The A-Z of Submitting a Donation Request
Because donations are a large part of many organization’s revenue streams, asking for them is a part of operating a nonprofit. Fortunately, many companies and organizations actually have web pages or forms specifically for the purpose of allowing nonprofits to ask for donations. The key is to state your case the right way and make sure the company has all of the information it needs to make a decision about offering a donation.
In this article, we will cover:
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How to Make a Donation Request
Donation requests come in many forms. Sometimes you just email the company, other times a form is required, and another alternative is mailing a donation letter.
No matter which way you decide to go about it, there are a series of steps organizations can follow to make a donation request. The first of which is always the same: you have to find the company.
Compile a List of Organizations
To make your life easier in the steps ahead, it is good to have a premade list of organizations you will reach out to. You can do this in two ways:
Searching for donation request companies outside-in means you are first finding any companies that accept requests, and then whittling the list down to the ones you think you have the best shot with, who fit the most into your values, or that you have connections with personally.
Trish is ready to get up to speed on donation requests!
Searching for donation request opportunities inside out means finding companies that have your values, that you like, or that you have the best chance with, and then determining whether or not each one accepts donation requests.
Pro Tip: By choosing organizations that you are aligned with in terms of values, the chances of your request being accepted are increased since your campaign will likely resonate with them.
Whatever your method you will want to compile as big a list as you, or a volunteer, can handle. Only have a few hours to divert? Collect fifteen companies. Got a free couple of days? Try a hundred!
Once you have your list, it is time to start the process of requesting a donation. There are a few steps to take in order to do it in an effective manner.
Read Their Donation Request Policies
You will want to start by reading the donation request policies for each company. Certain companies have restrictions on which organizations can ask for donations, what information needs to be included, timelines for donation, and the process for acceptance and issuance.
Read the policies carefully. Ignoring them and then accidentally breaking them is a surefire way for the company’s team to remember your organization’s name, and not necessarily in the way you want. In addition, it is a misuse of time and resources if the stated rules indicate that your organization does not qualify.
Special Donation Letters
Note the timeline for donations for each company. If there are none, you can keep them on your current list. Some companies only accept donation requests at certain times, like the end of the year. In these cases, you will have to send an end-of-the-year donation letter.
Some companies will offer special holiday-time donation request seasons. Filing a holiday appeal letter can be hugely impactful for your organization, since these are times when more companies are willing to give more money to more nonprofits.
Pro Tip: Corporate budgets often operate on a "use it or lose it" policy i.e., any budget that is not utilized by the end of the year often gets cut from the following year’s budget. Because of this, companies are incented to find a use for any end-of-year monies that are not already allocated. The fact that these funds can be dispersed through charitable actions helps to drive corporate generosity at year-end.
If you are applying for a donation during these times, we highly suggest you check out some holiday appeal fundraising samples in order to see some specific tips.
Finally, there are in-kind donation letters. These are very similar to standard donation requests, but instead of requesting money, they request products or services instead (or, as it were, "in-kind").
Once you have read the policies and ensured that you qualify for asking for a donation and can supply all the necessary, you can finally start completing the donation appeal letter (or completing the form) for each company.
Fill in the Donation Request Form
Every donation request form will be different, but there are a few commonalities that most forms will have. Certain bits of information are almost always required when requesting a donation, so let’s go over some of the most common ones.
This is a pretty obvious one. Make sure to include your organization’s name as it appears on your 501(c)3. Sometimes, organizations use acronyms to save time and energy when writing internal communications or talking, but remember that this is not your organization’s official name.
501(c)3 ID or EIN
Your tax-exempt status as a 501(c)3 is defined by your employer identification number (EIN), also known as your 501(c)3 ID. This number is found on your Form 990, so open up the most recent version and make sure you copy it exactly.
This number is extremely important when asking for donations. Because of 501(c)3 donation rules the company you are approaching will eventually have to check to make sure you are a legitimate nonprofit. If they check the number and it is wrong, they will not exactly spend a lot of time trying to clear it up. Your request will be filed away and forgotten.
Address and Contact Details
This is another straightforward one. The address should be the address listed, again, on your Form 990 or another official business document. Ideally, this would be the same address to which your organization receives mail, but if not, many companies allow for a headquarters address and a mailing address.
Make sure the other contact information is up-to-date, and the accounts/messages/calls are regularly checked and answered. It would be no good to go through all of the effort of asking for a donation only for communication to drop.
Details for What The Donation Is Required For/Use of Funds Information
This is where you get to expand a little bit on your mission and organization. Keep it to the point, since any long wall of text will certainly affect your success rate, but include enough detail so that the reader can see the value of supplying the money.
Companies typically have a group or committee in charge of reviewing applications. This section of the request should aim to give this committee a clear understanding of your organization and how their funds will impact this particular program.Keep in mind that the committee members are most likely not experts in your field. Therefore, keep the language simple, short, and impactful (with detailed stats, if possible)!
When the Donation is Needed
You will typically have to conclude a timeline for when your organization requires the donation. You can usually determine this by checking with the team or reading over a given project plan. It is good to give a specific date, because that indicates planning and competence, two very important qualities to exhibit when asking for contributions.
Matthew is feeling good about all he's learning about making donation requests!
