8 Simple Rules to Help You Fundraise like a Boss


‘Tis the season. With fiscal year-ends upon us and a federal election on the horizon – not to mention advocacy for climate change, arguably the greatest crisis of our lifetime, at a fever pitch – “advancement”, fundraising and donor campaigns are in high gear.

We all feel it – and we all see it.  Just this week, I’ve received more than three political donation requests in my inbox (including one right now, in advance of the leader’s debate tonight). And through Curious Public’s Karma Project, this month all of us here at Curious Public have been introduced to a huge group of amazing causes and charities, including The Urban Alliance on Race Relations.   


That’s not all. Curious Public is incredibly fortunate to work with a number of advocacy groups that are in high gear during this federal election season, like Faith in the Common Good, a national, interfaith charitable network founded in 2000 on the belief that our diverse faith congregations and spiritual communities can be powerful role models for the common good and contribute towards greener, healthier, more resilient neighbourhoods.

And Generation Squeeze, a national research, education and advocacy organization for Canadians in their 20s, 30s and 40s.


Which begs the question: with so many good and meaningful causes to donate valuable time and money to, what can advocacy groups, charities and other non-profit organizations do to rise above the digital clutter of people’s daily lives to get them to DONATE?

There are a lot of different ways to raise money for your cause. And there are even more opinions on which tactics work the best. But all successful fundraising campaigns have one thing in common: strong communication.

Personally, I entered the world of political fundraising as a #writer.

At the time, the party I worked for raised most of its money through fundraising events and had never sent a fundraising email before. I saw an opportunity to instantly reach out to our donors and launched our very first email fundraising campaign with little idea about how to raise money. That’s how our e-solicitation program was born.

Since then I’ve led email fundraising efforts for the governing party in two province-wide elections, led direct-mail campaigns for a sitting Premier, written fundraising content for a former Prime Minister, and served as the Fundraising Director for a mayoral candidate in Canada’s largest city.

After everything I’ve learned while raising millions of dollars for progressive campaigns, fundraising for me is still about one thing at its core:  strong communication.

But even strong communicators can find themselves at a loss when they pivot to the world of fundraising.

If that’s the space you find yourself in, keep reading to learn the eight rules that the Curious Public team and I live by when we’re working to help raise money for causes and organizations that we believe in. #LetsGetCurious

Rule 1: Make them the hero.

When we’re passionate about a cause, we want to tell the world all about the great work we’re already putting into it. But the first step to bringing a supporter onboard as a donor is to make your pitch all about them – the real hero of this story. Focus the core of your message on how they can make a real difference by contributing to your cause.

Rule 2: Make it personal.

As communicators, we love to use words like ‘us’ and ‘we’ to bring our audience onto our team. These words make supporters feel like they’re a part of something bigger and can even inspire them to give. But these words can also lead supporters to believe you already have all the help you need to meet the goal. This diffusion of responsibility is why I prefer to use the word ‘you’ or a potential donor’s name in my message to put the onus on them and them alone to give. When it feels like the success or failure of the cause is directly on their shoulders, supporters are more likely to give.

Rule 3: Focus on impact.

When we’re in the trenches of a cause day in and out, it becomes easy to focus on the specific work we’re doing instead of the impact that work is delivering. When supporters can’t connect their gift to its impact on the cause, they’re unlikely to give for the first time or to give again. Make sure to talk about the progress supporters like them have helped deliver and how continued support can keep the cause moving forward.

Rule 4: Be the author, not the audience.

One of the biggest mistakes we make as fundraising writers is to communicate our message in a way we personally find most compelling. But our supporters don’t share our vantage point and have different reasons for contributing to the cause. Take the time to understand what drives your supporters and use that knowledge to shape your outreach.

Rule 5: Be accessible.

Supporters shouldn’t need a PhD or knowledge of sector jargon to understand the request you’re making. If you’re trying to stir action on an issue, make sure you explain that issue quickly and simply. And while facts are compelling, people are most likely to take action when they have an emotional attachment to the issue – a need to solve a problem that personally impacts them or someone they love.

Rule 6: Make it easy to read.

When writing is technical, wordy, or complex supporters with limited time (spoiler: that’s all of them!) will skim over your message and skip their donation. Writing at a lower reading-level isn’t a comment on the education or intelligence of your supporters – it’s recognition of how much you value their time and their commitment to your cause. Make it easier for them to give by making it easier to read your message. The clearer your message is, the faster they’ll be able to make their donation.

Rule 7: Let them know what’s at stake.

Hope is something we want to give to supporters, but it can take away the urgency behind their reason to act. Giving them a challenge you need their help to solve allows them step in and be the hero. When their actions become the source of hope for the cause, they are far more likely to act.

Rule 8: Be specific about how they can help.

Often the hardest part of fundraising is making a clear, simple ask that drives supporters to take action. Instead of being clear and direct, we often make our request for support in ways that are too technical, too wordy, or too hard to understand. Be specific about the support you need and what it will help accomplish. Try to simplify your call-to-action to just one sentence that you can memorize. Repeat that line in all your communications to drive your ask home for your supporters.

Whether you’re making contribution calls, writing e-solicitations, finalizing a direct-mail letter, or speaking with supporters at a fundraising event, these foundational eight steps will help you stay on message, engage your supporters, and raise crucial funds for your important cause.

Ready to take your fundraising to a new level? Theresa has a decade of experience as a communications and fundraising professional in Ontario and recently, she has helped raise over $4.5 million for progressive clients.

You can connect with us at info@curiouspublic.com or reach out and tell us more about your project here: contact us.

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