How to Ask for Donations: A Nonprofit’s Guide with Top Tips and Actionable Steps

Your nonprofit has to ask for donations in order to continue to do the work that you do. If you want to help people, change the world, or protect the environment, you need money and volunteers to help you achieve your goals. You can’t expect the donations to fall out of the sky. You have to ask for them!

You can ask for donations from a multitude of sources. Individuals are one obvious group of potential donors, but you can also solicit donations from local small businesses in your community as well as larger corporations and even the government.

Who to Ask for Donations

Asking Individuals for Donations

Individuals can be a powerful force for good. Whether they donate ten dollars a month for a year or give $5,000 with one check, individual donors have the potential to be the best source of revenue for your nonprofit.

The important thing to remember, however, is that each donor is unique and must be treated as a person, not as a wallet. When you treat donors as more than money generators, you deepen your connection with them and help ensure that they continue giving down the road.

Asking Companies for Donations

Companies often want to give their corporate philanthropy and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives a boost. Your organization can be the beneficiary of that philanthropy simply by reaching out and asking!

Additionally, these companies can be great partners for your organization in the future. When you have an audience (i.e., the company’s employees), it is easier to promote your organization and encourage those individuals to donate money themselves.

Asking Foundations for Donations

Foundations are nonprofit entities that exist to help other organizations further their cause or mission. They award grants based on applications and eligibility. They can stem from a company’s philanthropic efforts or be a private, family-run entities.

Sometimes, a foundation will simply give a grant to a nonprofit whose mission aligns well with theirs. In other instances, nonprofits must apply for a grant and follow the foundation’s instructions for submission and use of funds.

How to Ask for Donations from Individuals

How Individuals Donate to Nonprofits

Online Donations

Online giving has surged in popularity in the last few years, and it’s easy to see why!

Online giving makes it easy for donors to give instantly to their favorite nonprofits and causes. They don’t have to wait weeks or even months for an organization to receive and process a check.

Convenient giving is important to donors. They want to donate to nonprofits in a quick and efficient way. Thankfully, online giving tools give them the power to do just that!

Mobile Donations

Mobile donations are similar to online giving. The two actually go hand-in-hand!

A mobile donation is any contribution made with a smartphone, tablet, or cellphone. It includes text-to-give donations, QR code promotions, mobile-responsive donation pages, and more!

Mobile giving is still the new kid on the block, but it already has glowing reviews from the nonprofits who have implemented it alongside their other fundraising strategies.

Direct Mail Donations

Traditional fundraising methods, like direct mail, are still successful at helping nonprofits raise money.

But direct mail appeals don’t have to be sent out to each and every donor and prospect in your database. You would end up spending way too much money on postage, and not everyone is going to respond by mailing in a check anyway.

However, letters do lend a certain formality to a donation appeal, a factor that is important when making an ask for a sizable donation.

Phone Donations

Giving your donors a call can be a great way to raise more money and develop stronger relationships.

Most people think of phonathons for this fundraising method, but you can call donors at any time! If you go the phonathon route, you’ll need well-trained volunteers and a carefully-crafted script for asking for donations.

Phone calls can help your donors connect more closely to your nonprofit. They also help you explain your mission and cause to supporters.

Planned Gifts

Planned gifts are donations that are prepared in the present to be made in the future.

They are often left by individuals with strong ties to a nonprofit organization and are made via wills or bequests.

Sometimes, an organization knows that a donor is planning to leave them a donation. Other times, a nonprofit has no idea that a supporter is leaving a planned gift. Either way, planned gifts are often the largest contributions that an organization will ever receive.

Major Gifts

Major gifts are large contributions that loyal donors make to nonprofit organizations.

Major gifts can be different amounts for different nonprofits. Some may count six-figure donations as major.

Others might count anything above $5,000 as a major gift. While the definition of a major gift varies, the fact is that major donations are a big deal for organizations of any size. Individuals don’t give major gifts on a regular basis, so nonprofits should use these contributions wisely.

Annual Campaign Donations

Annual campaign donations are contributions that individuals make to a nonprofit’s annual fund.

They can be made through any giving avenue, and they usually go toward an organization’s yearly operational expenses.

An annual campaign donation helps a nonprofit keep the lights on, so to speak. These kinds of contributions pay for equipment, resources, utilities, and more.

