Five Reasons You Need to Engage Before Asking for Donations

Video Transcript:

Hi! Welcome to the latest episode of The High-Five Nonprofit Marketing Ideas. I’m Julia McDowell, Marketing Strategist for Five Ones. The High-Five is my video series of marketing strategies and tactics for nonprofits and associations. Today we’re getting into engagement—no sparkly diamonds or proposals required. 

The engagement I’m talking about is engaging with your donors or potential donors. Asking them questions, sending them interesting or important information, and generally just speaking to and with them. You need to build a relationship with your members and donors, not just ask them for things. 

Think about that one friend who only calls you when they need something. No one wants to be that person, right? Be the friend that always remembers the important events, reaches out to check in, or invites you for a cup of coffee, no strings attached. That’s the friend you want to be—and be around.

If that didn’t convince you, I’ve got five other reasons to engage with your donors before coming out with your ask.


People are drawn to things they have an emotional attachment to. And the same rule applies to associations and their causes. So, if a potential donor doesn’t have a personal reason to support your cause, give them one. Discuss how your nonprofit or association was started, talk about the early days, and why it exists. Tap other early employees or passionate donors to talk about why they support the cause and what the organization means to them. Basically, you need to build an emotional tie before you follow up with your ask. 


It’s equally as important to educate your members. Discuss where the donations you receive go, what your short and long-term goals are, events and initiatives you’re planning. Keep people informed about all of the awesome things you’re doing. It’s an easy way to make them WANT to be a part of it. 


Besides an emotional connection, you also need to form a link between your organization and its members. Keep them up to date on the goings-on by sending regular emails in a cadence they can count on. No one wants to be asked to do something out of the blue by someone they haven’t heard from in ages. So again, don’t be that friend that only communicates when they need something. Be the friend that follows up and only asks when it’s necessary.


Give recognition to members and donors for being catalysts to good outcomes, especially as it pertains to your specific cause. People love to be congratulated so if someone receives an award or similar recognition, acknowledge it either in a newsletter or personal note. If someone volunteers or helps out in some way, send a personalized note that again, acknowledges their contribution. When your beneficiary shares a story of triumph, share how that was made possible by donations. If you’re calling out the nice things they’re doing now they know they will be recognized again after donating.


When people go out of their way to do something for someone else, they want to know they actually had an impact. So, keep members informed about your organization’s successes and the difference various events and initiatives have made. Then, when you go and ask for a donation, they’ll not only get an update on how their donation helped, but also know ahead of time that it’s for a worthy cause.

All of this is summed up in the donor journey graphic behind me. It illustrates the point that you must build a connection with your potential or past donors before you get to the ask. When you have communications that speak to the step of the journey they’re on, they (and you) will find their way into the “ask” cycle. This is where they feel connected, recognized and satisfied. And when you ask, they hear the call.

It’s a fine balance, engaging and asking, but one that can be found by ensuring you plan your messaging accordingly.  Want the digital version of this graphic behind me? Go to to grab the JPG. 

Have a question? Want to “engage” with me? I sure hope you do! Drop me a note at or in the comments below, and as always thanks for joining me for today’s High-Five Nonprofit Marketing Ideas!