How to Ask for Donations Over the Phone: 8 Best Strategies

By: Jay Finney

In today’s modern age, when all it takes is a few taps on a cell phone to send a text across the country or order a meal, a thoughtful phone call still has its merits. In fact, a recent study has confirmed that phone calls lead to stronger bonds than text-based interactions such as texting or email. For example, you might text a friend or family member if you need something quick from them, but give them a phone call to truly connect and catch up with each other.

For nonprofits, this means that telefundraising has the potential to not only secure significant revenue for your mission but also build meaningful donor relationships that last. However, there’s more to the art of phone fundraising than simply dialing a donor’s number and asking them to make a gift. In this guide, we’ll set your efforts up for success by exploring eight essential strategies for asking for donations over the phone.

By focusing on genuine conversations and treating your donors as more than just a potential source of funding, your nonprofit can cultivate the trust donors need to become long-term supporters of your cause.

The best phone fundraising strategies to consider when determining how to ask for donations over the phone, as discussed in more detail below.

1. Refer to why your donors give.

Many of your donors have personal reasons and motivations for contributing to your organization. For example, they might be a grateful former patient who received compassionate services at your nonprofit hospital or have a loved one affected by the issue you’ve set out to address. To make phone calls that appeal to each donor, be sure to review their engagement history and reference key details such as their:

  • Previous gift amounts
  • Past volunteer participation
  • Giving history
  • Interests

Hone in on what motivates the donor to support your nonprofit. If you’re not certain, you can ask them directly. When given the chance, your donors will be happy to share what they’re passionate about.

2. Personalize your script and case points.

Many donors have been on the receiving end of vague appeals with broad, impersonal points about how their gifts will make an impact. To encourage true, personal engagement, your nonprofit needs to develop personalized points that reinforce the connection between your donors and the outcomes they care about.

For example, you might create a scripted introduction along the lines of: “Hi [donor’s name], my name is [caller’s name], and I’m calling on behalf of [nonprofit’s name]. I hope you’re doing well! I know that you have shared your concern about [refer to donor’s feedback], and interest in our [specific program] program. Let me tell you about how we are addressing that…”

Each caller can add references to the donor’s engagement history and highlight elements of your fundraising campaign that they may be most interested in. The most effective appeal strategies take into account the unique experiences of each donor and their giving priorities. For example, if you know what programs or initiatives they care about, then you can communicate the impact their donations will have in those specific areas.

3. Partner with passionate telefundraising experts.

While your nonprofit may have staff and volunteers available to make some phone calls to donors, they may not have extensive experience or skill in building authentic connections through this voice channel. That’s why many organizations turn to dedicated experts, like the StoryCause team, who specialize in building relationships with your donors through telefundraising.

Our story guides are committed to boosting your nonprofit’s fundraising performance by:

  • Representing your nonprofit and its vision with passion and sincerity.
  • Approaching your donors as individuals with unique, meaningful stories to share.
  • Using carefully worded questions to collect direct feedback on what drives your donors to give.
  • Analyzing information from previous conversations with your donors and reviewing their giving history.

The StoryCause team has a combined 50+ years of experience serving nonprofits and has collected over 1.5 million stories for organizations like yours. Using our advanced technology, we automatically transcribe phone conversations into text, so we can gather key insights while giving our full attention to your donors.

Whether you’re looking to expand your monthly giving program, identify promising planned giving prospects, steward more mid-level donors, or more—we’re here to help.

Not sure how to ask for donations over the phone? Learn how StoryCause’s telefundraising experts can help.

4. Avoid power dialing.

Many telemarketers use power dialing, or automated dialing systems, to work through their list of phone numbers as quickly as possible. These tools automatically dial the list of numbers you input, moving from one number to the next as soon as a call is completed. However, donors will recognize the inevitable pause at the beginning of the phone call for what it is: efficiency over engagement.

Power dialing can lead to a low-engagement campaign that may impact your nonprofit’s mission and reputation. At StoryCause, we practice what we recommend—we structure our phone fundraising around engagement, keeping every call deliberately personal. It’s important to take the time to prepare for each phone call so you can make the donor on the other end feel individually valued by your nonprofit.

5. Be flexible when calling for donations.

While a call script can be a useful tool to reference when telefundraising, an over-reliance can lead to rigid and impersonal conversations. Use a few key case points as a solid framework for consistent outreach. Your priority should be unique, genuine phone calls that leave a lasting impression on your donors.

