Here are a few thoughts on the progression of your conversation:
1. We appreciate your faithful support of our ministry over the years. Can you tell me how you first got connected with us?
-This question is so very important because it establishes the starting point for relationship with your ministry. This is where and how the journey began that brought them to the point of sitting face-to-face with you! It often reveals the most effective development paths that originally introduced you to this donor, but more importantly will reveal something about their heart and circumstances which made them choose YOU.
2. Why is this ministry important to you?
-Donors have many choices when it comes to supporting ministries. This question helps you to better understand their heart, their values, and priorities, while also enhancing your understanding about why your organization stands out. (Needless to say, I once worked with a donor who supported some 65 different ministries each month. Let’s hope yours is in the top 5!).
3. Do you support other ministries similar to ours? (Which ones?)
-If you’ve ever spent time chatting with your Development Director about how new donors are acquired, he or she may discuss how the donors to your organization have similar patterns, interests, habits…in short, similar demographics. It’s quite probable that your donors support a handful of similar organizations, and it’s important to know who they are. There may be opportunities for joint projects or alliances that would be a “win-win-win” for everyone.
4. In all the ministries you support, what would you say is the common theme?
-Here again, you want to give your donor an opportunity to express what’s important to them, while growing in your own understanding of why people give to you. When it is time for you to chirp in and talk about your ministry, all parties will be best served if your conversation focuses on topics of mutual interest, rather than less relevant program statistics.
5. Have you seen our facilities? (If yes…) How well do you think our facilities convey the message of hope that is so central to our mission? (or whatever your message happens to be)
-Most major donors care about your ministry, and thus, have an opinion about how you do what you do. This question is an invitation to take one step closer to your ministry by coming down to see the operation first-hand. (Consider the small percentage of your total donor base that has actually done this!). If they’ve had the tour, do get an outsiders’ perspective on how consistently you “walk the talk.” Does your message of hope come through in all that you do or only what you say?
6. Of all the things we do, which do you like best?
-It doesn’t hurt to survey now and then.
7. (Looking at pictures on the table or desk….) Is that your (grand)children? What kind of things do you like to do together? Do they share you interest in ministry?
-This question is particularly helpful in understanding if the support of your ministry is a private matter or something shared by the family at-large. This becomes particularly relevant when structuring planned gifts that may impact the family estate.
8. Do you share any other common interests or family traditions? Do you have a personal or family legacy that you want your (grand)children to carry on?
-Many families are becoming increasingly focused and intentional about their giving. With more understanding about the biblical benefits of giving, parents are beginning to see the value in raising their children to become givers, and embrace Christian philanthropy. Family foundations, Donor Advised Funds, and other vehicles are providing mechanisms for families to live out their faith in the context of finances. If their family values include involvement in ministries like yours, take note!
That’s interesting. We have a type of legacy, focus, or contribution we want to make as well. Fundamentally, we want to be known and remembered as the ministry that…….
-You better know how to finish this sentence. If your ministry values and purposes align with that of the donor, you’re on your way to a partnership of ministry and philanthropy that will be extremely fulfilling to all parties!
10. Some of the ways in which we want to do that include….
-Here’s an opportunity for YOU to do some talking and share the specific vision and needs of your ministry that – you now know – align with the giving preferences of your donor-friend.
11. Which of those do you think are the most important or will be the most effective in fulfilling our mission or defining our legacy?
-You’d best have a position on this yourself, but engaging your donor in some thinking about those aspects of your strategic plan they are most likely to support would be helpful dialog.
12. As we (continue to) develop this/these, would you like an occasional update on our progress?
-By now you should have a pretty good idea of the level of interest your donor has in the future of your ministry. Obtaining permission to re-engage in dialog and send them information ensures and open door for fruitful ministry and philanthropy.