Door to Door Fundraising: Best Practices

Door-to-door fundraising can be daunting for your fundraisers. They’ll likely get plenty of rejections but it can be highly effective — both for driving donations and raising awareness of your organization’s cause. The latter can lead to donations later on, even if it’s not successful right away. Your fundraisers may be able to engage potential…

7 minutes read
Door to Door Fundraising: Best Practices

Door-to-door fundraising can be daunting for your fundraisers. They’ll likely get plenty of rejections but it can be highly effective — both for driving donations and raising awareness of your organization’s cause.

The latter can lead to donations later on, even if it’s not successful right away. Your fundraisers may be able to engage potential donors who are not receptive to other donation channels.

Here are some tips on how to do door-to-door fundraising  — and some advice on how to keep your fundraisers motivated if they start to feel anxious or down about the unique challenges of this fundraising method.

Best Practices for Door-to-Door Fundraising

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Door-to-door fundraising has a lot in common with door-to-door sales, and your organization can gain valuable advice from following some of the tips and tricks that work well for successful door-to-door salespeople.

Here are some best practice tips for getting the most from your door-to-door fundraising:

1. Get Permission

Look into the requirements your organization will need to satisfy for this. Without prior permission, it may not be legal for your fundraising team to engage in door-to-door fundraising.

2. See When Other Organizations Are Doing Door-to-Door Fundraising

Often, you’ll be able to check when other organizations are doing door-to-door fundraising in certain areas at the time that you plan to approach people. This helps avoid overlapping with them and knocking on the doors of residents who have already been approached by other organizations.

3. Raising Awareness of Your Organization

If people in the community are already aware of your organization, they can be more enthusiastic about talking to your fundraisers.

Holding events in the community can be a great way to raise your organization’s profile in the neighborhood. If residents have attended one of your events prior to your fundraisers knocking on their door, they may already have a lot of goodwill towards your organization — even if they’re not already on board as donors.

Pro tip: Have banners, flyers, and other marketing materials in the neighborhoods you’re going door to door in and make sure these have a link to your donation page. You can also drop flyers or leaflets through doors before you arrive in person. If residents aren’t ready to give right now, they’ll know how to give when they’re better placed to donate.

4. Start Conversations

Building personal connections around your cause can be more effective than a big ask for donations. Your fundraisers can look for ways to build rapport and an emotional connection with potential donors — the key is to make sure that they listen carefully and appear authentic in their efforts.

Pro tip: If people are open to conversing with your fundraisers but don’t want to donate right away, they can offer to leave marketing materials so potential donors can learn more about your cause and donate at a later date if they choose to.

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5. Highlight Your Progress

Social proof can be an important factor in securing donations. If you’ve already secured funds towards your goal, let residents know about this. They can be more likely to contribute if they can see that others have already been giving to your cause.

6. Preparing Your Fundraisers

Preparation is key — think about what your fundraisers will say, the type of questions potential donors may ask them, the materials they’ll have with them, and which areas they’ll visit, for example.

Knowing the demographics of the people who live on the route can help work out when best to call on them and which approach may work best to win them over.

Confidence is a key part of door-to-door fundraising success, so make sure your fundraisers are knowledgeable about your organization and mission and can pre-empt any questions or objections that may come their way.

7. Training Your Fundraisers

Training your door-to-door fundraisers gives them confidence and makes them a stronger representative of your organization. With the right training, your team can feel comfortable in a door-to-door fundraising role.

This includes how to open conversations, how to get people interested in and enthusiastic about your mission, how to record donor data, and how to make the ask for donations in a way that’s likely to be successful.

Pro tip: Go out and about with your door-to-door fundraisers sometimes to see the type of challenges they face. This can help train your future fundraisers more effectively.

8. Inspiring Trust

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Gaining the trust of residents is one of the biggest challenges of door-to-door fundraising. People can be naturally cynical about it, which makes it harder to gain their trust and successfully secure donations.

Wearing photo ID inspires trust as it helps confirms that team members have a legitimate role as a fundraiser for your organization. Many potential donors won’t engage in conversations with your team unless this can be presented.

Pro tip #1: Wearing branded t-shirts and badges can inspire a little bit more trust with potential donors.

Pro tip #2: If your door-to-door fundraisers are volunteers, try to make this obvious early on in your approach. A lot of the mistrust associated with door-to-door fundraising is based on the idea that fundraisers are receiving a commission for securing donations, so if this isn’t the case, it’s smart to let potential donors know.

9. When to Knock

Timing can be essential for determining the success of door-to-door fundraising.

This is where research and preparation can serve you well. If you know a lot about the average income and lifestyle in the neighborhoods you’re visiting, it can help work out the best time to call on them — and by default, the times that likely won’t work so well for them.

10. Reading the Signs

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Often, your fundraisers can spot subtle clues that suggest whether a potential donor is likely to give. Facial expressions, body language, and eye contact are a few examples of this.

As your fundraisers become more confident in their roles, they’ll likely get better at reading these cues and making judgment calls on whether a potential donor is genuinely interested in giving (or just too polite to say otherwise!).