Event Donations

Event donations are contributions that individuals make during or before a fundraising event.

These kinds of donations can be made online before the event or through another giving method during the event.

If you’re hosting an event soon, make sure you ask your attendees for donations at some point in the night. It’s not a fundraising event if you’re not raising money!

How Individuals Benefit by Giving to Nonprofits

1. Philanthropic Motivations

Many individuals donate to nonprofits simply out of the goodness of their hearts. They enjoy giving to organizations that champion the causes that they care deeply about.

The desire to help other people, communities, animals, or the environment is a huge driving force behind individual giving, and is one of the benefits for individuals who want to give to nonprofits.

If their donations are going toward something they care about, it benefits them and the efforts they’re supporting.

2. Tax Incentives

Not only do individual donations benefit the people that make them by helping further the causes they care about, but there is also a tax incentive attached to donating charitably.

The higher an individual’s tax bracket, the greater the charitable gift tax deduction is. But that doesn’t mean that individuals in lower tax brackets still don’t enjoy tax benefits from giving to nonprofits.

While it’s usually not the primary motivator for donating, tax incentives are one way that individuals benefit.

3. Feelings of Satisfaction

Whenever someone gives to a charitable organization or cause, they often feel a sense of personal satisfaction or pride. This psychological response is another benefit of donating.

While it’s obviously not the main reason that most people give to charity, the sense of gratification that individuals feel after donating to a nonprofit is an intangible benefit from supporting charitable work.

The desire to experience the feeling of personal satisfaction can motivate donors to give again and again.

How Nonprofits Benefit from Individual Donations

1. Significant Donations

Nearly two-thirds of all charitable giving is made up of individuals’ donations. People who give to nonprofits are the greatest source of revenue for those organizations.

Whether they’re mailing in checks or donating via text message, individuals are the biggest supporters of the work that nonprofit organizations do.

2. Abundant Connections

Every donor has a network of friends and family members who could all become potential donors. When more people donate, nonprofits can draw upon those connections.

If a nonprofit is able to find connections between their donors and other prospects, they can grow their donor base and raise more money in the long run.

3. Variety of Revenue

Individuals can give in a variety of ways. Not only can they show their support with their donations, but they also volunteer their time and can sometimes offer in-kind donations.

Because individual donors have so many different donation avenues at their disposal, nonprofit organizations benefit in more ways than one!

How to Ask for Donations from Companies

How Companies Donate to Nonprofits

Matching Gifts

Matching gifts are a type of corporate giving program that essentially double an individual donors’ contribution to an eligible nonprofit.

After an individual makes a donation, they must fill out a matching gift request form and submit it to their employer’s HR department.

If the nonprofit and donation are eligible, the company will write a check for the same amount to the nonprofit.

Volunteer Grants

Individual and team volunteer grants are corporate giving programs that monetarily reward the time that volunteers spend at a nonprofit.

Once volunteers have reached a certain minimum number of volunteer hours, they can submit a request for a volunteer grant to their employers.

Volunteer grants are usually distributed on a per-hour basis and increase the longer a supporter volunteers.

Corporate Grants

Corporate grants are lump sums of money that a company or corporate foundation will issue to a nonprofit on an annual or semi-annual basis.

Sometimes, a company or corporate foundation will select a nonprofit internally. Other times, nonprofits can apply for a grant and a corporate committee will choose the recipient.

In-Kind Donations

In-kind donations are contributions of products or services that companies and businesses will give to a nonprofit in lieu of a cash contribution.

In-kind donations are often related to the business that is giving them. For instance, an accounting firm might offer free or discounted tax services to a nonprofit during tax season.

How Companies Benefit by Giving to Nonprofits

1. Better Public Image

Companies that donate regularly to nonprofits, either through corporate giving programs or via other corporate philanthropy initiatives, enjoy a better public image than those who do not.

Additionally, consumers tend to be more willing to buy from companies that give to charitable causes, which, in the long run, boosts a company’s profits.

2. Increased Employee Engagement

Employees who work for charitably-minded companies are more engaged, productive, and creative than those who work for companies with little or no philanthropic endeavors.

If businesses want happier, more engaged employees, then they should consider donating to nonprofits.

