is why I wanted to ask you for a donation. Would you consider a gift of $X?” Offer the opportunity to pay in installments to lessen the intimidation associated with requesting larger donations, or add, “Honestly, I have no idea how much to ask you for, but is $X something you would be able to consider?” Most donors will either comply, counter with an amount they can give, or offer to help in another way.