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After the Yes: 12 Questions You Can Ask Donors Once They Say Yes

February 2012

Adapted from Grassroots Fundraising Journal

When would you like me to wash your car?

Have you considered adopting an adult?

May I have another piece of cheesecake?

But seriously, folks ...

As a fundraiser, you're probably focusing on "the ask": how to frame your request in the most compelling, inspiring way. Without a doubt, a strong ask is one of the keys to successful fundraising – but then what? When you hear the words, "Yes, I'd like to help," how do you respond?

Be grateful and enthusiastic. Show your heartfelt appreciation. Talk about how the gift will make a difference. Then it's time for the "after questions."

Not every question below is relevant for every donor or every visit. Choose the questions that seem most relevant and adapt them to your needs and circumstances.

  1. "How would you like to pay? Do you want to write a check now? Would you like us to send you a pledge statement in the mail? Are you interested in signing up for our monthly sustainer program?"

    Many solicitors bring pledge forms to the meeting and fill them out with the donor. The question above, along with several below, could easily be included on this form.

  2. "How do you want us to use this gift?" Check your notes from this meeting and all previous conversations with the donor. If you sense any indications that she wants to restrict her gift to a specific program or campaign, this is the time to clarify and honor that intent.
  3. "How would you like to be recognized? We publish donor names in our newsletter, our annual report, and our Web site. We'd love to include your name so we can publicly express our thanks … your commitment will inspire other people to give. May we list your name, or would you prefer to be anonymous?"
  4. "Do you want your gift to honor someone you care about? We can list their name, your name, or both." When preparing your pledge form, include space to collect this information.
  5. "Tell me a little more about why you support our work. We're always interested in what motivates our donors to give; this helps us reach out to other potential donors."
  6. "Would you be willing to give a testimonial we can use in our newsletter and other promotional materials? Our most generous supporters – people like you – are our most credible advocates. May we have a sentence or two to share with others?"
  7. "Would you be willing to join us at a board meeting and talk about why you support our work? It's really helpful for the board to hear directly from donors – it reminds them why we do the work we do and why it's important to ask people to contribute."
  8. "How would you like to be kept informed about our work – and how often? Do you want a printed newsletter or do you prefer brief e-mails? Shall I phone you from time to time? Do you participate in social media like Facebook? Would you prefer to receive updates in person – and if so, how many times per year?"
  9. "When I come back to give you an update, would you be willing to include family members so they can learn about your support of our work?" If you're cultivating donors for future gifts, especially planned gifts, this is an essential step.
  10. "Can you recommend other people we can talk to about a gift? Do you have friends or colleagues who might want to join you in supporting our work? Would you be willing to make an introduction – by phone, by e-mail, or in person – or join me for the initial visit?"
  11. "Given your strong commitment to our work, would you consider volunteering to help us raise money? For example, would you be willing to come along when I meet with prospects and talk about why you give?"
  12. "What's your personal giving calendar? Are you typically a once-a-year donor? Twice a year? If we have an urgent need, can we approach you again? What schedule works best for you?"

Capture all this information and enter it in your database or other donor management system immediately. Congratulations! You've just created a personalized road map for engaging your donor and honoring his wishes. If you use it, and use it diligently, it will lead to repeated (and larger) gifts.

Andy Robinson and Harvey McKinnon
© 2010, 2012, Andy Robinson and Harvey McKinnon. Adapted from Grassroots Fundraising Journal, vol. 29, no. 5 (Sept.-Oct. 2010); adapted with permission.

Harvey McKinnon (www.harveymckinnon.com) and Andy Robinson (www.andyrobinsononline.com) are consultants based, respectively, in Vancouver, BC, and Plainfield, Vermont. Harvey's latest book is 11 Questions Every Donor Asks; Andy's is How to Raise $500 to $5000 From Almost Anyone, both published by Emerson & Church. Harvey knows more jokes; Andy makes better salsa.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may or may not represent GuideStar's opinions. GuideStar is committed to providing a range of topics and perspectives to our users. We make every effort to obtain articles from knowledgeable, trustworthy sources, but we make no warranties or representations with regard to articles written by persons outside GuideStar.


Andy Robinson

Harvey McKinnon

Harvey McKinnon