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Want to Learn About Your Donors? Ask Them Questions!

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How many hours have you spent reviewing the results of online donor screening?

How much time do you spend on the internet trying to track down information about donors?

Now, here’s the critical question. How much time do you spend out of your office actually talking to donors and asking them about themselves?

If you spend more time learning about your donors by nosing around the internet than you do meeting with them in person, then you’ve got the formula wrong.

Donors don’t much like it when you know more about them than they think you should.

They might not want you knowing only about their various holdings or divorces or alimony payments or recent vacation photos they posted on Facebook.

But most people—donors included—are happy to have you take a real interest in what matters most to them.

If you ask them about themselves, they’ll be likely to tell you.

And in the process of finding out who they are and what they enjoy and where they come from and what they believe, you will probably build a real relationship.

The questions you might ask are simple and they probably don’t include much of the material you’ll find online or through prospect research. The questions are more human than that.

Questions You Might Ask a Donor or Potential Donor

  • What do you like to do?
  • Where did you grow up?
  • Where were your parents from? Are they still living?
  • What kind of a family were you raised in?
  • What gifts have you made that are most meaningful to you?
  • Why are you involved in our organization?
  • How do you prioritize your time and energy?
  • What gives you the most pleasure in life?
  • If you could invite anyone (alive or dead) over for dinner who would it be and why?

These are just a few of the many questions you’ll have if you are genuinely curious about people. The last one is a doozy that’s just about guaranteed to lead to an interesting conversation about values and priorities and interests.

If you are planning a capital campaign, you should start now to get to know you donors. Don’t wait until you are ready to ask them for big gifts. By then, it’ll be too late!

Learn more about Pre-Campaign Coaching as a way to kick-start the process of getting to know your donors.

What questions would you add to the list? Pick your top five and memorize them so that you can use them when you are meeting with donors and you feel yourself starting to talk too much. And who doesn’t!?

Try asking questions your friends and acquaintances questions like these. You’ll find that most people like to share their stories. And hidden in someone’s story are all the clues you need to learn whether and how that person might want to give to your organization.

Get out of the office and have fun getting to know people. It will pay off in ways you can’t yet appreciate or anticipate.

Stay Together - How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty

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  • Richard Freedlund

    Andrea, Enjoyed reading your piece today. While I understand the importance of donor/partner/prospect research, I definitely agree that most donors I know and have worked with prefer to answer questions and share their stories in person. It's more donor-centered and they don't feel like they are being "spied on." It's nice to know there are there is someone out there that shares my philosophy.
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