The Exploring Donor…to Learn More and Give Better!

by | Feb 21, 2017

When does a question matter? Of course, that leads to what questions matter and to whom do they matter?

Recently, I had the opportunity to help a donor think through the critical questions that needed to be answered by a nonprofit organization in hopes of a significant gift. We worked for some time crafting the questions on paper, re-wording, adding and taking away to get each one just right.

Once the donor was satisfied, the questions were sent off to the organization. After several days of waiting for a reply, I made a phone call to be sure the email had arrived. The nonprofit had not thought to let us know they received the email or how long they needed to develop their answers. I discovered they were already working on answers. The organization’s development director surprised me by complimenting us on the questions and even saying they had never considered several of the donor’s questions before.

Here’s a question for you. What’s the most important role a donor plays when interacting with an organization? Write a check, donate stock, include them in the estate planning? Wrong answers.

The most important role a donor plays is one of explorer. The donor is on a quest, the journey to learn more and give better.

Is it better for a nonprofit when the donor gives better? The answer is relative, and complex and simple all at the same time. The donor decision process should be an improvement over the impulse to write a check for the first amount that comes to mind. If the donor giving decision improves shouldn’t it provide the means or create the opportunity for the nonprofit to be more effective?

Did I suggest giving better could be simple? It can when the use of the gift is clear, and the ability to report on that use is direct. The gift can be simple when the donor and nonprofit organization know what each expects of the other – when both understand the partnership.

In a sermon on the parable of the Good Samaritan, Martin Luther King, Jr. identified two questions critical to answer the one very important question raised in that parable, “who is my neighbor?” The first question which the priest and Levite must have asked as they passed by the beaten man on the road was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen TO ME?” The Good Samaritan, the third man to see the beaten man, asked: If I DON’T stop to help this man, what will happen TO HIM?”

The answer was simple for the Good Samaritan. It wasn’t about what happens to me, rather what happens to him, which answered the important question and made him the good neighbor.

The donor’s journey to learn is a quest for how to do giving better. The word question comes from medieval Latin, questa, which is to search, seek, ask and gain. Everyone on the donor’s journey benefits.

So, in answer to my first question, “when does a question matter,” it matters the moment it forms in the donor’s mind. To whom does it matter? The question matters to everyone on the quest to make a gift better. Donor and nonprofit, alike, are better for the journey of asking and answering.

Over the years, I’ve explored specific questions I think matter.

  •  Two most important questions to ask when giving matters (read more)
  • Questions that lead to a better gift (read more)
  • How to ask a fellow donor about their giving experience (read more)   

There’s just no end to the questions I can think to ask to make the giving journey worthwhile for the donor and the nonprofit. What are the most important questions you ask?


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