By Nina Berman on February 2nd, 2021
9 Tips for Soliciting Donations from Family and Friends
For artists who are looking to raise money by crowdfunding, you’ll be reaching out to your personal network for support, including your family and friends. On the one hand, it’s most natural that the people closest to you will be the most enthusiastic about your creative vision. But on the other hand, it can be tricky to ask for donations from your nearest and dearest.
It’s hard for anyone to talk about money, and uniquely hard for artists to talk about money. Asking for financial support for your creative work can feel awkward if you are asking people with more financial resources than you to support your work because it can feel like exposing the already-existing differential in privilege and class. It can also feel awkward if you know that your network is experiencing hardship that might make donations difficult. But, even if it’s hard, you should be reaching out to your nearest and dearest as part of your fundraising strategy.
Fractured Atlas works to empower artists to get the support you need. We share practical information about fundraising, from upcoming grant opportunities and deadlines to common crowdfunding campaign mistakes. We also recognize that fundraising isn’t just a matter of the right platform, the right video, the right perks.
Successful fundraising is about getting into the right mindset, acknowledging the emotional challenges that come up and finding ways to handle those challenges.
Here are some strategies to help you solicit donations from your community of family and friends.
1. Affirm the Relationship
You can set expectations for any donation conversation with family and friends by acknowledging first that you’re getting in touch to ask for a donation, but stress to them that your relationship with them is more important than a fundraising campaign. Whether or not they choose to give will have no effect on your relationship. You’ll want to make explicit that this conversation about donations isn’t about emotional manipulation or using fond feelings as financial leverage. You might think that it goes without saying, but it never hurts to make it explicit.
2. Lean into the Awkwardness
It can be awkward to ask for financial support. As you’re having conversations with your family and friends, you can acknowledge that it feels weird to you. That honesty can set you and whoever it is you’re talking to at ease. Honesty and authenticity are crucial parts of any fundraising conversation or strategy, so if it makes sense for you to be upfront with your friends and family about how it is that you’re entering into this moment.
3. Don’t Lose Sight of Your Purpose
If you haven’t spoken to someone in a while, you might find yourself focusing more on catching up instead of getting down to the request. If you’re making a fundraising call, make that the point of the call. That way, when you are catching up and relating as friends or family, you can focus on catching up more fully. This isn’t to say that your call has to be all business, but clarifying that this is more of a business than a pleasure call will set expectations for both you and whoever it is that you’re talking to. If you find that you really do just want to catch up, we hope that this can be an inspiration for you to pick up the phone or send an email just for the joy of connecting with your community more.
4. Ask About Matching Gifts
Matching grants or matching gifts occur when an institution lets individual donations go further by matching the donations. Often, employers will offer some kind of donation, offering a 1:1 or a 2:1 grant for every dollar raised. They might offer to match every dollar up to a certain dollar amount, or they might offer to match dollar for dollar once a grantee has cleared a specific financial threshold.
Your family and friends might not know that matching gifts are things that they can inquire about and if they can use their employee matching gift program to support you even further. It’s easy money if their job offers matching and your family or friends can feel like their donations are even more impactful if they can be matched.
5. Thank Your Donors Within 24 Hours
When your donors are family and friends, you still need to adhere to the basic principles of donor stewardship. Thank your donors promptly (within 1 day!) of receiving a gift. You can send an email, give them a phone call, or mail out a physical thank-you letter. It’s important for them to know how much you value their donation, and a prompt thank-you will go a long way.
6. Individualize Your Correspondence
Personalization is always a good move when speaking with donors. It helps them know that you value them, specifically. Taking time to make your correspondence personal to your family and friends is extra important. They will likely be put off or surprised if they see that you haven’t taken a bit of additional time for them, given that they are someone who is important in your life aside from their generous contributions to your creative work.
7. Continue the Conversation
You might have a donation conversation with your family and friends once and think that that’s it. While you shouldn’t put the screws onto your family and friends about supporting your work (or anyone, for that matter), you might have to remind your connections more than once to donate. Be sure to use their preferred method of correspondence so that you don’t end up sending them emails or calling them in a way that will end up annoying them more than anything else.
You don’t have to have multiple, intensive conversations with your family and friends. And, in fact, that might feel like too much pressure for them. But you should reach out more than once because while fundraising might be top of your mind, they likely have other strains on their attention and might need a reminder or two.
8. Keep People Updated
Keep your family, friends, and other donors updated on your fundraising progress and achievements, and then how your work is coming along. It helps people feel connected to your work and reminds them that they have been an important part of your creative success. It can also help people know if and when you will need additional funding. And, if someone isn’t able to donate when you make your first ask, keeping them updated will mean that when they can donate, they remember you!
9. Assume Abundance
Even though times are tough and a lot of people are facing some dire financial straits and there are a lot of worthy sources for financial support, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still ask for donations. People can determine how they want to spend and share their financial resources.
And, in fact, we have ample evidence that people who aren’t rich are often more generous with their resources than the wealthy. To encourage donations from people with limited resources, you can set small giving levels ($5, $15, $20).
You Already Have What You Need to Fundraise
Fundraising can be scary. It can feel like embarking a project that’s totally out of the realm of your experience. But really, you have everything you need to fundraise. You have the network, you have the pitch, you have the vision. And Fractured Atlas is here to share resources, provide a platform for crowdfunding, and even help you receive tax-deductible donations.
You just need to get into the fundraising state of mind.
About Nina Berman
Nina Berman is an arts industry worker and ceramicist based in New York City, currently working as Associate Director, Communications and Content at Fractured Atlas. She holds an MA in English from Loyola University Chicago. At Fractured Atlas, she shares tips and strategies for navigating the art world, interviews artists, and writes about creating a more equitable arts ecosystem. Before joining Fractured Atlas, she covered the book publishing industry for an audience of publishers at NetGalley. When she's not writing, she's making ceramics at Centerpoint Ceramics in Brooklyn.