Follow these tips to practice flexibility when asking for donations over the phone:

  • Start by asking donors if they have time to speak with you.
  • Prepare answers to common questions you expect donors to ask.
  • Practice active listening by refraining from interrupting donors.
  • Paraphrase key points your donors mention.

Our StoryCause team refers to this focus on flexibility and authenticity as “white-glove service” for your donors. We trust our training and our people to “read the room,” harness the power of donor stories, and use their intuition to craft appeals that resonate with each donor’s situation.

6. Treat the prospect as the hero.

When you reach out to potential donors over the phone, it’s important to immediately establish why your nonprofit’s goals are personally relevant to them. Beyond simply summarizing your needs and what you hope to accomplish with enough funding, share exactly how each donor fits into the picture. Make them feel empowered to get involved and make the world a better place by:

  • Incorporating donor-centric language into your call script. Focus on using second-person statements, such as “With your help, we can…” and “Because of your generosity, we…” These statements will get the donor thinking about the role they can play in your mission.
  • Mentioning the impact of the donor’s previous contributions. If the donor has volunteered with your nonprofit or given before, communicate how they made an impact. For example, a caller might say, “Thanks to volunteers like you, we were able to deliver over 5,000 meal kits to families facing food insecurity in the community. Can you help us reach more families in need with a monthly gift of $25?”
  • Specifying how the donor’s gift can make a difference. Before a donor decides to sign up for your monthly giving program or make a significant contribution to your nonprofit, they want to know that you’ll put their funds to good use. You can address this upfront by sharing information such as, “A $50 gift from you will cover all veterinary expenses for one of our newly rescued raptors.”

Depending on your nonprofit’s goals and the donor’s reactions throughout the phone call, you can promote other engagement opportunities beyond donating. For instance, you could mention an upcoming event, discuss the donor’s potential eligibility for matching gifts, or invite them to join your social media community to stay up to date about all that is happening at your nonprofit.

7. Respond with empathy to your donors.

A single phone call to a donor provides opportunities for more than just fundraising. In every call, be sure to nurture the donor relationship by practicing empathy and expressing gratitude. As you create a culture of positivity and appreciation within your nonprofit, you’ll be able to:

  • Retain more donors.
  • Boost your reputation and attract new donors.
  • Increase donor engagement in a variety of activities, such as volunteering.
  • Encourage donors to give larger gifts in the future.

Since the power of donors’ stories is at the heart of everything we do at StoryCause, our experts have an in-depth understanding of how to celebrate each donor’s contributions with gratitude. Recent research has found that acts of kindness can improve social connection and well-being. By infusing every phone conversation with gratitude, we’ll put into motion a sustaining cycle of appreciation, donor well-being, and gifts secured for your nonprofit.

8. Don’t always ask for donations.

To build donor relationships that are more than purely transactional, change up your engagement strategies during phone calls. Avoid making every contact with your donor a solicitation call. In addition to expressing appreciation for their support, consider simply asking them for feedback.

For example, you could compile a list of common questions such as:

  • What inspired you to support our nonprofit?
  • What are your preferred giving methods?
  • Do you have a personal connection to our cause that you’d be willing to share?
  • How often do you want to hear updates and news from us?
  • Do you follow our nonprofit on social media? If so, on what platforms?
  • What types of content are you most interested in seeing from us?
  • Do you have any suggestions on how we can improve your experience with our nonprofit?

At StoryCause, we incorporate informational, survey, and thank-you campaigns between our appeals to keep your nonprofit-donor relationships fresh and healthy. This approach allows us to balance strong connections with your sustaining and mid-level donors while inspiring new donors to get involved.

Building Meaningful Connections Through Telefundraising

Phone fundraising can be a game-changer for your nonprofit’s goals and donor relationships—as long as you take the time to approach each donor with thoughtfulness, gratitude, and sincerity. That’s why we recommend partnering with professionals like StoryCause: experts who can develop flexible call scripts, brainstorm ways to help you overcome donor roadblocks to giving, and ensure that every phone call aligns with your vision and objectives.

We’ll focus on each individual donor’s reasons for giving, challenging ourselves to leave every person better informed and inspired than when they first answered the phone. If your nonprofit is ready to start leveling up its fundraising and donor engagement, reach out to the StoryCause team to learn how we can help!

For more actionable insights on how you can foster the donor relationships you need to amplify your impact, check out our additional resources:

Not sure how to ask for donations over the phone? Learn how StoryCause’s telefundraising experts can help.