15 Good Questions to Ask a Charity Before Donating


Your organization works hard to engage with the public, both during highly-promoted donation campaigns and all throughout the year. You likely have a dedicated phone line, email address, and even social channels where you interact with supporters, donors, and volunteers every day.

We bet that your employees hear the same inquiries over and over.

Did you know: It happens to corporations too!

Customer service teams at large companies are used to hearing popular questions multiple times. To make life more efficient, corporations create call scripts or Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) documents for staff.

Does your charity have a “Popular Questions” document that you can share with your donor service representatives, employees, volunteers, and even board members?

Creating one will keep you all on message and may even enlighten members of your team who haven’t thought about some of these donor issues. You never know when a donor might have a question and who at your organization they might ask! 

While you’re creating internal documents to make life a little easier during your next donation campaign, why not also take advantage of our free donation campaign template? It’s waiting for you to download here!  (Pssst - we have a free template ready for you to download!)

To help prepare you and your team for the questions you’ll likely receive during your next donation campaign, we’ve created a list of 15 questions your donors may ask before donating. Here’s what your team should have ready to answer:


1. What do you do with my donor information?

Transparency is top of mind for donors who may have the mistaken belief that charities frequently sell or rent donor addresses and phone numbers.

Make your Privacy Policy or Terms of Service documents prominent on your website to increase confidence. Ensure that everyone at your organization knows where that page is on the organization’s website!

Craft a statement such as: “We treat your donor information seriously. Here’s how we store it and how we use it: [explanation].” You can also include an answer to the question: “Who has access to my donor data?”

Mention that donors can give anonymously and that their desire to avoid recognition will be respected by your organization.


2. What percentage of my donation goes to the cause?

Ah, a classic donor question that creates heartburn for nonprofit employees. While we all know that “cost per dollar” is not the most efficient way of evaluating a charity’s worth, this question is often important to donors.

Answer this question honestly and include your percentages in a transparent way, but do point out that “the cause” includes overhead!

Keeping highly qualified and motivated employees, paying your office rent and electricity, and making sure that your organization has up-to-date software and tools all help your goal of making the world a better place. Remind your donors that every dollar supports “the cause,” and unrestricted giving is so valuable to your organization.

It will be easier for your team to answer persuasively if you brief them with this explanation ahead of time.


3. How can I unsubscribe from your emails or get off a direct mail list?

A donor who doesn’t want to hear from you may leave you feeling blue, but don’t worry – this interaction is an opportunity to make a good impression on your supporter and listen to their feedback.

Script a message that ensures the donor that they will no longer receive unsolicited communications from your organization and that you hope they will share their reasons why.

Give your employees a method of recording why the donor has unsubscribed (here’s where a donor management platform comes in). Some examples might be: “I received too many emails” / “I think direct mail is a waste of paper” / “I no longer support your cause”, etc.

Make sure that your employees thank the donor for their previous support. A friendly interaction will be remembered! Review the feedback with your marketing and communications teams to close the loop.


4. How can I make an in-kind donation?

Every organization needs a solid in-kind donation statement. After all, not every item out there is useful to your cause! What an animal shelter needs is different from a children’s hospital or a food bank. Your statement should include the items that are most valuable to your organization. Donors need this kind of specific direction.

For instance, most hospital foundations will tell you that toy drives tend to bring in gifts for very small children, but items for teenagers are often overlooked! (Now that you know that information, you’re probably thinking of picking up some video games for the next toy drive in your community.)

Make sure you have a written and complete list of prohibited items that you can’t use. Some things might be obvious (you don’t need weapons donated!), and others you might need to explain to donors. Many international relief organizations point out that a cash donation is much more useful when responding to international disasters than canned goods which cost a lot of time and money to ship overseas.

If your organization can’t accept donations at the door, make sure your team knows where drop-offs are accepted and what days and times are appropriate.

Finally, be sure to include the rules for what kinds of donations are eligible for a tax receipt.


5. How secure is your online donation form? (Alternately: Why should I trust your online donation form?)

It’s incredibly important for your employees to understand the basics of how your online donation system works so they can explain it to donors and give them confidence when giving to your organization!

We know that donors who give online tend to give larger average gift amounts than a donation made by cash or check. This is particularly important for peer-to-peer events, crowdfunding campaigns, Giving Days, or emergency appeals that tend to see high volumes of online giving.

