April 19, 2021

LOTS OF ONLINE CHATTER ABOUT STORYTELLING. And I want to talk about story listening.

CHECK OUT THESE QUESTIONS TO ASK DONORS.  Imagine reaching out and inviting your donors to share their stories.

Remember that donors give through a particular charity to fulfill their own personal aspirations: Perhaps the donor wants to ensure equal voting rights. Another donor wants to save the abused children or starving puppies. Other donors fight for reproductive justice. Others want to stop the planet’s destruction. Still others fight for the right to choose one’s own sexual identity. A personal choice. A personal desire where to donate time, money…

And let’s remember: Many (most?) donors may well be interested in many many issues. But donors may well have a priority or priorities. Donors choose.

PLEASE! Let’s ask the donor to share his/her/their story. It’s a conversation… We fundraisers have the honor and joy to invite that conversation – and to listen to beautiful personal answers.

CONSIDER THESE QUESTIONS. WHAT MIGHT YOU ADD? And I’ll bet we’ll identify other questions based on what our donors are saying. 

  1. Why did you first give to our organization? (I remember the U.K. legacy consultant Richard Radcliffe recommending this question): Why did you first give to our organization?
  2. What interests you most about our organization? Why?
  3. What are the most critical results you expect our organization to produce?
  4. Why  does this cause matter to you?
  5. If you had 5 minutes with our CEO, what would you say and why? (A suggestion from some AFP Calgary colleagues at a conference.)

NOW LET’S PROBE DEEPER: Find out the donor values and beliefs. Get in touch with donor feelings. (Because we fundraisers must remember: Emotions trigger human decisions. That neuroscience research tells us so.)

  1. Tell me about your life. Would you share with me your life’s enduring moments?
  2. What are you most passionate about? Why?
  3. If you had a family slogan, what would it be?
  4. How would you describe your own personal mission…purpose?
  5. If you could change the world, what would you do?
  6. What actions do you think would best cause the change you envision?
  7. What changes do you believe would make the world a better place?
  8. How do you want to be remembered? (And this doesn’t refer to the 10-foot high sign about you the great and marvelous donor! I’ve heard donors say: I want to be remembered as a caring mother. I want to be remembered as a social justice activist. I want to be remembered…)
  9. What would you like to pass on to future generations?
  10. How do you feel when you make a charitable gift – of time or money or…
  11. What makes you angry and sad?
  12. What makes you hopeful and happy?

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: Think carefully about which question and when and even if… Think about the comfort level of the donor. This is not an inquiry. This is our attempt, as the philanthropic sector, to hear and understand the stories of our donors.

CAN YOU IMAGINE: Collecting the stories from many many donors (Remember! Donors of time not not just money!) Typing up the story and giving it back to the donor. Perhaps the donor will share that interview with family or friends. Perhaps the donor will give you permission to tell part of that story in your donor newsletter. Perhaps you’ll invite the donor to tell part of his/her/their story at a gathering. And. Or.


About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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