11. Handling Complaints

Have a system in place within your organization for handling complaints. Door-to-door fundraising is a divisive fundraising tactic, and not everyone your fundraisers approach will approve. The odd complaint is to be expected, and you need to know how you’ll deal with these.

12. Keeping Records

Make sure your fundraisers keep records of donor details. This can be exported to donor management software (like Donorbox!) so your organization can stay in touch with donors later on.

Pro tip: If you’re using your donation page to accept donations, details will likely be captured automatically.

What Not to Do When Door-to-Door Fundraising

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And what should your fundraisers avoid doing if your organization wants to increase your success with door-to-door fundraising?

Here are some things to think about from safety and productivity perspectives:

1. Don’t Go Inside the Home

From a safety perspective, it’s smart for your fundraising team to stay on the doorstep — even if they’re invited to go inside by the resident.

2. Don’t Spend Too Much Time At Specific Homes

Usually, 20 minutes is enough time to get a handle on whether someone will donate. Spending longer than this probably won’t increase your success rate, and it gives your team less opportunity to knock on other doors. If there’s no strong interest in supporting your cause, leave the marketing materials and move on.

Pro tip: Your door-to-door fundraisers can use body language and other non-verbal clues to decide whether a potential donor will give.

3. Don’t Push Too Hard For The Sale

Door-to-door fundraising often has a reputation for being an aggressive fundraising tactic, and this is where many organizations fail to achieve success with it.

Your fundraisers can easily immerse potential donors in your cause and encourage them to donate without being overly intrusive or overbearing in your tactics.

Focusing on meaningful conversations around your cause can help with this.

4. Don’t Overcomplicate the Sign-Up Process

Potential donors are likely busy and can be discouraged from giving if they’re asked to complete too many steps during the donation process. The fewer steps involved, the more likely they are to go through the checkout.

How to Overcome Objections

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Door-to-door fundraising is a big challenge. You’ll often find that residents don’t want to talk to you at all, which makes it difficult or even impossible to start any meaningful conversations.

Others will have objections — or reasons they don’t want to donate right now.

If your team receives an objection and not a flat-out “no” or “I’m not interested,” it doesn’t always mean that the approach has been unsuccessful.

Often, it means that a potential donor has some interest in supporting you, but they also have a few reservations that need addressing before they can commit.

You can see it as a roadblock rather than an insurmountable hurdle.

If your door-to-door fundraisers can find ways to work around these objections, you may still secure a donation.

The key is to do this without coming across as pushy or aggressive.

Your fundraisers can put themselves in the shoes of potential donors to imagine the types of objections they may present with. How would they feel if they were the potential donor, and what kind of questions would be running through their minds? What would inspire them to say “yes” to a door-to-door fundraiser?

This helps your fundraisers see the situation from a donor perspective and inspires them to overcome objections.

Ultimately, you want to give potential donors the information they need to decide whether to support your cause.

Some of the objections your fundraising team may come up against include:

  • They’re already donating to other causes
  • They don’t have the income to donate at this time
  • They don’t want to donate the amount you’re asking (if you’re suggesting a minimum amount)
  • They’re not enthusiastic about your cause/mission
  • They’re not sure how their donations will be spent and how much will go directly to the cause
  • They need to talk to a decision-maker before agreeing to a donation (e.g., their spouse)

Pro tip: If money is the most significant objection, donors may be more receptive to starting with a smaller donation and working towards a larger amount.

How to Overcome Rejection, Stress, and Loneliness

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Door-to-door fundraising can be very rewarding, but it can also be a lonely and frustrating role.

Rejection is to be expected — some of the time, at least. It can make it hard for your fundraisers to stay motivated and confident in their delivery, though. In some cases, it can contribute to anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

Working in small teams can reduce loneliness and frustration. You can arrange for your door-to-door fundraisers to knock on doors in pairs or trios, for example. This can help them feel less isolated and deal with knockbacks more effectively, as well as improving safety.

Being persistent and tenacious can also help. Not everyone will respond positively to door-to-door fundraising, but you don’t need to have success at every door you knock on.

If your fundraisers are expecting some degree of rejection and don’t see it as a reflection of their abilities, it can be a lot easier to deal with. Residents can decide not to donate for many different reasons — many of which are not linked to the approach itself.


Door-to-door fundraising can be a successful way to raise funds, especially if you prepare thoroughly and work hard at building connections with potential donors. This can secure future donations, even if you get a “no” during the visit itself.

That said, it’s not the easiest role for your team to do. As door-to-door fundraisers, they’ll likely have to deal with plenty of rejection, objections, and frustration. With the right training, these can be overcome — especially if your team feels confident in their fundraising roles.

Here at Donorbox, we’re supporting organizations like yours to achieve fundraising success. For more tips and advice on how to get more from your fundraising activities, check out the posts on our nonprofit blog.

Sally Aquire is a copywriter with a background in crafting communications and fundraising for a women's center. She writes about fundraising, nonprofit management, and wellness initiatives.

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