For mission-driven organizations, embracing a digital-first approach to fundraising and constituent engagement is more important than ever.

“27% of nonprofits with high digital maturity exceed fundraising goals during the pandemic, compared to organizations with low digital maturity only 7% exceeding their goals.” – 3rd Edition of the Nonprofit Trends Report.

Following our webinar on ” 5 Digital-First Fundraising Strategies “, this is the first post in a series of in-depth looks at how technology is helping nonprofit teams succeed in real-time by transforming how they reach donors, run programs, and report impact.


Embracing a digital-first approach to fundraising and constituent engagement is more important than ever.

What’s an Ask Ladder?

An ask ladder, also known as a giving ladder, is a set of suggested donation amounts commonly found on a donation page. It provides donors an easy, one-click process to donate at a predetermined donation amount. When designed effectively, the ask ladder suggests giving levels that urge people to donate just a bit more than they might have without the suggested amount. Elevate makes it easy for fundraising teams to set up donation pages and ask ladders. Through extensive research about donor behaviors, Elevate’s ask ladder features six suggested donation amounts based on a mathematical formula – starting with the base amount at 100%. With each step up in the ladder, subsequent amounts are calculated at 150%, 200%, 400%, 800%, and 1500%, respectively. The donor is also given the option to set their own amount.

There are two kinds of ask ladders – one for one-time donations and one for monthly recurring donations. Since recurring monthly donors are giving on a regular cadence, these ask ladder amounts are typically much lower than the one-time ask ladder

Creating unique pages and ask ladders is a great start, but personalizing this to the individual donor drives even more value. And pairing the ask with compelling messaging brings it home.

Only 4 out of 10 organizations had a strong reason to give on their page, and just 28% of organizations used some kind of incentive. – Global Online Fundraising Scorecard

Ask ladders give donors an easy, one-click process to donate at a predetermined donation amount.

Why is Personalizing the Ask Ladder Important? How Do I Do It?

The key to maximizing each donation is understanding each donor’s propensity to give, what moves that person to donate, and what their capacity is for giving.

Understanding your donor’s capacity to give might seem daunting, but there are a number of ways to shift this from a guessing game to a science. You can use one of the following fields, or a combination, to build your ask.

  • Giving History – Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) records and reports donation history, aggregated and summarized by individuals and households, and include useful information like largest gift amount, average gift amount, and last gift amount.
  • Formula Fields – Combining a donor’s giving history with the ask ladder formula, you can calculate a one-time ask amount that increases the donor’s last gift Amount or Largest gift amount by 50% or 100% to them to the next level. Here is an example of merge syntax for a formula field:


that targets a next ask amount of 150% of their last gift,

and that’s what I named the field, Next Ask Amount

  • Predictive Wealth AnalysisWealth screening technologies on the AppExchange enable access to fields like credit ratings and real estate purchases to compile comprehensive wealth predictions for millions of people, bringing this wealth screening data directly onto your contact and household records in NPSP.
  • Artificial Intelligence & Predictions – If you’d like to let AI create these formulas for you, Einstein Predictions can leverage all of your donor data, and continuously optimize fields to drive increased revenue.

In all cases, a donor’s giving history, wealth profiling, formula fields, and predictions are available on your donor contact records in Salesforce. Drawing on this information can help you craft personalized fundraising appeals.

How Do I Personalize the Ask Ladder?

Elevate provides a simple, powerful way to personalize the ask ladder on giving pages for each and every donor. Every Giving Page on Elevate lives on a unique URL that looks something like this:

To personalize the ask ladder based on donor giving history, Elevate has two URL parameters that can be appended to the end of the URL to create a unique link: One-time Base Amount (otba) or Recurring Base Amount (rba).

Applying these URL parameters to the giving page URL would look like this:

This URL will deliver a giving page with the one-time donation ask ladder starting at $100 and a recurring base amount of $20. Click the link above and give it a try to see how easily you change the amounts in the URL and reload the page to see the giving page ask ladder change.

How to Scale Personalize Dynamic Asks

With Marketing Cloud and Pardot you can use your calculated personal ask amount and merge it into an email template. This way, instead of embedding a static link to the nonprofit giving page in an email, you have a dynamic, personalized link for each of your contacts in Salesforce.

It would look something like this:{suggested_one_time_ask_amount__c}&rba={suggested_recurring_ask_amount__c}

NOTE: This is not actual email merge field syntax, which will vary by email marketing provider. Learn more about how to do this in Pardot and Marketing Cloud.

And just like that, you’ve got a connected fundraising platform! Many nonprofits are rapidly evolving their approaches to constituent engagement in response to the pandemic and is investing deeply in integrated fundraising solutions to support them. Nonprofit Cloud and its suite of tools provides integrated technology, making it easier and faster for organizations to apply a holistic data-driven approach to change at scale.

About the Author

Dave is Senior Director of Product Management for Elevate, where he is leading the vision to deliver a complete digital payments platform on Salesforce. Dave joined in 2008, where he launched the Power of Us Hub, Philanthropy Cloud and now Elevate. He brings over twenty years of experience at the intersection of technology, philanthropy, and nonprofits. A self-proclaimed “mission driven technologist,” Dave brings his background in fundraising, consulting, and enterprise architecture to support changemakers driving impact.

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