3. Tax Deductions

Just like individuals receive a tax benefit for giving to nonprofits, companies that donate to organizations can write off some or all of those donations on their taxes (depending on circumstances).

The tax benefits for organizations can be complicated, but they can be well worth the hassle if done correctly.

How Nonprofits Benefit from Corporate Donations

1. Varied In-Kind Donations

Sometimes, nonprofits don’t just need cash or volunteer time. They need a bulldozer to clear the land where their next building is going to go. Or they need office space while their current office is in renovations.

In these cases, corporate in-kind donations are a huge benefit. Contributions of products or services can save nonprofits a lot of money in the long run.

2. Stronger Corporate Partnershps

Corporate partnerships, especially with large companies, can help nonprofits spread the word to more people than they previously could. They also automatically have a pool of supporters from whom they can ask for donations.

Corporate partnerships, if well-founded, can provide nonprofits with donations and volunteer power for years. They’re essential for fundraising success.

3. Large Donation Amounts

Corporate grants can often be large sums of money that nonprofits could only ever hope to receive. If a nonprofit receives this grant on a yearly basis, they have guaranteed future revenue from that company.

The sheer amount of corporate giving dollars that are out there should be benefit enough for nonprofits to actively go after corporate contributions. 

How to Ask for Donations from Foundations

How Foundations Donate to Nonprofits

Foundation Grants

Foundation grants are (often large) sums of money that are distributed by community, private, or family foundations.

Sometimes, nonprofits must apply for these grants on an annual basis. Other times a foundation will select an organization to be the recipient of the grant each year.

Challenge Grants

Challenge grants are awarded by a foundation to a nonprofit organization after a certain challenge has been accomplished.

Usually, the challenge in question is of a fiscal nature and requires the organization to raise an amount of money by a designated deadline.

How Foundations Benefit by Giving to Nonprofits

1. Support Charitable Endeavors

Foundations are nonprofit entities with their own set of philanthropic goals and purposes.

By distributing grants to nonprofits, they are able to demonstrate their support for the causes they care about.

2. Promote Causes

Whenever a foundation donates a large sum, there’s a buzz surrounding the grant.

This puts the foundation in the spotlight and allows them to promote their causes to the general public.

How Nonprofits Benefit from Foundation Donations

1. Sizable Grant Amounts

Many foundation grants and challenge grants are substantial amounts of money. Nonprofits who receive these grants are often able to fund their most extensive projects.

However, it’s important to remember that many foundations don’t distribute grants to organizations unless they are already receiving a lot of individual and corporate donations. 

It’s crucial to have a solid fundraising basis before you apply for a community or challenge grant.

2. Stricter Spending Guidelines

Having strict guidelines might not seem like a nonprofit benefit, but it can actually be extremely helpful to have a grant-making organization set out rules for grants.

This means that a nonprofit must spend the grant in a way that falls in line with the prescribed guidelines that the foundation makes. It creates a sense of accountability for nonprofits.

Organizations can then focus their spending and keep a closer eye on their outgoing expenses.

How to Ask for Donations

How to Ask for Donations Via Email

Resources Needed

#1: Obviously, you’ll need a list of your donors’ emails if you want to start sending out email appeals.

#2: Next, you’ll want to make sure you segment your donors out into the appropriate groups. You wouldn’t want to send the same email to a loyal supporter that you would send to a brand new donor.

#3: Then, write a great email! It should include at least two (but no more than five) calls-to-action or links to your donation page.

When to Use Emails

Emails are best suited for mass communication on a monthly or even weekly basis.

They can be sent to any supporter, but they shouldn’t be used to ask for major gifts or as substitutes for direct mail appeals to donors who contribute at a higher giving levels or who have been loyal supporters.

Emails are one of the most cost-effective ways to raise money, but they’re only worth it if you write great emails that make people want to give!

How to Ask for Donations with Direct Mail

Resources Needed

#1: You’ll need a list of donors who you are confident will be responsive to your direct mail appeals. Many donors prefer the convenience of giving online, and you don’t want to spend money on an appeal that won’t be favorably accepted.

#2: Then, you’ll want to decide on what kind of direct mail appeal you’re going to send. You can go the traditional letter route, but you can also send cards, pamphlets, or postcards. The choice is yours!

