As fundraisers, we must always keep relationships front-of-mind. Get to know your prospective donor (or longtime supporter) with High Value Questions (HVQs). General questions can overburden your prospects with irrelevant information and fizzle out their excitement before you establish a connection. No one wants boring interview chats! HVQs enable and encourage more authentic and dynamic conversations. When you understand perspectives, motivations, and priorities, you’ll be better poised to meet their expectations and forge long lasting and deeper relationships. The gift that keeps on giving! 

Here are some tips from friends in the field. What has worked for you in the past? Let’s Create Community for Good together! (Link to listen to a MG fundraising expert on my pod.)

1. Connection First

We can adopt some strategy from the for-profit sector here: Good salespeople aren’t worried about their core points or objectives; in initial meetings, they want to connect, not check boxes. A great tip from Joshua: Listen closely to what they are most interested in. Then, find a way to ask for their HELP first, not their money. Before an “ask,” you need a connection. To do that, you need to ask HVQs that will create 3 things before an ask:

  • Meaning – Give your relationship meaning beyond a monetary figure.
  • Belonging – Ensure your target feels that they belong at your organization — listen to them intently, align with their goals, ask for their feedback, make sure their core needs are met.
  • Memory – The more memories you create outside of solicitation, the more attached your target will feel to you and to your organization.

Your goal should be to get a sense for what drives and motivates your audience. If you already have that, learn about how you’re doing in aligning with their goals and how you’re managing the relationship. (Pro tip: it’s okay to ask directly: How are we doing? More questions below.)

Example HVQs

Do you support charitable causes?

Where have you seen your philanthropy best deployed?

How would you prioritize our core values?

2. Know Thyself

Before heading into an initial meeting, do a self temp-check. What are you core motivators – do you have a personal mission that aligns with your nonprofit’s mission? Be ready to speak about your WHY. Pair that with knowing how you communicate…. What are your tendencies? Do you talk fast when you get excited? Think about your reply while the other person is still talking? Bounce from idea to idea without a cohesive agenda? Be aware of these tendencies and try to contain them. Always allow for a pause in between speaking– this is where the best connections often arise. If you slip up, don’t be afraid to laugh it off: “Sorry! I am so excited to be speaking with you about this that I could talk for hours without coming up for air.” Be personable. We’re all human!

Example HVQs

Tell me your story (lived experiences) as it relates to our work…

3. It’s About Alignment

Aila expresses the importance of alignment.  There’s plenty of work in the world and there’s plenty of great folks that want to fund it; it’s about finding the right prospects to fund your work — not just any prospect! Try to remember to come from a place of abundance in your initial meetings. People can sense desperation or inauthenticity. Come from a place of genuine curiosity and desire to get to know who you’re talking to. Let the rest play out naturally.

Example HVQs

Paint me a picture of what you see as important to our future.

I’d like to share an update on XX with you, and then hear some of your thoughts on an approach towards reaching our vision. At the end, we can talk about how you might play a role. Does that work for you?

4. Natural Transitioning

Never underestimate the power of simply saying, “Tell me more.” If it is clear that a prospect is excited or passionate about something specific, it never hurts to dig deeper. Asking someone to elaborate can cut the anxiety out of the room and, as Alex says, open up like a flower. This is where the magic happens!

Once you have a prospect opened up, work them through a loose “conversation cycle”.  Use what they are sharing with you to lead the conversation in a fruitful direction. Here’s an example:

  • Stage 1: Intro/small talk 
    • Warm up the conversation. 
  • Stage 2: Their story
    • Invite them to talk. 
  • Stage 3: Their goals
    • Transition into talking about philanthropy specifically. 
  • Stage 4: Our goals
    • Finally, tie it all together with your organization at the center. 
  • Stage 5: Next steps 
    • Close out by planting a seed for your next meeting and following up within a few days.

5. Get Inspired!

None of us nonprofit professionals have time to reinvent the wheel! Talk with other professionals about their go-to questions and incorporate some version of that into your repertoire where it works. We like to put HVQs into Seven main types. 

  1. Permission Questions
  2. Fact Finding Questions
  3. Feeling Finding Questions
  4. Illustrative Questions
  5. Importance and Satisfaction Questions
  6. Best/Least Questions
  7. Tell me More Questions

What open ended questions can you think of that would fit into each of these categories? Try them out and see what works best for you. The most important thing is to come from a place of genuine curiosity, so ask questions that are interesting to you!

Are you or your team looking to improve your conversations, and in turn your ROI?

We’re happy to do trainings for large, or small teams. Reach out and we can get the conversation started today!