Questions You Should Ask When You’re Face to Face Pt. 3 (The Meat and Potatoes)

In the first installment of this series, I suggested asking donors about the basic information and preferences that you should verify with them. Those questions are closed questions with short answers that you will use in your database of donor information.

In the next post, the questions I suggested were a bit more personal, and I explain the reasons why I think they should be asked, and why I believe they should be asked in a private and personal setting.  These questions also have limited responses, and should also be kept safely in your donor database for the use of your development team.  They should not be the topics of casual conversation outside the office.

Today, I offer what I believe the final questions should be asked at your initial meeting with a donor, and how you should ask them.  These questions are the real bread and butter questions to help you understand the motivations of your partner, so you can create a personal strategy for building a truly donor-centered plan.  You probably won’t find these answers online on Google, LinkedIn, Facebook or other sources used when researching your prospect.

When you start asking your questions, remember to LET YOUR DONOR TALK, actively LISTEN to the answers your donors gives, DON’T INTERRUPT, and TAKE NOTES so you can record the answers and store them safely in the donor’s private file.  

Since these meetings are held with people who have supported your organization for some time or particular level, start with a question like, “”How did you first learn about our organization and what we do?” There are a myriad of ways for an individual to learn about a nonprofit.  They may have read an newspaper article or seen a TV report about one of your programs.  Perhaps a friend shared a social media post about you or took them to one of your events.  Maybe one of your employees spoke at their church, school, or Rotary Club, and the partner was inspired to act by giving or volunteering.  I believe knowing the origin of your donor’s support is important, and can and should be celebrated in a donor-centered fundraising program.  Let them tell you as much as they feel comfortable sharing.

I see you started supporting our mission  in 2XXX, and you have continued to support our programs ever since.  What inspired you to make your first contribution, and why have you continued to support us?  Once again, this question is meant to allow your partner to share as much of her personal story with you as she wants, so let her go into detail about what drives her passions.  This is her opportunity to educate you, so let her share her story, listen intently, and take notes.  If there is a particular program that she cares about, make sure you put that in her notes.  Let her tell you what she thinks you are doing right, so that you can continue doing it.

Is there anything you believe we can improve on?  Sometimes, organizations have a weakness or make a mistake, but we don’t see it or notice it.  It’s good to have someone who cares about us to point it out for us so we can improve.  Maybe, it’s the tone of our communications, or maybe it’s a failure to respond to a question or complaint in a timely manner.  Getting your donor’s feedback, both positive or negative, is very important.  It should be valued and acknowledged.

Do you have any special skills or talents that you think you would like to share to make more of an impact in our efforts?  Getting your donor more involved with the organization is the goal of any development professional.  Learning what your donor has to offer, how they feel they can help, and encouraging them personally to take part in the cause you share builds an even closer bond with them.  According to a report published by, a donor who spends time volunteering with a program or special project is also more likely to increase their own financial contributions.  If a donor starts spending more time around the nonprofit, the relationship with the organization should only grow stronger.

Remember, allowing your donor to share as much about their personal story with the answers to these questions is an opportunity.  Let them do it without interruptions and record their story in your notes so that once the answers are entered in your database, you will have them to refer to when creating their personal strategy in the future.

I hope you find this series of posts helpful as you start arranging to meet with your seasoned donors.  I believe starting with the basic questions, and then working the conversation toward more personal questions will help make your donors more comfortable, trusting, and willing to share with you.  Remember, this conversation is not meant to be the big ask meeting, but it is an opportunity for you to learn about your supporter’s story and the motivation why they support you.  It’s an important step forward toward a rewarding and long-lasting relationship with your partner.

If you have any questions that you feel would be valuable, please share them in the comments below.


About greatergoodfundraising

Richard Freedlund has been active in the nonprofit sector in a number of ways, both professionally and as a volunteer. He is the founder of Greater Good Fundraising, a business that helps schools and organizations raise money for their programs while accomplishing something positive for the community. After living in Oregon for 27 years, he has returned to his hometown of Rockford, Illinois and hopes to make his mark on the nonprofit sector there. He is the father of a talented jazz musician and the son of philanthropic parents that continue to support multiple causes. To contact Richard for consulting, fundraising, or speaking opportunities, email or reach him on @ggfundraise
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