Why The “Call To Action” Matters For Nonprofits

The Big Question: What Do You Want People to Do?

One of the most surprising problems I see with leaders who are trying to raise money for humanitarian causes, ministry outreaches, or nonprofit organizations, is not calling potential donors to action. In most cases, they are so focused on telling their story, describing all the wonderful things they’re doing, and showcasing the need, they forget about the “ask.” Here’s a few things you need to remember:

1) All the great work you’re doing doesn’t matter if you can’t find donors to support it.

2) Most people need to be told what to do. They may be impressed with your work and vision, but unless you ask them to donate, volunteer, mobilize, tell friends, or whatever you want – they’ll probably not do it.

3) Never forget, you’re not asking for money, you’re giving them the opportunity to participate in the vision.

When you create media – either a donor letter, email blast, newsletter, video, direct response program, or other messages to donors, keep in mind that they don’t act unless you ask.

Be clear, be concise, and get to the point.

It’s as simple as that. The big question for you to answer is: “What do you want me to do?”

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • This truth came to life for me many years ago, before my consulting years, while I was managing a non-profit. I asked our donors to consider repeating their largest gift to our ministry and included the amount in the letter. I was amazed that many of our donors did just that… even if the amount was an unusual amount like $125.64 or $2335.20. Donors want to be a blessing to the ministries they support. By giving them a specific call to action you empower them to know what to do. Not everyone will say yes to your call — but many will.

    • Very well said Mark. Thanks for sharing that experience!

  • So true. Make it specific & make it easy for people to participate. When they have to overthink a decision, it feels like work and is tempting to put off until later.

    Great advice

  • Jim Knaggs

    As always, Right on, Phil. Thanks for demonstrating the value by your invitation to participate.

  • Tim Smith

    “We have not because we ask not”… That’s in the Bible isn’t it :-) Good stuff Phil.

  • Thanks for this, Phil!

    A key question – still, we can often be guilty of the opposite, too. It’s possible to ask, to call to action, without doing the ‘sell’ of the story, or the vision!

    • Extremes happen at both ends Joe, so you’re correct. To ask without showing why and what will happen is just as bad as not asking at all.

  • Karen Covell

    I SOOOO agree. I’m a producer who also runs a non-profit and I find it much easier to ask for money for my films than for my Christian work. Why is that? Because I have to remember your very important point – I’m NOT asking a favor of anyone! I’m just trying to find the people with a shared vision who will WANT to give to my non-profit. I’m trying to get that idea planted in my head. Thanks for the reminder Phil!

    • Excellent point Karen. The vision matters for sure.

  • Maryjo Petersen Castro

    Great advice, Phil. You mention at the end “…get to the point.” This too is a good reminder to not go into lengthy stories or excessive copy before asking for money. Brief attention spans happen- and often!

  • Stan Snowdon

    Telling is not effective preaching . Jesus did not tell. He used Parables to preach. He made people think. Even the Disciples asked questions of his preaching. Effective poreaching must motivate visitors to pose questions and seek answers through our efforts.

    The language needs to be couched in a questioning style which:

    (a) Stimulates the Attention of the target audience with an Initial Benefit Phrase

    (b) Creates Interest and stimulates audience thought processes to question the message, which then

    (c) Stimulates sufficient Desire, or curiosity, for the target audience to want to learn more, and then to

    (d) Take Action i.e. engage in Bible Study leading to Baptism.. Then you will see the ‘Increase, not simply asking for cash. Have Faith. The Lord knows our needs.

    • Awesome. Let me know how that works for you Stan…

  • Chris Jefferson

    Great reminder, Phil. Once a donor has joined the vision, I have found that it is important to shift the credit for the good work away from the organization or leadership of the vision and onto the donor as the “doer of the good work” – this provides the opportunity for repeat engagement and ongoing partnership. It’s the donor who does the good deed – give them the credit and they will return to “do” again.

    • Great point Chris. Donors really do want to “partner” in your vision… Thanks for the comment!