#3: Don’t forget the self-addressed envelope! If you want donors to give via direct mail, then you have to include a way for them to send in a check to your nonprofit.

When to Use Direct Mail

Appeal letters don’t have to be sent out to each and every donor and prospect in your database. Instead, use your appeal letters as a way to reach out to major gift donors, loyal supporters, and businesses.

Direct mail appeals lend a certain formality to a donation ask, a factor that is important when making an ask for a sizable donation from an individual or a business.

Letters can also be a great way to talk up your nonprofit and lay out the projects you need help funding. Direct mail can be used to outline specific donation requests.

How to Ask for Donations with Social Media

Resources Needed

#1: First, you’ll need to find a social media platform that works for you and your donors. If all of your supporters use Facebook but all of your efforts are focused on Instagram, you’re missing the point.

#2: Then, promote your online donation page on the platform. In each post, provide followers with a link to your donation form and explain why you’re asking for contributions. You can even post pictures and videos!

#3: If you can, set up a donation page on Facebook. Some online donation page providers have options for their nonprofit customers to place a version of the donation form within a tab on Facebook. That way, donors can give via Facebook without ever leaving the site.

When to Use Social Media

Asking for donations on social media is kind of like a more casual version of asking for donations via email. It’s a type of mass communication that you can use on a pretty regular basis.

Having said that, you shouldn’t expect to receive any major gifts just because you made a few donation appeals on Twitter. Using social media as a fundraising tool is almost more about spreading the word about your cause.

The best possible scenario is using social media to inform followers about your nonprofit and cause and directing them to your online donation page, where they can make a contribution. But even if they don’t give, you’ve at least put your organization’s mission on their newsfeeds.

How to Ask for Donations In-Person

Resources Needed

#1: In-person donation appeals are usually reserved for major gift solicitation, so there will necessarily be a lot of preparation that goes into your face-to-face asks. Make sure that you fully research your prospect and prepare for the meeting.

#2: You’ll want to go into the meeting with a general script, notes, and an ask amount. This number shouldn’t be too high (you don’t want to insult a donor!) nor should it be too low (you don’t want to leave money on the table!).

#3: Additionally, you’ll want to be prepared for any answer other than an enthusiastic, “Yes!” You might need to adjust course and ask for a lower amount or offer another type of giving opportunity.

When to Use In-Person Meetings

Face-to-face appeals tend to be used for major gift donors, but they can also be utilized for corporate donation requests. In fact, any sizable donation request should officially take place in-person (even though you can communicate in other ways prior to the meeting).

In-person meetings allow your nonprofit to properly lay out how you plan to use the donation in question. They’re your fundraiser’s chance to hype up your organization and the project or campaign that needs funding.

In-person meetings are also perfect for answering any questions that your prospect might have. Few people are going to hand over a lot of money without asking at least a couple of questions first!

How to Ask for Donations Over the Phone

Resources Needed

#1: You’ll first need to determine how you’re going to use phone calls to ask for donations. Will it be on a case-by-case basis? Or will you try hosting a phonathon? Either option is a great fundraising avenue!

#2: Next, you’re going to need to develop a script. If you’re conducting a phonathon, your volunteer callers will need something to go off when they call prospective donors. Even if you’re just calling high-quality gift donors to ask for a donation, you’ll need some notes to stay on track.

#3: If you’re hosting a phonathon, you’ll also need great phonathon donation software. You won’t be able to quickly and safely accept donations without this crucial resource.

When to Use Phone Calls

Using phone calls to ask for donations is a tried and true fundraising tactic. You can host a phonathon at any point in the year, and you never really need a reason to call up a few of your supporters.

Of course, there are optimal times for making a fundraising call. A phone conversation can be a good way to explain to a donor exactly what it is that you’re going to do with their contribution. It’s also a great opportunity to talk up your organization and the specific campaign you’re running.

Phone calls are also ideal for getting in touch with donors who don’t live in your nonprofit’s immediate vicinity. You can easily call up a donor across the country for a chat.

How to Ask for Donations Online

Resources Needed

#1: Obviously, the first thing you’ll need for online fundraising is an online donation page! If you have the resources, you can build one yourself, but it’s probably more cost-effective to enlist the services of an online fundraising company.

