By Janine Vanderburg, CEO and Christy Bergman, Director of Resource Development, Joining Vision and Action 

How do I ask people for money?

Those of us who have been in fundraising for a long time know intuitively that the messages you use to ask people for money need to appeal to both the left brain, which is the more analytical, logical and data-driven side, and the right brain, or the creative and emotional side. While donors and investors are looking for impact, the actual decision to invest is likely to be motivated by an emotional connection. In fact, there is actually emerging research to suggest that providing too much data when you ask people for money may not help your cause. The Chronicle of Philanthropy supports this: “Research shows that people base their giving on how they will feel after they donate. Yet many charities ply donors with logic, hoping that providing facts and statistics will make them more likely to give. (It doesn’t).”

[1] The bottom line is that your message needs to balanced—or instead have data focused on how the DONOR can impact the problem/issue vs. stand-alone data about the issue itself.

An effective way to approach your donors and to teach your board, staff and volunteers to ask people for money is to emphasize appeals that target both the right brain and the left brain. An activity that we like to do in our fund development planning work with clients is to bring board and staff together to identify the key left brain and right brain messages. Everyone in the organization has an opportunity to ask questions and to identify the key talking points that will help them be excellent organizational ambassadors. Below is a helpful tool you can use to develop and practice the messages everyone should use when asking people for money.

Left Brain Right Brain
What will the money be used for? What stories illustrate the impact of our work?
What is the long-term impact of our work? Are they emotionally compelling?
What is the return on investment? Do they demonstrate success?


One insider tip is to try and tailor the left-brain messages to the audience: What will the specific audience’s money be used for and what will be the outcomes and return on investment for that audience?

To do this as a group, ask each person to think through only one side at a time. Once you’ve captured all of the ideas for left, then right messages, think of which messages can be combined to make the most effective pitch(es). However, keep all messages in your back pocket or toolkit, as you never know which will resonate in the moment with a specific audience.

JVA has a number of trainings informed by research and practice that can help you accelerate your fundraising.

[1] Anft, M. 2016, March 29. Scientists to Charities: You’re Doing It All Wrong. Chronicle of Philanthropy RSS. Retrieved from