New Year Questions Every Fundraiser Is Asking

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

A good question is said to be worth more than a good answer! I believe that wholeheartedly.

The dawn of a new year is a perfect time to reassess.

As fundraisers, investigating our strategies and practices brings us more revenue. The start of the year is a chance to be reflective and to look ahead. It also offers the first opportunity for many of us to take a deep breath and relax after the hectic year-end giving season.

This investigation starts with asking the right questions.

The most empowering and galvanizing questions create value. They open a dialogue rather than close it down, and they uncover deep insights that help advance your organizational fundraising.

Advanced fundraisers probe to learn more about how we can better connect with the aspirations of donors and funders. As we gain knowledge and details, we can improve our strategies and create more focused cultivations and solicitations.

Here are questions every fundraiser is asking in this New Year. These questions are intended to be directed to the staff and trustees with whom we work — as a vehicle for internal discovery and testing assumptions.

Questions to Explore

  • Why do we need to raise funds — and how urgent is the need?
  • What would happen if we don’t raise the funds?
  • What about our past fundraising has worked well?
  • Do you think we know as much about our donors/funders as we should? How can we learn more?
  • What is the right amount to spend on the fundraising program to achieve our revenue goal, and is it reasonable based on industry standards?
  • Can our fundraising approach be done differently to increase the return?
  • Based on your experience and donor/funder research, what is your plan to raise the required funds, and what are the consequences (intended or unintended) of this plan?

This is my own personal list, and I encourage you to make your own list of questions. But be sure they invite dialogue with other team members rather than discourage it.

If you are new to this inquiry approach, perhaps you can share your proposed list of questions with someone you trust — or someone you see as skilled at conversation to gain their input before you start using it with your team members.

After the Query

When you ask the right questions upfront, you set a strong foundation for your development program.

Once you conduct your internal interviews, be sure to document what you learned and compile your findings into a succinct report to share with decision makers at your organization. Include your own recommendations.

“An approximate answer to the right question is worth a great deal more than a precise answer to the wrong question,” the renowned statistician John Tukey said.

To that profound statement, I say, “Um, I’m curious to learn more about that. Please say more!”

Have you used an inquiry process before to develop your fundraising plans? If so, how did it go? Please let us know in the comments section below.

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