Fortune favors the bold and so does fundraising! Improve your fundraiser’s chances of success exponentially by doing what most people are too scared to do: talk to strangers.
If this is your first time fundraising–or contacting people you don’t know on behalf of your cause–we’ve got you covered.
This article details how to connect with strangers for your fundraiser, including where to find people sympathetic to your cause and how to approach them. We’ll focus on outreach on a one-to-one level, with the goal of gaining new individual fundraiser participants.
The strategies collected here are applicable to both fundraising campaigns and events. A fundraising campaign involves a multi-day initiative such as a Sam’s Club membership fundraiser. A fundraising event refers to a one-day in-person or virtual gathering such as a restaurant fundraiser.
However you’re raising money, you can boost your success by convincing new people to participate. Scroll down to learn more!
How to Ask for Donations or Fundraiser Participation from Strangers
“A stranger is only a stranger until you find something in common.”
Hold your horses! I know you were all geared up to talk to every stranger you see. Before that, make sure you’ve first reached out to people you’re close to–friends, family, coworkers and anyone else you interact with on a weekly basis.
It’s important to focus on your buddies first because:
- Your friends are more likely than strangers to participate, so you won’t be spinning wheels from the get-go.
- Social proof–people copy what others are doing. It will be easier to convince strangers that your fundraiser is legit after they see that many other people have already participated.
The ideal time to reach out to strangers is after you’re halfway to your goal–whether that’s in dollars or RSVPs. Not only will you have social proof by then, you’ll also be giving strangers the opportunity to be the hero–or one of the heroes–that carries you over your goal’s finish line (concept from the book Crowdfunding Confidential by fundraising expert Kristen Palana).
To start your search for sympathetic strangers, log on to Facebook and go to your “Groups” section.
Within your groups, look for people with similar interests, people supportive of charitable causes, people concerned about community issues, and people asking and answering questions, then add them to your contact list.
Your new potential supporters can be fellow community organizers, friends-of-friends, neighbors, new acquaintances, and even reporters and celebrities. Group admins and group members that post frequently can be good candidates. Ultimately you’ll need to use your best judgment to decide who could be interested in your fundraiser.
For now, just focus on finding people and making a list of possible supporters. In section 3 and 4 below, we’ll cover how to reach out.
Once you’ve gone through the groups you’re already part of, join new groups! Start with groups related to you. For example:
- Springfield High School Class of ‘99
- Ridgeview Area Moms
- Green Valley Neighbors
- University of Michigan Engineering Alumni
- Colorado Artists
- California Environmentalists
Search for keywords related to your cause, names of the schools you went to, the neighborhood, city, and state you live in, any hobbies you have, your profession, and anything else that resonates with you.
If you’re gathering RSVPs for a restaurant fundraiser or other local event, you’ll need to keep location in mind, but if you’re running a Sam’s Club membership fundraising campaign, you can cast a wider geographical net since there are Sam’s Clubs all over the US.
As you’re joining new groups, pay attention to the group rules. You’ll either be reaching out to group members individually (recommended) or posting general fundraiser announcements (secondary option after individual messages), so make sure the new groups you’re joining don’t prohibit that.
On Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and any other social media platforms with hashtags, start browsing popular hashtags related to fundraising in general and your cause in particular. You can find popular hashtags using a tool such as Hashtagify.
Similar to Facebook groups, you can also find kindred spirits using hashtags related to your location, education, and any other organizations you’re part of.
See who’s talking about fundraising and topics similar to your cause and add them to your outreach list.
It’s also recommended to create your own hashtag for your fundraiser or cause. Use it every time you post about your fundraiser, ask your friends to share your post and use your hashtag too, and your hashtag could catch the eye of a benevolent stranger.
So you’ve identified relevant Facebook groups, related hashtags on social media. Now you have two options for getting your message to the group members and hashtag followers:
- [Recommended] Reaching out to people individually
- Posting general fundraiser announcements in the groups or using the hashtags
While both strategies can help, contacting people on an individual level is almost always more effective to get people to actually participate in your fundraiser than broadcasting general messages.