#2: Then, you’ll need to actively promote your donation form. Unlike the other fundraising strategies listed here, an online page is a passive fundraising avenue. Donors won’t know about it unless you tell them! Put a large “Donate Now” button on your website and include the link to your page in all of your  communications.

#3: You should also ensure that your donation page works on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Many donors give with these devices and you don’t want to hinder their giving process with a malfunctioning donation page.

When to Use Online Donation Tools

To be frank, every nonprofit should be fundraising online these days. It’s the easiest, most cost-effective, and most efficient way to raise money from anyone who has an internet connection. If an organization isn’t making use of the many online donation tools out there, it’s missing out!

It’s important to remember that most online donations will be small (at least at first). Many people are skeptical about online giving, and they feel more comfortable making large donations via check. And that’s okay! Your nonprofit can still reap the benefits of online fundraising by marketing your online donation form to all of your donors.

Online donation forms have become universal giving tools, and they’re not going anywhere any time soon. Make sure that your nonprofit is on board the online giving train before you miss out on donations!

When to Ask for Donations

Peak Giving Times

People like to give for various reasons and at different times of the year. Your nonprofit can take advantage of these peak giving times by scheduling your donation appeals during them.

The end of the year has proven to be a busy time of year for giving. Whether it’s the general holiday spirit or the fact that donors have a better grasp of their finances by the year’s end, people tend to give more in November and December than any other months!

Based on these trends, it would be wise for your organization to ramp up your donation asks during the end of the calendar year.

Don’t forsake the rest of the year, though! Just remember when those peak giving times are and plan accordingly.

#GivingTuesday

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving, now known as #GivingTuesday, is a popular time for donors to give to their favorite charities and organizations.

Many people participate in the rampant consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The creators of #GivingTuesday wanted to make sure that people were also inspired to give back a little during the holiday season. Thus, #GivingTuesday was born!

Make the most of #GivingTuesday, promote your nonprofit’s mission, and encourage donors to give.

Include #GivingTuesday information in your correspondence throughout November so that donors are well aware of the day of giving. You can even feature your #GivingTuesday supporters on social media and thank them for their participation.

Days of giving like #GivingTuesday are big days for nonprofits who have been asking for donations. Make sure your organization is prepared!

During Events

One of the best times to ask for donations from individuals is when they’re all together and excited about supporting your organization.

Whether this takes place at a gala, walk-a-thon, or other type of fundraising event, donation appeals during fundraisers can be a great opportunity to demonstrate what your organization has accomplished and what it hopes to achieve in the future.

Instead of just asking supporters for money that will go toward the general or annual fund, let donors and volunteers know exactly what their money and time are going toward.

If you have plans to raise a certain amount of money in a particular time frame, tell event attendees about that goal and ask them to help you reach it.

Events are the perfect place to let donors know how their funds help your organization and remind them of why they should continue supporting your nonprofit’s cause.

Matching Gift Submission Deadlines

Companies that offer matching gift and volunteer grant programs often have deadlines for employees to submit requests. Whether that deadline is three months or a whole year after the initial donation is made, your nonprofit has a certain amount of time to promote matching gifts and volunteer grants.

Immediately after a donor makes a contribution or volunteers their time with your organization, send them a thank you email or letter to let them know you appreciate their support.

Within this acknowledgement, make sure that you also mention matching gifts and volunteer grants. If the acknowledgement comes in the form of an email, provide recipients with a link to more information or a tool (like Double the Donation’s!) to see if their employers offer such programs.

Promoting matching gifts and volunteer grants at the right times will encourage donors to submit those requests to their employers sooner rather than later.

After the Ask

The Importance of Acknowledgements

Someone once said that, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

Your nonprofit’s first step to developing a better relationship with your supporters is to say thank you as soon as they’ve made a donation or volunteered their time.

Additionally, before you make another donation appeal, make sure that you mention the donor’s previous involvement with your organization and thank them for their continued support.

Saying thank you to donors and volunteers after they have donated their money or time is a great first step in developing a deeper connection with those supporters.

Your nonprofit’s first step to developing a better relationship with your supporters is to say thank you as soon as they’ve made a donation or volunteered their time.

Types of Donor Acknowledgements

  • Donor Thank-You Letters

    Donor thank-you letters are the most traditional form of acknowledgements. They are usually sent to donors who have given via mailed-in check or who have given a substantial (but not necessarily “major”) gift.

