Want to Know What Your Major Donor is Thinking? Try This Question!

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Would you like to find out what’s on your donor’s mind? And how they are feeling about your organization?

We suggest that you try this question with your donor:

“What are your impressions of …(fill in the blank)?”

We have raised so much money by using this question. It’s useful because it’s so very open-ended. You are fishing, and trying to find out what your donor is thinking or feeling.

And what’s so interesting, is that you really have no idea what you’ll hear back from your donor. They will surprise you by sharing whatever is on their mind at the moment.

We often ask this question to find out what a donor may be thinking about our presentation, our cause, our event, our campaign, and our clients’ vision for changing the world.

It’s a Golden Formula for opening a donor’s heart to your cause.

One reason we like this question is that it generates the donor’s own thinking about your issue.

In a way, it encourages them to think more deeply about what you’ve presented, perhaps even to embrace what you have just said. Even more, it prompts her to ponder your presentation, to digest your material, to think about it, and to react.

Your job is to ask, then be quiet and listen carefully.

Remember, listening is a key fundraising skill. Your job in a donor visit is to encourage them to do the talking. You are always on a discovery mission, trying to encourage your donor’s interest and passion for your work. That means you want to get them to share their thoughts.

By asking this question, you give your wonderful, generous, well-meaning donor time to mull over what you’ve said. It may prod her to “stew” in the urgent need or bold vision that you’ve just presented to her.

This is a great strategy for getting the donor talking to YOU – not the other way around.

It’s always all about the donor. We so often forget this. The problem is that too many fundraisers think we have to be great salespeople and make a great pitch – and that is not the case.

The truly skilled fundraiser will focus on the donor – and listen to him or her. Our job is to draw the donor out, and get her engaged with us about our cause.

It’s really amazing what you will find out from a donor – but you have to ask.

Many uses for this golden question:

Here are some real-world situations where “What are your impressions?” has served our clients, and us, very well:

1.  At the close of a visit with a donor.

Often when we are meeting with donors, we’ll ask this question at the end of our visits: “what are your impressions of our ideas?”

Recently an important donor shared his reservations about our project – we guided our client to address these issues and he became a substantial donor. Hurray!

2. Cultivating a lead capital campaign prospect.

Once we were walking out of a facility tour with a major, major gift prospect. He was actually a candidate for the leadership gift in this campaign.  So we asked: “what were your impressions of the tour?”

After 5 minutes of conversation – with some very careful maneuvering from us – he invited our client to bring a $500k proposal to his family foundation meeting the very next week. This important giving conversation would never have happened if we had not asked the magic, open-ended question.

3. After a presentation about our capital campaign consulting services.

We always, always ask this question after discussing potential work with a possible client. Just as we conclude the zoom meeting and we are getting ready to wind down, we will ask, “what were your impressions of our conversation today?”

The potential capital campaign client will share, right off the top of their head, what they liked, what landed, what learnings they had and how they were feeling about our potential work together.

4. When we are training or presenting.

We are often out working with board of trustees, staging our popular workshop, “Easy Fundraising and Friendmaking for Board Members.”

We set up conversations around “What are your impressions of this idea?” so that we can prod the board members to ponder and digest the material we are discussing.

5.  A client used the question after a trustee presentation.

One of our clients, a Vice Chancellor at a major university, recently shared a formal presentation to the University Board. Afterwards, she wanted to find out the Chancellor’s reaction to her ideas.

And she asked, “What were your impressions of my presentation?” And she got some terrific positive feedback.

Bottom line: Give this question a try with your donors, team, boss, and everyone else in your life.

Ask this golden question and you’ll discover key information that will help you build relationships and bring people closer in all aspects of your life. 

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.