Imagine shouting on a crowded street-corner: “Hey! Can anyone help me tie my shoe?” versus approaching one person directly. If you shout into the crowd, most people might look over but keep on walking. If you ask one person, you’re more likely to get the help you need, faster.
In social psychology, this is called the Bystander Effect. When you ask a group, everyone assumes someone else will step in. But when you ask one person directly, that person has to take responsibility for saying yes or no, increasing the likelihood that you get a response–and that the response is yes.
So, how do you send an effective direct message to a stranger? Read the section below to learn more!
Since asking ONE person at a time for help is more effective than asking a group of people, use the template below–or draft your own–to create and send personalized messages to each person on your contact list.
Hi [NAME]! I’m reaching out because we [WHAT YOU HAVE IN COMMON / HOW YOU FOUND THEM]. As we share an interest in [COMMON INTEREST] you might be interested in supporting [ORGANIZATION]!
[DETAILS OF FUNDRAISER & HOW TO PARTICIPATE]
[HOW OTHER PERSON BENEFITS FROM PARTICIPATING & WHERE FUNDS WILL GO & CALL TO ACTION WITH LINK]
Even if you can’t participate, it would be super impactful if you shared my recent fundraiser announcement post! Each share helps exponentially in getting the word out. Thanks so much for your help!
If you’d rather put together your own message template, keep in mind that each message should incorporate information unique to that person, such as using their name and pointing out what you have in common. For example, perhaps you both care about animal welfare, you both live in the same city, or you both went to the same university.
You can also increase your message’s chances of success when you:
- Show how they benefit from participating. The benefit can be direct, such as delicious food from a restaurant fundraiser or year-round savings from a Sam’s Club membership fundraiser. Or the benefit can be indirect, such as “knowing that you enabled my organization to give school supplies to underprivileged kids.”
- Highlight where the funds will go–why you are fundraising.
- Directly call the person to action–ask them to do one specific thing, whether it’s joining Sam’s Club to support your cause or RSVPing for your restaurant fundraiser.
- Ask the person to share your social media posts, even if they can’t participate directly. You never know who your message could reach thanks to a quick share.
- Send your message on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday afternoon–that’s when people are most likely to engage with messages and participate in fundraisers; they’re not yet distracted by the weekend nor overwhelmed by Monday work.
- Keep your message short and clear.
Another way to inject momentum into YOUR fundraiser is by helping other people with THEIR fundraisers. You might be surprised how many people are willing to return the favor.
Donate a few dollars to another person’s fundraiser, attend their fundraising event, or give a “Like” and “Share” to their fundraising posts on social media.
In a personalized message similar to the ones detailed above, let the other fundraising organizer know how you’re supporting them and ask if they would be willing to do the same.
This strategy doesn’t need to break the bank–contributing even just a few dollars to someone else’s fundraiser or adding yourself as one more person to their event RSVP list can help. Just like you, they need social proof and the more supporters the better!
If they don’t reciprocate, you’ve still helped another good cause. And who knows, you may make some wonderful friends.
Beyond the worthiness and compelling case behind your cause, you may be able to attract new supporters by adding benefits that come with their donation.
It can be as simple as a handwritten thank-you letter for each donor. Or another form of recognition such as a personalized thank-you video, call, or shout-out on your website and/or social media.
Another idea is to enter each donor in a raffle to receive a prize such as a gift card. The raffle prize could be anything, so use your imagination and resources to make it an enticing offer. For example, if you or one of your group’s supporters has a teachable skill, you could offer a one-on-one consultation session as a prize.
If you do decide to add a perk to donations, let people know when you’re contacting them–it’ll be one more great reason to support your cause.
Boldly go where no fundraiser has gone before!
Whether you’re rallying supporters in a fundraising campaign or gathering RSVPs for a fundraising event, strangers may be the last untapped resource–the final frontier if you will–that could propel your fundraising to success.
Whether you gain a few extra fundraiser participants and social media shares or a huge supporter when you least expect them, reaching out to strangers for your fundraiser is definitely worth a try.
Worst case, they say no. Best case, you make new friends and get more funds for your cause. So give it a go!