Why Answering Questions in Public Makes You a Better Donor

by | Jan 23, 2023

While waiting for my next flight, I was scanning through email, focused on the laptop screen in front of me. Ignoring the voices and sounds, I was oblivious to conversations. Then I suddenly became aware of movement behind and beside me.

A glance revealed four uniformed individuals, three women and a man. On second glance, I recognized the uniforms, flight attendants were trying to figure out a new scheduling system on their phones. Two sat directly behind me, and two were on my left.

One woman kept changing seats, moving back and forth across the aisle as they all attempted to understand and learn the software program. Let’s call her the Helper.

As she figured out the next steps in the software, the Helper would return to the lone man in the group with a confident voice. “I got this now; let me set it up for you.”

Slowly it dawned on me that they were struggling with their online scheduling system – the kind that tells them where they were flying from, to where, when to be at the gate, flight numbers, and other important details.

One person had a lot of “yes, but questions. Let’s call her YBQ. Her questions included time off, sick time and the number of hours in the sky. Details buried somewhere in the software.

At some point, I made eye contact with the Helper, blurting out, “you all are making me nervous.” Laughing, she responded, “oh, don’t mind us – we’re just the blind leading the blind.”

I didn’t say what I was thinking, “Last week, the blind led Southwest Airlines right into a meltdown.” Up to this moment, I had been thankful that I was flying on American Airlines.

YBQ persisted with questions. And it seemed that answers appeared, with “Aha’s” all around.

Refocusing my attention to email, I landed on a question from Kris, a fellow consultant, “do you ever need help addressing any of these frustrations, hassles or roadblocks,” along with a list of ten items from the world of philanthropy, my world. Kris was volunteering to be the Helper.

After a long career in nonprofits and philanthropy, I find my list of questions is long. So much so that friends sometimes call me Digger. It’s just that my learning curve is usually not as public as our flight attendants.

Four Questions to Give Better

Questions are important when it comes time to decide when, where and how to give. If you read this blog, you know that I often talk about questions. In Four Questions to Give a Better Gift, I provided readers with this list:

  • How are your programs and services impacting people in the short term?
  • In the long term, how will my dollars create positive change?
  • How do you monitor and report on success?
  • What are some specific examples of success?

There is no right or wrong answer – only okay, good, and better answers. The okay answers reflect organizations doing their best to survive, from one funding crisis to the next. Organizations with good answers are meeting their program goals, usually have a little money left over to start the new year, have a board of directors that meets regularly and dedicated executive leadership.

Better answers come from organizations dedicated to vital services today and a vision for tomorrow. They have varied sources of income, including many donors like you. They have a plan for the future, and the answers to your questions make you eager to continue your support or join in their work with a donation.

Learning in Public

It was unexpected to be eavesdropping on flight attendants learning a new system – right in full view of everyone sharing the waiting area. But, on reflection, it’s a reminder that we seldom learn alone and that together we learn better. It’s the together part between friends talking about a nonprofit they both support and co-workers on coffee break sharing a great volunteer experience, that we become better donors. I shared an example of my learning in public in the blog, Mistakes in Full View.

So, when you have questions, dig around for answers and find an organization heading toward better, share what you learn. It will make all of us better donors. 

What questions do you have about giving? Let’s ask and learn together.

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