Funding Change Consulting Blog Advice

Getting To Know Your Donors: Questions For Supporters & Prospects

"Which donations have brought you the most joy?"

Being successful in fundraising requires knowing what your donors care about and why. And not because you think it’s going to serve you or your organization. But because you truly want to help them feel as good as possible about the impact they’re having on the issues they’re passionate about!

When you’re first building a relationship with a supporter or a prospect, you want to learn as much as you can about what makes them tick. What brings them joy? What are they passionate about?

The more you know, the better you’ll be able to meet your donors’ needs and connect them with opportunities they’ll really be interested in.

To help with this, I’m sharing my list of donor questions collected over many years. I hope these spark an interesting conversation at your next donor meeting…

Open-Ended Questions for Getting to Know Your Supporters

  • What philanthropic gifts have brought you the most joy in the past? What was it about those experiences that were so joyful?
  • What are you most passionate about?
  • If you could solve one problem today, what would it be?
  • If you could leave one lasting legacy to the world or the community, what would it be?
  • Why does (insert the cause you work on) matter to you? Why now, in particular?
  • What other organizations do you believe effectively address this cause?
  • What do you believe would most transform (insert whatever problem you are working to address)?
  • Why did you first give to us?
  • What interests you most about our organization? What areas are less interesting to you?
  • What results are most important for you to see from our work?
  • What are your expectations of the nonprofits you support?
  • If you had one hour with our Executive Director/Board President, what would you tell them?
  • How would you describe us to others?
  • How often do you want to receive updates from us? What communications do you wish to receive?
  • How do you prefer that we communicate with you? What’s the best way to reach you and when?
  • Are you interested in supporting us beyond making a donation? How?

Three final pieces of advice…

First, don’t expect to get the answers to all these questions in one meeting. That is called an interrogation and is more likely to result in a restraining order than a deeper connection with the donor.   🙂

Second, keep in mind that all these questions might not be appropriate for everyone. And you may not feel comfortable asking all of them either. What you cover is going to depend on the donor, the present state of your relationship with them, their current circumstances, your experience doing these kind of meetings, etc. Be respectful of personal boundaries, both the donor’s and yours!

Lastly, make sure everything you learn ends up in the database after your meeting. And don’t delay! Get all your thoughts and memories recorded before you forget. This information is invaluable for future communication. It’s critical for others who may meet with this donor or see them at an event. And you don’t want to end up asking about things they’ve already shared with you.


Tina Cincotti, owner of Funding Change, is a donor communications expert and general nonprofit nerd.
February 12, 2019



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