These are just some of the more common pieces of information you will be required to give when filling out request forms, so keep in mind that there may be additional information you will need to find. These can include things:
Prior donation history
Date of founding
Board member names
A mission statement
Now that you know you have all the information you will need to give, it is time to assemble it in a way that maximizes your chances of success.
Tips for Sending Your Request
When filling out donation request forms, there are a few best practices you should check off to really set yourself apart from the hundreds of other donation requests a company is sure to receive.
These practices range from what you write to how you write it, so let’s go down the list and make sure we cover everything.
Use "You" Language
"You" is one of the most powerful words when it comes to appealing to someone’s emotions. Framing everything as though it relates directly to the reader can exponentially increase their engagement in your writing, as well as your chance of getting a donation.
Instead of writing something like "Our mission to help clean the oceans is impossible without money", you would write "Your sponsorship can help us clean the oceans." This subtle change clicks something in a reader’s subconscious that truly demonstrates the importance of your cause.
Give Detailed Descriptions
When asking for donations, remember that the person reading it is not an active member of your nonprofit. Sure, you know all about the problems your team is trying to solve. You read about and analyze them every day. The person reading your request may have no idea that the problems even exist, much less know as much about them as you do.
That is why it is very important to put everything into as much detail as you can. Do not bombard them with a wall of text, but get them up-to-speed with the scale and importance of your mission as concisely as you can without being vague (remember, impactful statistics are your friend).
Proofread Twice, Submit Once
This is obvious. Spelling and grammatical errors can make you look unprofessional. Donors want their money handled by the best of the best, so at the very least your request should be free of error. Ensure you have several pairs of fresh eyes review your submission prior to sending.
Contact Your Lapsed Donors
A lapsed donor is a company or individual that has not donated to your organization within the last year, but has donated in the last three years.
These donors are very valuable because they know your organization, and are more likely to give a grant than other companies. To secure them, you should write a donor letter, expanding on the successes of your last partnership and requesting another one. This does not need to be awkward! For a few tips and tricks, consider reviewing a number of lapsed donor letter examples and, at a minimum, implement the following best-practices:
Mentioning your last donation purpose and amount
Describing the success you had thanks to the funds
Speaking in a more familiar, but still professional tone.
Minimize Using The Word "Donation"
This may seem counterintuitive, but asking for a donation has actually been shown to reduce the effectiveness of your message. Individuals would much rather "support", "partner with", or "contribute" to something than donate to it.
It is a small difference, but it can have a profound effect. Think of these two sentences:
"Please give us a donation to help us save the oceans."
"Please partner with us to help save the oceans."
The second one is much more compelling. People want to feel that they are a part of something, not just a deep pocket that someone picks out of. The language you use in your letter can help them satisfy this psychological pull.
Simon is all ready to start sending out donation requests!
Follow Up With a Thank You Message
If there is a space for it, it is good to end your request with a simple message thanking the reader for their time and consideration. Write it sincerely, and it can make a big difference in your success rate.
A quick thank-you email might convince someone on the team to read your form, over others. If you have done a good job explaining your need, you might just hit that donation goal!
If you receive a donation from the company, then a thank you letter is definitely in order. Send them a nice, genuine note of gratitude along with their donation receipt. Thank them for their generosity and describe the benefit their money will have for your cause. A thank you letter for donations is the perfect way to establish an ongoing line of communication, which can yield an ongoing partnership.
You now have a pretty good understanding of how donation requests work, so it is time to get started. Before you go, we have taken the liberty of including some companies that accept donation requests below, to help you get started in your search!
5 Organizations Offering Donation Requests
Coca-Cola is one of the largest and oldest organizations in the world. It is also one of the most generous. Organizations can request donations in any dollar amount and for a large array of reasons.
Frontier Airlines offers donations of both flight vouchers and money to eligible nonprofits. As long as you are not a church, labor group, school or political organization, you should be able to request a donation online.
Nordstrom gives a lot of money to a lot of organizations, so long as they can demonstrate that the donation would help a community in which Nordstrom does business. Nordstrom’s priority is helping children and families.
Subway’s initiatives focus on environmental sustainability and nutrition education. Unlike some companies, they will accept requests from schools.
Best Buy has funded hundreds of nonprofit projects aimed at technology and technological literacy.
Requesting donations is not as fun as hosting a charity festival or seeing the results of a new project, but it is just as important.
So long as you write authentically about your cause and cast a wide net, getting donations from companies and organizations online is not too difficult.
Remember, check the donation request policy for each company you contact to make sure you are eligible. Have your information on hand, such as your 501(c)3 ID or EIN. Write compellingly using "you" language, and avoid overusing the word "donation".
By following these few rules and contacting enough companies, you are sure to get at least a few requests accepted in no time!
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💡 What is a donation request?
A donation request is an appeal for funds, typically filed online to a company or organization. Find out more.
🔑 How do you politely ask for donations?
Speak to the reader as a human being. "You" language, or writing the letter in a way that relates everything you’re saying to the reader, shows humility and genuine care for your cause. Find out more.
📝 What companies can you request a donation from?
There are thousands and thousands of companies that accept donation requests, including Best Buy, Nordstrom, Amazon, Frontier Airlines, and Subway. Find out more.