    They can be sent to any donor, however. In fact, you can send different types of direct mail acknowledgements to donors.

    A donor that gives $250 might receive a more detailed letter while a $10 contribution might warrant a thank-you postcard.

    The type of direct mail acknowledgement you send out will likely depend on the amount of the donation and the relationship your organization has with that particular donor.

  • Acknowledgement Emails

    Sending out emails is one of the most cost-effective acknowledgement strategies out there.

    Emails should be sent to donors as soon as an online donation or a text donation is made. This immediate response not only shows that your nonprofit is appreciative of that donor’s contribution, but it also serves as a confirmation that their donation was received. 

    You can also include matching gift information and links to more details within your emails to encourage donors to look into having their donation doubled by their employer.

  • Social Media Shout-Outs

    Not all of your donors will have social media accounts, but many of them will be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or all three!

    If that’s the case, you can use one of those platforms to put the spotlight on some of your supporters.

    Of course, you don’t want to post any personal information or even a donation amount, but you can highlight what a donor’s contribution will help your organization do.

    For example, you could say something like, “Thanks to Tom’s generous donation, we’ll be able to build 3 more doghouses for our rescue puppies!”

  • Phone Calls

    Some donors deserve an extra-special thank-you. And while you won’t be able to call every single supporter, you can use phone calls to personally thank donors who go the extra mile or donate a substantial sum.

    Call and thank donors who give a significant amount or have faithfully supported your organization.

    You can have anyone in your office make the call, but it should be someone in a leadership position, like a board member.

    Thanking donors by phone can be a great way to tell them exactly how much you appreciate their contributions. It’s also a good opportunity to explain what their money will go toward.

  • In-Person Acknowledgements

    Major gift donors and loyal supporters deserve recognition beyond a simple thank-you.

    For donors that have faithfully given to your nonprofit over the years or who have recently donated a large sum, an in-person acknowledgement is sometimes the best way to go. You can either host a major gift donor banquet or simply sit down and thank one donor.

    However you choose to thank your biggest supporters, make sure that the person doing the thanking is in a leadership role or has been a board member for some time.

  • Newsletter Spotlights

    If your nonprofit sends out email or direct mail newsletters to your supporters, you can highlight a new donor each month.

    Again, you won’t want to include any personal info or donation amounts, but you can still say thanks!

    You can even ask your “donor of the month” for a headshot to include in the newsletter. This will not only thank the supporter, but it will also encourage others to give.

    When people see that others are giving to your nonprofit organization, they will be more willing to make a donation sooner rather than later.

Keep This In Mind

Each of these acknowledgement strategies can (and should!) be used in conjunction with one another.

For example, a social media shout-out should never take the place of an emailed acknowledgement, but it can be used to show even more appreciation for your donors’ contributions.

Additionally, your nonprofit must send out donation receipts for any single contribution that is greater than $250. This means that you can’t simply call a donor and hope that your bases are covered. A written acknowledgement must be provided for donations greater than $250.

Stay in Touch After You’ve Asked for Donations

Staying in touch with your supporters should be a no-brainer, but just in case you need some suggestions, here are a few:

  • Keep individuals updated on projects that their donations helped fund.
  • Remind donors of events and fundraisers that they might be interested in.
  • Post on your social media accounts.
  • Send regular emails that aren’t donation appeals.
  • And more!

Think of donors as your friends. You wouldn’t have strong friendships if you never spoke to people.

Remember that donors and volunteers are people, not wallets. They are worth more than the money and time that they give to your organization.

Remember that donors and volunteers are people, not wallets. They are worth more than the money and time that they give to your organization.

Additional Fundraising Resources

Guide to Fundraising

Guide to fundraising

Double the Donation’s ultimate guide to nonprofit fundraising can help your nonprofit raise more money, acquire more donors, and retain your current supporters!

Types of Fundraising Software

Types of fundraising software

You’ll need fundraising software to help your nonprofit on its fundraising journey. Check out the different types of fundraising software that you might need.

Tips for Fundraising

How to ask for donations

Want more advice about asking for donations? Fundly has put together a great resource for people who are trying to raise money for project, events, or causes.

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