Here’s what you should include in your answer:

  • The name of the technology platform and payment gateway that you use.
  • Your vendor’s PCI status (that’s payment card industry status for security). We hope your vendors are PCI Level 1 (like FrontStream!) Credit card data should always be encrypted when it’s captured online.
  • Your assurance that only organization staff have access to donor information and NEVER have access to credit card numbers other than the last 4 digits for verification or update purposes.

Not sure of where to get these answers? Email your technology partner! For instance, FrontStream clients can contact their support team or Account Manager to hear how we store donor data, encrypt payment information, and make sure that donations are safe and secure.


6. Whoops! I didn’t mean to donate that amount (or pledge that amount to a participant in a fundraising event). How do I get a refund?

Charge-backs occasionally happen - it’s a fact of life at a nonprofit! It’s important to be understanding and comforting when a donor has made a mistake. We tend to see these issues when donors are rushing to give (maybe for an emergency appeal), or when they’re new to online giving (donating to support a friend in a peer-to-peer event).

Your employees should all know what to do when they get that anxious call. Check with your payment gateway or technology vendor to learn the steps required to reverse a transaction.

Make sure your staff knows how to record that charge-back in your donor management system. And most of all, get an estimate on how long it will take for that refund to appear on your donor’s statement or in their bank account.

No donor wants to hear: “Ummmm I’m not sure...” when they’ve accidentally donated $100 instead of $10!


7. How do I put on an event for your cause?

Third-party events can raise so much for your organization, but is your organization helping those supporters do the most they can for your cause?

Equip your team to have these conversations with supporters by creating an area on your website that includes everything an individual or group would need to put on an event in your honor.

Create an event kit that’s available for download, including your logo, facts about your organization, posters they can customize, and tax receipt information.

Include an easy “rules” list that includes suggested event ideas and notes on which events are prohibited. You might not be able to receive proceeds from gambling or alcohol-related events, for instance.

If you want to maximize the donations raised by a community group, be sure to give them their own online donation link that allows them to track donations raised for their event! It’s easy to encourage supporters to sign up to raise money for your charity through peer-to-peer fundraising or peer-to-peer campaigns.


8. How do I volunteer for your cause?

We love volunteers – they’re the backbone of so many organizations and are especially important for small shops. You never want to waste an opportunity to bring passionate people into your cause, but volunteers like to know that their specific talents aren’t going to be wasted.

Go beyond having a generic “please email volunteering@mycharityname.org for more information” line on your website. Instead, create an actual “volunteer application” form that includes all the questions your organization needs to ask a potential volunteer. This formalizes the volunteer registration process and makes it a lot easier for your team to manage.

Ask your volunteers what talents they have or resources that they can contribute. For instance, if you’re an animal shelter, does the volunteer have a driver’s license and access to a car to help transport pets to appointments?

Lastly, interview one of your existing volunteers and tell their story on your website – this gives your supporters an idea of what it’s like to work with your organization.


9. I represent a corporation, how can I help your organization?

Don’t freeze up on this answer – it can be asked at any time!

Some nonprofit employees might hear “corporate donation” and imagine a big check, then think about passing over the individual to the corporate or major gifts team. But there’s so much more that local businesses can do for your organization than a simple one-off donation.

If any of these options are available at your nonprofit, list them and make sure your team knows to promote them:

  • Corporate gift matching: A great idea for companies is to match donations made by their employees.
  • Payroll giving: Employees love the option to give monthly through their employer. Your team should be ready to pitch this idea.
  • Donate services, not goods: When you think about corporations and in-kind donations, you probably think of “auction items”. There’s so much more a company can do for you if you consider its internal resources! Ask corporate connections if they’d be willing to donate time with their graphic design or web development departments to help you build out a campaign website or ad campaign. If a company is running online advertising for their corporation, ask if you can have some of their scheduled ad buy for your charity. Digital resources are easy for corporations to donate if you remember to ask for them!
  • Group volunteering: Not only is group volunteering a great team-building exercise for a corporate team, it also helps encourage employee engagement – plus your nonprofit benefits as well. Everyone wins!
  • Register a team for a peer-to-peer event: Does your nonprofit have a marathon or a bike-a-thon to support its cause? This could be just the thing for a particularly sporty – or competitive – company to take part in.

10. How can I donate to honor or remember someone?

If you have an in-house print card program, make sure staff knows what the card looks like, what messaging is on it, and how quickly the cards are printed and posted. Donors want to make sure their gift is acknowledged!

