22 Power Questions to Ask Your Major Gift Donors

Guest Post by Gail Perry

What kind of questions have you be asking your major gift donors lately?

I love questions, because that helps you get to know your major gift donors well before you ask them for a gift!

Here’s a guest post from my buddy Andrea Kihlstedt:

The most important thing to remember about major gift fundraising is:

Your success depends less on how well you ask for gifts and more on whether you’ve built strong relationships with your major gift donors.

Flip the Model: Get to Know Donors First

Many people think that the best way to get to know donors is to make an appointment with them to tell them about their project.

Instead, flip the model — before telling them about your project, you ask them about themselves.

For a successful campaign, you will have to engage your major gift donors, connecting with them more fully than ever.

And while you may think that the best way to do that is by telling your donors about your project, really, the best way to do that is to ask them questions about themselves and listen to their answers.

22 Power Questions to Ask Your Major Gift Donors

To get you started, I’ve selected a list of twenty-two great questions that you can use to get your donors talking about the things that interest and motivate them.

Use these questions to get to know your donors before you start telling them about your project.

This list is complied from questions suggested by Gail and by our colleagues Jerry Panas and Rory Green.

Questions About the Donor

  1. Where were you born?
  2. How did you get where you are today?
  3. What were the most important lessons you learned from your parents?
  4. If you won the lottery, how would you spend your time?
  5. What are you most proud of?

Donors love to talk about themselves. They’d love to tell you about their career, their kids, where they’ve lived, and how they got to where they are.

It’s like saying to someone “tell me your story.” It’s such an easy way to start off with someone.

Questions Asking for Advice

  1. What do you think about ______?
  2. Please give me your guidance on ______?
  3. Can we brainstorm this idea?
  4. What do you think I (we) should do?
  5. How would you handle this?
  6. Tell me more about that.  (Not a question, I know. But powerful anyway.)

You probably know that we are big on Advice Visits. Remember, you honor your donor by asking for their input.

I like to ask them about fundraising strategy in particular: How can we make this happen? Who should be involved? Where do you think the money might come from?

Questions About Giving

  1. What shapes your giving?
  2. What are your top three giving priorities?
  3. Why do you give to our organization?
  4. What do you think about our organization?
  5. Which of our programs do you find most compelling?
  6. What do you think of our plans?
  7. Are you ready to talk about supporting this project?
  8. What do you feel is the right decision for you?
  9. Who else should I be talking to?
  10. Would you consider making a gift of $______ to this project?
  11. What haven’t I asked that I should?

These are the questions most people are afraid to bring up – but donors will actually tell you directly if you just ask! You’d be surprised what you can ask about with a smile on your face.

In fact many donors love chatting with people about their philanthropy and their passions!

Fun — an Added Bonus

Use your donor meetings to ask questions, and you’ll find that your donor visits become much more engaging and fun.

The more you focus on getting to know your donors and helping them figure out what they’d like to do through their gift, the less asking for gifts feels like begging.

Which of the 22 questions above strike you as ones you’ll definitely ask your donors and why?

Leave a comment and let us know YOUR favorite power questions to ask!

Gail Perry


Gail Perry is an international fundraising consultant, coach, speaker, blogger, and thought leader. Her Fired-Up Fundraising approach, developed over the past 25 years as a nonprofit philanthropy expert, has helped organizations raise hundreds of millions in gifts and support. Her book, Fired-Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action, has been called the “gold standard guide” to building successful fundraising boards. You can connect with Gail @ GailPerry.com 


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