Questions for Donors

Donor cultivation must be customized for each donor. That is one of the reasons that one-on-one cultivation is important. It is time consuming, which is why it is difficult to justify it for every donor. However, it is hard to know which of your small-but-loyal donors have the capacity to be a significant donor. WIthout a little targeted cultivation you may never know.

What engages donors is the same thing that engages anyone. They are engaged by information that is important to them or relevant to their lives. Donors make initial contact with your nonprofit for a reason. Sometimes the reason is social pressure, family history, or some other non-mission or non-client related reason. Your small-but-loyal donors who remain engaged for mission or client related reasons are asking to be cultivated. Their initial interest tells you that they care and they want to know more. Some of your small-but-loyal donors may be hanging around waiting for their turn to be cultivated. Some who have been cultivated in the past and are still loyal may be hoping that they will receive more effective or personalized cultivation.

Below are a few questions for donors that you can use to learn more about any donor’s interests. With that information you can customize your cultivation, adjust your events and other activities to be more appealing to more people, and spot trends important to your clients, donors, and community.

What information are you most interested in receiving about our mission and clients?

Donors receive more information than they need or want. Knowing what information delights them makes your communications with them more engaging. It also provides insights that will help make all of your communications more engaging.

What are you doing when you are aware of the value of our mission?

Part of what makes your mission and clients important to donors is the relevance to their lives. The answer to that question tells you more about why your mission and clients are relevant to your donors.

What do you say to others about our mission?

This will help you know how well they understand your mission. It also tells you how effectively they are advocating for your mission and clients. You can use your donor cultivation to help them increase their effectiveness. Their willingness to tell others about your mission is another indication of their engagement.

What about our mission do you think others should better understand?

Besides giving you additional insights about how well they understand your mission, it tells you more about what they think is important and what they think should be important to others.

What additional changes do you want your gifts to make in the lives of our clients?

This is their opportunity to tell you how to make your mission more effective and your clients more successful. It also give you additional information about what you can do to increase their generosity.

It may be tempting to ask a donor every question. It is better to limit your conversation to one or two question each time you see the donor. Just asking one question will increase the donor’s engagement even if they are unprepared to answer the question. Asking the question demonstrates that you value their feedback and their relationship to your mission. In addition, asking the questions will set your donor relationships apart from most other nonprofits’ donor relationships. Your donor-centric approach will be refreshing for your donors.

Next Step:

Customize the questions to fit your style and each individual donor’s tastes

Ask the questions in person and no more than two at a time

Develop a plan to enhance each donor’s engagement

Share the responses with your board, everyone involved in fundraising, and those who serve your clients

Your board especially needs to know what you learn. They also need to be reminded how frequently you hear each response. It is your board’s responsibility to set policy and create a culture that encourages donor engagement. With your insights they will be more effective and your mission will be more relevant and valuable for your community.

Take It Further:

Treat volunteers (including board members) like donors to increase their engagement


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