The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

How to Approach Your Old and New Donors

Now you’re ready to start asking. There are two groups for you to ask from: those who already know you and those who don’t.

Those Who Know You
Those who know you are probably already enthralled with what you’re doing. Ask them for money! Especially the board members. Major donor and foundations may well ask what percent of the board is giving to the project. Note: not how much the board is giving, but how many of the board are giving. 100% board participation is the goal. If the whole board isn’t giving, it’ll probably jeopardize your fundraising effectiveness.


  1. Make a list of all those that know about your initiative.
  2. Run them through a quick CPI screening, more to determine whether you want to ask them for a certain amount or simply for a “participation gift.”
  3. Ask them.
  4. Be sure to show them how their gift is changing the world.

Those Who Don’t Know You
Because this group is so big, it would be very easy to get unfocused. Always follow up every solicitation with something like “Do you know other people that may be interested in learning about what we’re doing?” You may yield names from such a simple question.

Here is a plan for asking for gifts from people you don’t know, in this case corporations:

  1. Make a list of people and companies. Start with ones that you suspect have capacity, are philanthropic, and/or interested. As you pursue these leads, you may become aware of companies or people that just seem to be overwhelmingly generous. They may be worth adding to your list.
  2. Since these will be mostly cold calls, do a quick check of the website to get:
    • An overall feel for how this company communicates (Is it formal and traditional or cutting edge and informal?)
    • What their mission statement or values are
    • The name of the VP of Marketing (you may have to call for this) Always go to the Marketing Department first. Even if the company is progressive enough to have a charitable office, marketing will always have the bigger budget.
    • The company’s email protocol (firstname_lastname? firstinitiallastname? etc.) This could help you break through the gatekeepers and communicate with the VP directly.
  3. Making the ask.
    • Based on your quick survey, determine what level or naming opportunity you intend to ask them for. You may only have 30-60 seconds to make the ask. Make it specific. How will this help the company or individual? How will it help your nonprofit?
    • Explain who you represent, why you’re calling (what leads you to believe it may interest them), and what you’re asking for as quickly and succinctly. They don’t have time for normal calls let alone cold calls!

This may sound simple.and it should. But it’ll take lots of work to get it done. I hope you see how this simple process can be morphed to fit approaching individuals and foundations. If you’re asking foundations, be sure to follow their specific format for asking. Those guidelines are usually available on their websites.

Remember, every year more than $200 billion is given to nonprofits in the US alone. Your nonprofit could definitely get a piece of those philanthropic dollars. But you need a realistic goal, a compelling story, and a disciplined approach to fundraising.

Congratulations you’re embarking on a wonderful adventure! I’m convinced asking people for money is one of the best vocations in the world!

Source: Marc. A Pitman of


Resource made available in part due to the support of the Surdna FoundationSurdna Foundation


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About This Blog

Amanda Khoury
Marketing Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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