Yesterday, I called a nonprofit executive director to learn more about the damage they had experienced from a recent weeklong winter storm. My phone call was unexpected. We had not spoken before and she didn’t know the funder I represented.

I had limited details about the damage from an article in the local newspaper, but I knew the funder would need more information before making a gift. I could hear the executive director trying to moderate the answers to my unexpected questions. It was essential to leave me with the impression that they had a plan, and the organization would be okay. She also needed me to know they did need help to get through the crisis. The executive director was unprepared for the questions but needed the correct answers to earn the gift.

Tips to Get the Answers You Need Before You Give

  • Start with a real conversation, best in person or by phone. Establish a connection.
  • Email is okay when additional information is helpful.
  • Be clear about the information you seek.
  • If it’s about a program or project, ask detailed questions.
  • After you have the big picture, target your questions.
  • Pay attention to answers and identify the information gaps. Ask for more explanation.
  • Listen and ask another question.

If you are fact-finding, let the organization know you’re undecided or that others are involved in making the final decision. Executive directors and fundraisers appreciate the opportunity to talk with donors directly. Such connections are key to good gift decisions.

What questions do you ask the nonprofit? What answers do you want to hear?

Read the full article about asking questions to nonprofits by Dawn Franks at Medium.