Donor Stewardship

How to Use Responsive Fundraising

Responsive nonprofit fundraising visual of a man listening carefully at a meeting

You’ve listened to your donors and started creating connections with them to help steward the relationship. The next obvious step is to suggest a financial ask, right?

You might be surprised to learn that that’s not correct!

With responsive fundraising, a fundraiser suggests the most meaningful next step that’s right for each individual person—and it might not be financial. 

In this third part of our four-part series, you’ll learn how to suggest the next step you should take with each of your supporters based on their connection points. You'll also see examples from responsive fundraising that you can implement today. 

Making the Right Ask

As nonprofit fundraisers, we're trained that asking for a financial gift is the next obvious step in stewarding a donor. 

However, responsive fundraising teaches us that that’s not always the case, and for good reason.

Each donor is unique and has their own motivation for giving to your cause. Their gift might come in the form of their time, money, resources, or influence. Determining the best ask for your donors is based on the direct and indirect signals they’ve been giving you throughout the stewardship process. 

Let’s revisit our friend John from our previous post

John has been volunteering with your cause for several months now, building resources for your water resource project and speaking on behalf of the organization at his child’s school. After speaking with John and learning more about his experience, you determine that now is the best time to ask for a financial contribution—but not just a one-time donation. 

Volunteers are 80% more likely to give to a cause they volunteer for . . . if they're asked. So, you tell John that he can increase his impact further by becoming a monthly donor. After assessing wealth data on John, you determine that a $75 monthly contribution is the perfect ask amount, and he agrees. 

Over the course of a few months, John went from being unaware of your mission to becoming a dedicated volunteer to now emerging as a passionate supporter. 

The power of this transformation comes from using the principles of responsive fundraising. Previously, you might not have pursued a relationship with John after an event and would’ve missed out on a new volunteer and monthly giver. Now, by listening to his story and needs, connecting with him in the right way, and suggesting the best ask, you’ve gained a (hopefully lifelong) supporter. 

How, and What, to Suggest to Your Supporters

Following the first connection with a donor, responsive fundraising leads fundraisers to suggest the most meaningful next step for that individual. Instead of using every engagement point as an opportunity to ask for a standard amount of money (signaling to donors that they’re thought of as an ATM), responsive fundraisers send suggestions that are relevant to the passions, capacity, and engagement level of each supporter. 

You can do this by inviting donors to: 

  • Become a Volunteer: Not every person has the capacity to give financially, but they could instead give their time. Voluntary service has a financial value to the economy of $24.69 per hour, which is equivalent to $197.5 billion per year. 
  • Share on Social Media: Does your supporter have a large social media following? By asking them to post about your cause, you can present your organization to hundreds, if not thousands, of new people ready to hear about your cause.  
  • Speak at an Event: Tapping a volunteer, rather than a staff member, to speak at an event is a great way to showcase your mission’s impact from a donor's perspective. 
  • Host an Event: Do you have a supporter with a strong network? Ask if you can come speak or have them host a mini-fundraiser for your cause. 

The ways to engage with your supporters the way they'll respond to are innumerable. Remember, a responsive fundraiser knows there are valuable opportunities to ask a supporter for their help outside of a financial ask. By asking them to contribute in a way that reflects their passion, capacity, and engagement level, you can help strengthen your relationship with them. And the stronger your relationship with a donor, the more ways they are likely to give

Want to learn more about cultivating your supporter’s relationship with your cause? Download the Responsive Fundraising Starter Pack

About the Author

Young woman with long brown hair in a blue topKelly Cristaldi serves as the Sr. Partner Marketing Manager at Virtuous, a responsive CRM, marketing automation, and donor-centric giving platform. In this role, she works with partners to identify opportunities to help fundraisers increase their supporters' generosity. 

Before joining Virtuous, Kelly worked for five years in the animal welfare sector and specialized in marketing, PR, and fundraising, with a focus on major donors and corporate sponsorship. 

Connect with Kelly on LinkedIn or reach out to her via email at


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