5 min read

How to Coach your Team to Ask for Donations

People standing in a circle, their hands joined together at its centre

Asking for donations at the point of sale can be a challenge. Some find it easier than others and as a manager, team leader or supervisor, it’s your job to coach your team, helping them to achieve great results.


Coaching your team to fundraising success

Asking for donations at the point of sale can be a challenge. Some find it easier than others and as a manager, team leader or supervisor, it’s your job to coach your team, helping them to achieve great results.

This means supporting your team; making the process as seamless as possible and that they have everything they need to make asking for support easy.


Why do people find it difficult to ask?

We often hear phrases from Sales staff such as ‘I don’t know what the money will be used for’, ‘I’m scared I’ll get shouted at’ or ‘it’s the fundraising team’s job to raise money’. These aren’t uncommon responses when we ask Sales teams to ask for support. However, these are mostly excuses to avoid doing something we don’t like doing. But don’t be too hard on your Sales team, this is human nature after all.

When it comes to asking for donations, most excuses come down to two points:

  • People don’t have enough knowledge to understand why it’s important to ask
  • Fear

The second point is the biggest challenge to overcome when managing a team. How do you help them get over the fear and ensure they have the resources and information they need to feel comfortable asking for support? A big part of asking for support is being confident in why you’re asking and being prepared to engage customers in a conversation about why you need support and how the money gets spent.


How can I help my team succeed?

1. Increase their understanding of the fundraising process

As an organisation, your aim is to increase the number of raving fans; those all important customers, donors, advocates and legators. But it’s unlikely any of these people will end up at the top of your loyalty pyramid without starting at the bottom, and it’s at the bottom of the pyramid that your Sales team have the biggest impact.

A pyramid of loyalty, rising from one-off or first time attenders through regular attenders and low-level donors, up to season ticket holders, high-level donors and legators

It’s true that, at some point, the responsibility for most donor relationships shifts from the customer facing team to the Fundraisers, but to be successful in getting the most number of high level donors, you need a solid base and a large pool of low level donors to draw from, and this is where your Sales team can help.

2. Increase knowledge of why you fundraise

Often, the Sales team have little insight into why you need support and what the money gets used for. Whether it’s supporting individual projects or knowing what proportion of your annual revenue comes from individual donors, this information is vital to understanding why they need to ask for support. Having this information also means your Sales team can engage customers in a conversation. You don’t want anyone to be faced with a question like, ‘oh, I didn’t know you were a charity, what do you use the money for?’ and to not have an answer.

Providing a one or two-page info sheet that gives some easy to understand facts and figures about fundraising at your organisation is a great resource for your Sales team. This should include a few soundbites, such as ‘we provide free tickets to 200 children a year who would otherwise not be able to afford a visit to the theatre’.

3. Tackle the fear

The biggest barrier to asking for support is the fear. The fear we’ll get shouted at, that someone will get angry with us or that we’ll get asked a question we don’t know the answer to. But, every day we get asked for support, whether it’s a friend asking us to sponsor a them in a marathon, a crowd funding page for a new show, a poster on the tube or a street fundraiser. And, in the majority of cases, we don’t mind. Sometimes we say yes, sometimes we say no, but we’re rarely angry.

Get your team talking about their experiences. How often are they asked? What’s motivated them to say yes? How did they feel when they said no? It’s important here to take on board their comments and experiences and reassure them that you won’t be like those fundraisers they don’t like. It’s also crucial to get them thinking like their customers and how it might feel when they’re asked to donate.

Once your team are talking about what they like when they’re asked to donate and what motivated them to make donations in the past. You can start talking about how they can make donating to your organisation a good experience for your customers.

4. Make it easy

If you want your team to succeed, you’ll need to make it as easy as possible for them to ask for donations. This means providing information, regular opportunities to share new ideas, the means to provide feedback and support and training when needed.

You might find that different people in your team need different resources and levels of support. Don’t fall into the trap of a ‘one size fits all’ approach. It may take a little more work, but if one person needs more of your time to feel comfortable asking for donations, then it’s worth doing. Don’t forget it only takes one person in the team to not ask for everyone else to think they don’t have to ask either.

5. Coaching never ends

The organisations who achieve the best results from their teams never stop coaching. Whether it’s regular refresher training, opportunities to shadow other team members or regular catch ups with individual team members, coaching never ends. If you want those conversion rates to continue to grow, you’ll need to keep the team motivated. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Set targets. Targets are a great way to keep people motivated, providing they’re realistic and achievable. We’re often at our most motivated when a target is just in reach or when we’ve just made it. But before you set a target, think about what will work for your team. Should they have a team or individual targets? Should it be based on the percentage of orders that contain a donation, a fixed number of donations or an amount. Keep in mind you’ll need to regularly measure these, so think about setting weekly or monthly targets rather than long term ones.
  • Celebrate success. Celebrating when someone reaches a target is vital to keeping people motivated. Whether you offer an incentive such as free cake, a bottle of wine, free lunch or just have a star fundraiser of the month on the office wall, incentives are great at giving everyone a goal to work towards.
  • Share Stories. Fundraisers will often celebrate when a new donor comes on board or we receive a significant gift, but are you sharing these stories with other people? Next time a significant gift comes in, why not send a company-wide email thanking the production team for putting on shows that donor loved, the front of house team for always providing such a warm welcome and the box office team for asking and encouraging them to make donations in the past? Doing this will prove just how important everyone’s input is in the long run.

Asking for donations at the point of sale doesn’t have to be hard work, many teams across the country are having fun whilst raising vital funds for the arts and increasing the number of supporters. If you’re about to start asking for the first time, or if you think the team could do with a fresh approach, try using the tools above and the resource pack below to coach your team to success!


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Kate Mroczkowski is a former member of the Spektrix team

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