Your technology vendor should make it easy for your cause to add “give in honor / in memory / in celebration” options to an online donation form. Don’t force donors to call in and speak to a representative when they want to make a tribute gift efficiently and quickly.

Even better, allow donors to send eCards to notify a friend or family member that a donation has been made in their name.

A quick note: Sometimes donors are confused about tax receipts for “in honor” donations. The person who makes the donation will receive a tax receipt, not the honoree.

11. Why should I give monthly (and how can I do it easily)?

Monthly donations are precious! Do your donors know just how much they mean to you? Sustained giving means that your organization can forecast more accurately for the future!

You should always include the option for donors to give monthly on donations forms, pledge forms, or anywhere you allow someone to make a gift to your organization.

Donors want to know what monthly giving at your charity looks like. Do you have one monthly transaction date for all your donors? (We recommend choosing the beginning of the month when credit cards are least likely to be maxed out.)

Do you give your donors the option to choose the transaction date? Some donation platforms allow donors to choose the day of the month and the maximum number of monthly intervals right on the online donation form. Flexibility in giving means more monthly donations!

Donors also want to know how to pause or stop monthly donations if personal circumstances change. Reassure them by letting them know that you can “pause” rather than outright cancel their recurring giving. This is a way of putting donations on “hold” for a future time when the donor feels comfortable with the monthly expense. And of course, donors should be assured that they can cancel their monthly donation at any time and will not receive further solicitations if that’s their wish.

Donors often ask how monthly donations appear in tax receipts. If you’re like most organizations, you annualize all gifts made in a calendar year and send one aggregated tax receipt in January of the following year.

It’s a simple process, so make sure that your employees understand how to talk about it!


12. I’ve registered with your website but I can’t log in!

Your organization may give your supporters the option to create a profile on your website where they can log in with a username and password. This is usually an area where donors can view past donations, change monthly donation options, see their tax receipts, or choose email communication preferences.

Some organizations also have forums for patients or community members that require a login. Others have similar logged-in spaces for petition signing and action alerts.

“I lost my password” is a really common donor concern. Your loyal supporters will be reassured when your employees can easily talk to them by accessing their donor account again. Teach your staff to how to explain the “resend username/password” options that usually appear under a login box.

Make sure everyone on your team knows what’s inside a donor’s account and how they can access all their critical items.


13. What can I expect after I donate to your cause?

Does your team understand what the donation follow-up process looks like at your organization? That info isn’t just for the marketing or development team!

Tell donors that they will be receiving a monthly (or quarterly, or weekly) newsletter, or that you’ll be sending an annual report by mail. Let donors know how you’ll follow up with them to report on how their gift made a difference.

If they’ll receive event invites or action alerts to sign a petition, let them know! They may be excited to learn that they’ll be hearing more from you.

To address common question #13, assure donors that if they don’t want to receive communications from you, or if they want to reduce the frequency of emails, your team is always able to assist.


14. Does your organization have clear short-term and long-term goals? 


Donors want to know that their donation is actually moving the cause, whatever it may be, forward to some definable goal, not just keeping the wheels turning in the organization and keeping things at status quo. 

If you and your team can’t define your short-term and long-term goals, not only can you not tell how much progress you’re making toward them or when you’ll hit them, but you can also cost yourselves a lot of donor confidence, and even a lot of donations.


15. Can your charity tell me what progress it’s made (or is making) toward its overall goal?

Similar to Question 14, this question will likely come from donors who are concerned with making sure they’re donating to a cause that’s actually making progress. 

Even though you’re just out to do a lot of good, and you may not think of your organization as “competing” with others in the same arena, there are a lot of charities and causes out there, and donors will inevitably have to make some choices about which one gets their donation. 

Being able to clearly show the progress your organization has made towards helping your cause can be the thing that “tips” a donor in your favor, making sure you get the donation, instead of someone else. 

Showing this progress doesn’t have to be a “death by PowerPoint” situation - a clear infographic or eye-catching table or chart can be all you need to convince a potential donor that their funds will be put to good use in your hands. 


We hope this list of 15 questions donors commonly ask charities helps you out in crafting the right type of communication! Always remember that your donors are some of the most important people to your organization, and by showing understanding and transparency, you're reinforcing that your nonprofit is a worthy one to support - whether it's a one-off or for life.

Want to get a head start on your next donation campaign and put your newfound question-fielding knowledge to use? 

Download our free campaign template and get off on the right foot with your next donation campaign, quicker and easier than ever!


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