Curiosity Triggers Valuable Ideas

by | Feb 7, 2018

“The two best interview subjects are children under 10 and people over 70 for the same reason; they say the first thing that comes to their mind. The children don’t know what they’re saying, and the old folks don’t care.”  He should know; Art Linkletter was at the forefront of radio and early television game shows for over three decades.

In the 1950s, Linkletter hosted a 15-minute series on Saturday mornings called Art Linkletter And The Kids. And it was there we heard one of his most well-known quotes, “Kids do say the darndest things.”

Before a kid says the darndest thing someone probably asked a question.

Even more often kids ask us the darndest questions. They ask questions that require answers we never knew or once knew but can no longer remember.

Rob Waugh, an English free-lance journalist, reported on research for the Big Bang Science Fair about the questions kids ask us.  Here are the top five. Why is the moon sometimes out in the day? Why is the sky blue? Will we ever discover aliens? How much does the earth weigh? How do airplanes stay in the air? For a quick list of the answers read Rob’s article.

I’m sure I asked my parents at least four of those questions. By the time I was eleven a car ride with a captive parent was not to be wasted. I had questions and where could they go? I thought I had their undivided attention.

I also wanted to know why the stars hung in the sky and why my dad’s cousin, Lester, always had a chihuahua perched on his shoulders? Those car rides prepared me for the more critical questions I often ask and recently wrote about after reading the book Wait, What?: And Life’s Other Essential Questions by James Ryan.

Ryan outlined five questions critical for life and in my opinion, philanthropy. Wait, what was at the top of his list, followed by I wonder why or if…..?  You can read more about my thoughts on the Wait, what question in my last blog.

His second question, “I wonder why or if…” sounds a lot like my eleven-year-old questions. It’s an exploration question born of curiosity into the why not that can trigger valuable ideas. Your ideas can improve the world.

As donors, there are many ways we can ask I wonder why or if.

Just Gotta Ask to Get an Answer Questions

  • I wonder if those two organizations are providing the same service or overlap in some way.
  • I wonder if we could put our resources together and make a large enough gift to change….
  • I wonder if my donation makes a difference or just disappears into the overhead.
  • I wonder why I don’t hear more about that organization.

Just gotta ask to get answer questions can often be answered with a little bit of research and help you make a better donation.

What About the Hard Questions?

  • I wonder if we can really end hunger.
  • I wonder if spending money to educate prisoners reduces recidivism.
  • I wonder why after so much money has been spent on research for (blank) disease they haven’t found a cure.

What would you add to the list? Kick your hard questions around with friends, fellow volunteers, and especially other donors.

Yes, it’s like entering a maze. Finding your way out might be quick, or you may wander around losing all sense of direction. Taking time to find answers will make you a smarter donor.

Don’t avoid the wonder why or if questions because they seem harder. Make a habit of collecting answers to the same question from different people. Look for intersections between their thoughts and yours. It’s in the intersections that ideas appear.  It’s in the intersections that we save the world!

Art Linkletter also said, “If anything is worth trying at all, it’s worth trying at least ten times.” Ask ten friends, ten fellow volunteers or ten donors their solutions to the hard questions. Then your solutions and giving decisions will be smarter. That’s how we will end hunger, stop recidivism or cure (blank) disease.

Ask all five of Ryan’s questions, every time you get the chance, and you will be a smarter donor.

5 Critical Questions for Philanthropy that Just Happen to be Essential in Life

  1. Wait, what? A clarification question to help you understand more.
  2. I wonder why or if……….? An exploration question born of curiosity into the why not that can trigger valuable ideas for change and maybe even improve the world.
  3. Couldn’t we at least? Enables us to get unstuck, work toward consensus, and agree on direction or strategy. It can lead us out of the mire of disagreement toward progress.
  4. How can I help? Honors our instinct to lend a hand while accepting their knowledge and experience. Allowing others to remain the expert in their lives forges better relationships.
  5. What truly matters? Gets to the heart of your beliefs and convictions as a donor and focuses on what’s most important.

What’s your favorite question?


  1. Cathy Krafve

    My favorite question is: “What will Dawn find to teach us next?” It is hard to pick just one favorite question, though! Great article today.

  2. Nancy Crawford

    Great article and by the way copious studies have shown that educating prisoners does indeed reduce recidivism. The latest study (2013) by the RAND corporation shows that recidivism is reduced by 43% when prisoners are provided general education and vocational training. These programs are also cost effective. The same RAND report stated:
    “The findings, from the largest-ever meta-analysis of correctional educational studies, suggest that prison education programs are cost effective, with a $1 investment in prison education reducing incarceration costs by $4 to $5 during the first three years post-release.”


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