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The Easy Way to Raise More Money by Being Relevant to Each Donor

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Want to know something about donors?

A large majority of them (around 70%) will give the same amount (or very close to it) every time they donate.

The percentage of donors who upgrade to meaningfully higher levels is small. (But don’t ignore it, because those upgrades are financially significant.)

Knowing the consistency of giving raises two important questions:

  1. What can we as fundraisers do to be relevant to donors as they consider their giving?
  2. What can we do to encourage them to break the habit and upgrade their giving?

Let’s look into both questions with practical and experience-based tips…

Asking the right amount from each donor

If a donor gives you $100 two or three times a year and has been doing so for a while, they are giving you more than money. They are giving you valuable information: They’re telling you how much they are most likely to give, which tells you how much you should ask for.

Don’t ask that $100 donor for $25. And don’t ask them for $1,000. Either way, you clearly signal you don’t know the donor. That can lower response (though I’ll show you some exceptions below).

A $100 donor should be asked for amounts close to $100. And a few amounts that are higher. That person’s ask string should be something like:

$100  $125  $150  $250

This makes it easy for them to give the amount they are most likely to give, but it also encourages an upgrade.

That’s all good for a $100 donor. But not all your donors give you $100 every time. Donors give amounts all over the map. You need to accommodate all of them. Fortunately, it’s not difficult. Here are some ways that work:

Gift table

A table allows you to target relevant amounts for different donors by putting them in groups by previous gift amounts, with each group getting amounts close to their giving and going up from there. Here’s a sample:

Last Gift Amount




















A couple of things to note about this:

The “driver” of this table is the donor’s most recent donation. There are other drivers you can choose: average of donor’s gifts over time, largest gift in the past 12 months, largest gift ever, and more. These may bump some donors up to a higher category – it will depend on the time of year, urgency and offer.


This is similar to a gift table, but instead of putting donors in groups by amount of giving, it works with each donor’s actual giving. It’s easy to do if the copy is in an email or not preprinted mail so it can be personalized throughout. It can work like this:

Ask 1: Last gift

Ask 2: Last gift * 1.25

Ask 3: Last gift * 1.5

Ask 4: Last gift * 2

Usually, these should be rounded to the nearest $5. Check to make sure that with rounding you don’t end up with two adjacent amounts being the same.

How many amounts?

Three ask amounts plus “other” is so common in fundraising, you might think that’s a magic number. It’s not.

More than three asks is usually better. Like below…

Wide range of amounts

You may not be able to have variable ask amounts for donors. One workaround is to have a lot of amounts that range from the low end you expect, and going up from there. Like this:

$100  $125  $150  $200  $250  $300  $500

Ask amounts for donor acquisition

When you’re communicating to people who have never donated, you have no record of their giving. How much should you ask?

If you’re doing donor acquisition for the first few times, you just ask to guess. The source of your acquisition list may be able to give you some sense of where to start. I’ve worked on acquisition programs where the average gift was under $20 and others where it was over $100.

That’s why a wide range of asks is often a good tactic when writing to prospective donors.

High outlier ask amounts

A useful tactic is to make the last amount in your string much higher than the others, like this:

$100  $125  $150  $200  $2,000

This tends to raise average gift by creating another anchor at the high amount. And sometimes, people give that much. It’s even better if there’s a specific reason for the high amount, such as $4,600 to supply all the food needed for a full day.

How about no suggested gift amounts?

Usually, having only an “other amount” suggested is not a good idea. But for rare occasions, it can work, such as for special high-end mailings like holiday cards. A no-ask-amount mailing allows donors to “reset” their giving level.

Ask amounts for lapsed donors

Here’s a smart way to win back lapsed donors (those who have not given in 12 or more months). Instead of asking for their last donation and scaling up, ask for their last and scale down. This is a proven way to reactivate them. It’s better to get them back at a lower level than to lose them!

Order of the ask amounts

You may have seen reply devices that put the suggested amounts in reverse order – largest to smallest. Or even scrambled into random order. This rarely makes much difference, but it’s possible some organizations have tested it and got positive results.

Odd amounts, or round amounts?

Here’s something odd: You usually get slightly higher response when your suggested amounts are odd amounts (like $24.15). But most donors give round amounts (like $25), even when asked for odd amounts. Odd amounts work best when there’s a reason for the oddness, such as the cost of what you’re asking for: Meals for hungry families cost $1.61, so you can provide 15 meals with a gift of $24.15.

Where to put these ask amounts!

For best results, use the ask prompts inside the copy as well as on the donation form. For example: ‘Please consider making an urgent donation of [$Ask 1], [$Ask 2] or an extra special gift of [$Ask 3] to support XXXX …’

Personalised URLs

So, you do all this work calculating the right amount to ask. But if you then send people to a static online payment gateway, you’ll lose the personalisation.  To fix this you’ll need to use personalised URLs in emails, and personalised QR codes in print.

Asking donors the right amounts is one of the easiest ways to be relevant and to show donors you know them.

Get into the weeds of fundraising that matter  – the fun and practical way! Join The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic. You’ll get the tools, the information, and the supporting community that will take you to new places in your fundraising career. Join the waiting list now and you’ll be the first to hear when the doors open again!

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  • Jeff Brooks

    Jeff Brooks is a Fundraisingologist at Moceanic. He has more than 30 years of experience in fundraising, and has worked as a writer and creative director on behalf of top nonprofits around the world, including CARE, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Feeding America, and many others.

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