News and Information about the nonprofit sector in Massachusetts. Check back frequently to keep informed.
December 4, 2021
Nonprofits Can Raise More by Strengthening Their Call to Action
By Robin Cabral

Robin Cabral 2020
Robin Cabral

The top reason donors do not give to nonprofits, aside from not being asked, is they’re not provided with a problem to solve, nor told how they can be part of the solution, but slightly tweaking the call to action when appealing to supporters can make a substantial difference.

Below are recommended steps that have been shown to substantially improve nonprofit fundraising success:

  1. Have a call to action. Too many so-called appeals never get to an actual “ask.” They often sound more like acknowledgment letters than solicitation letter. Be sure to have an ask.

  2. Make your ask several times throughout your letter. Don’t worry about sounding repetitive. At least three asks would be great.

  3. Don’t save the “ask” until the very bottom of the appeal letter. Start right in with it and get to your point: “I am writing today to…”

  4. Use emphasis in your solicitation letters. Include lots of white space, bold text, and even underline and italics.

  5. When you make the ask, make the ask. Don’t state an accomplishment and then ask the donor to fund your goodness.

  6. Give the donor a problem to solve. Donors want to solve other people’s problems. For example: “We are advocating for partner VISA reform on the national level so that your soon-to-be wife will be able to migrate much quicker than is possible now. We can’t get her here and make substantial VISA processing changes because our grant funding does not support these efforts. We cannot do this advocacy work without YOUR support. Will you help us to reunite families just like yours?”

  7. Be specific in your asks. Don’t leave out the missing details. If you don’t have enough money to maintain your nature trail system, why is that? Explain how your donor’s contribution will make a real difference toward that aim.

  8. Don’t assume in your asks. Donors are not specialists in the field. They are not program people. When seeking emergency funding, explain the reality about what is happening. For instance, don’t assume that donors know that people in the Philippines cannot get out of their homes to get food for fear of being stopped by the police. This explanation makes a difference.

  9. Test links and buttons to see which perform the best. Make sure that all of your links and buttons work. The last thing that you need is to send your donor to a website with a broken hyperlink. Test everything.

  10. Use the P.S. space as a way to reiterate your call to action. And, while you’re at it, keep your appeal to a solicitation. Don’t try to sell tickets to your upcoming event, or sponsorships to your gala, or ask for emails for a newsletter sign-up. Your solicitation appeal is just that – a solicitation. Keep it focused and concise.

Don’t make your donors work overtime trying to figure out what this latest piece of correspondence is. Make a solicitation letter just that and place in that solicitation a direct and robust call to action that inspires donors to give to solve a very real and urgent problem.

Robin Cabral, principal of Development Consulting Solutions, is a certified fundraising executive who works with mid-sized nonprofits to build capacity and improve fundraising results. Email her at or call 508-685-8899.

December 2020

SUBSCRIBE FREE – Keep current with the Wednesday Report emailed to you free each week. Click here.
Got news, advice, resources? Send it to