4 powerful questions to ask your donors

One of the top questions I hear from clients who are new to major gifts is this:

“What, specifically, do I talk about in a major donor meeting?”

First and foremost, you’re aiming to have a meaningful conversation – in fact, you’re doing way more listening than talking, because you’re asking great questions to help uncover the values, interests, hopes and fears that motivate the donor’s philanthropy.

Today, I’m sharing four of my favourite questions to you can use to start great conversations with your donors.

1. What inspired your generous gift?

This is a truly versatile question that can be used in so many different situations.

It can be used on the phone with a donor when you're calling them to thank them for their gift. I've used this at receptions or cocktail parties with major donors. And I've heard fascinating stories in response – including heartfelt and values driven reasons for a donor giving their gift.

2. What do you hope to achieve with your philanthropy?

Oftentimes when you're having a conversation with a donor, it's a little bit like peeling that onion, and trying to get down to the values that are really motivating the donor to give, and what change they want to see in the world.

This is also where a follow up question can come in handy, such as “why is that important to you?”. Having a series of open-ended questions follow up questions can be very helpful in moving the conversation to a deeper level.

3. The “next step” question

My third favourite question I like to call the next step question. I always like to leave a conversation with a donor or a meeting with a donor with the next step already agreed upon.

So, when I ask the next step question, it might look a little something like this:

It seems like going on a tour of our children's program could be a great next step for us. How does that sound to you?

This is a great way to phrase it if you've already got an idea of what you want the next step for the donor to be because you're suggesting it and you're also asking them to consent to it or agree upon it as well so that they're involved in the decision making process.

So, however you phrase it, always ask for a next step before you end that donor meeting or donor call.

4. Is there anyone else who should be at the table next time we meet?

This is a really good way to make sure that you're involving everybody who needs to be involved in that conversation, because you just don't know if you haven't asked the donor - here may be other folks who are influential in their decision making and their giving, like a partner, a spouse, or another family member.

So just making sure you've asked that question opens it up for the donor to let you know if somebody else needs to be involved in their giving process.

Emma Lewzey, CFRE is an award-winning fundraising expert with 20+ years experience raising over $100M across the arts, education, health and human services sectors. Find out how to raise more 5, 6 and 7-figure donations your non-profit - book your free Major Gift Strategy Session now.

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