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Want to Connect with Your Donor? Ask Them a Question

Today I was lucky enough to attend a great session at the Colorado Planned Giving Roundtable. The thing I love about CPGR is that the sessions are always so valuable whether or not you’re in planned giving. Today was no exception and I want to share what I learned with you.

The session was called Asking Great Questions in Donor Development and Stewardship led by David Morrison, a Financial Advisor and Partner with Prosperion Financial.

You’d actually never know this session was even about fundraising because we talked the entire time about asking questions. Not necessarily questions about giving, but door-opening, inspiring, dig-deep questions that can help to build a stronger bond with anyone – including your donors and prospects.

You know, I’ve always known that it was better to listen than to talk at a donor. I’ve always thought it was just more polite to ask people about themselves. But I never really thought of questions as a way to frame personal solicitation.

But of course it is! Fundraising is all about building trust and connection. What better way to build authentic, trusting, mutually beneficial relationships with donors than to really get to know them?

Maybe you are already naturally asking questions as a part of your major gift solicitations. Maybe you’re still working on your in-person cultivation or solicitation style. Either way, you might consider some of the great questions that I jotted down from this session today.

There were standard get-to-know-you questions like:

  • Where are you from originally?
  • What do you like best about your work?
  • What do you like to do for fun?

There were more thought-provoking, deeply personal questions like:

  • Most people have had at least one person who really seemed to make a difference in their lives. Who was that person for you? What did you learn from them?
  • What was it like around the dinner table for you when you were growing up?
  • What advice would you give to someone in their 20’s? What lessons from life would you want to share?

There were questions that are geared more towards giving:

  • What is the most meaningful gift you’ve given or most meaningful experience you have had with an organization?
  • How do you decide which charities to support?
  • How and when did you make your first charitable gift?

And here are a few of my own that I’ve used over the years to learn about the donor’s interest in the cause:

  • What inspired you to make your first gift to [our organization]?
  • Where does [our organization] fit into your giving priorities?
  • How do you want to make a difference with your giving at [our organization]?

Give some of these a try and see what works for you. At a minimum you’ll probably get a fantastic conversation going!

Better yet – create your own set of questions that work for you. The best connections are built on a foundation of authenticity and true curiosity about the person in front of you.


p.s. Please share questions you use to build connection with your donors. We’d love to hear them!


  1. This is so timely as I am mentoring a young team member who just wants to “pounce” after everything they say. You are a great resource and I want you to know how much I appreciate the way you share your expertise!

  2. Emily Davis says:

    Great reminder! Here are some of the questions Ive used in the past with donors?

    What was the most rewarding contribution you have made to an organization and why?
    What motivates you to contribute to an organization?
    What are your best and worst experiences with giving and why?
    What could we be doing differently or the same to acknowledge your gifts?
    Are there other ways you would like to participate in the organization?

    I love opportunities to ask questions when appropriate because I can genuinely get to learn about people and meet their needs.

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