“I’ll ask them what impact they want to make.”
This was the answer I received recently when I asked a gift officer what question they might pose to a donor couple in order to get into the major gift giving discussion the gift officer was seeking to have with them.
On the surface, this would appear to be a thoughtful, donor-centric question to open up that lane of discussion.
However, for at least two reasons, it’s actually not a very helpful question to initiate the major giving conversation.
First, many donors simply haven’t thought enough about how or where they could make an impact to have an earnest response. Second, by beginning the conversation with a “what would you like to do?” question, we miss the opportunity to advance the institution by sharing strategic plans and priorities and, then, asking for their feedback.
If you want to advance your institution through philanthropy, educate your donors, and guide them through a giving experience that is both meaningful to them and supportive of your institution’s broader aims, a much better first question is simply,
“What do you think about our plans for the future?”