I had secured a meeting with a big potential donor.

We were delayed for 45 minutes, so when I finally met him, I asked how long we had.

Just five minutes,” was his response.

I decided to devote four and a half of those minutes to him. Looking around his office at the incredible business he’d built, I asked,

What’s your story? How did you get to where you are today?

And he answered. He was a recent baal teshuva. He had built a fascinating business, which was on the verge of being sold. He was not yet a giver to anything.

Ninety minutes later, his assistant knocked and told him she can’t hold off his day’s schedule any longer. I had barely spoken at all he did the talking.

This conversation gave me an invaluable insight early on in my fundraising career.

Successful fundraising is not about you, or your organization. It’s about the donor in front of you.

With just a few questions, this man got what so many donors really want. He wanted to be listened to, to be understood. He wanted an opportunity to tell me what he valued.

By listening, instead of pitching my organization, I connected with him on a deeper level and got to understand what was important to him. And he felt it.

Immediately after leaving that meeting, I quickly scribbled some notes to remind myself what he had said. The next time we spoke, I was able to refer back to his values. I was able to explain our projects from his perspective.

Our connection grew.

When he was ready, a more formal solicitation was made. He jumped on board with a six-figure gift. His first and largest ever.

When you ask questions, you get to understand your prospective donor. When you do pitch your project, you’ll know how to connect to what he cares deeply about. Your ask will be built on a relationship, on trust and shared values.

Fundraising is about the donor connecting his values to the values of your organization an emotional connection. Asking questions is key to that connection.

I’ve asked many different questions to donors over the years, but the underlying goal is to get the person sitting in front of me to share a deeper part of themselves.

Here are a few questions to try.

Top Tip: Come to meetings prepared with the right questions.

Top Tip: Ask donors’ permission to ask sensitive questions. You could say, “Can I ask you a few questions to understand more about what you care about?”

Getting to Know You

  • What’s your story?
  • How did you get where you are today?
  • What advice would you give your kids to get them into giving?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What is the one value you want your grandchildren to have?

About Their Giving

  • What’s the most meaningful gift you have given? Why?
  • What do you love about what you do?
  • What are your top three giving priorities?
  • How do you like to impact an organization you support?

About Your Organization (For Donors)

  • Why do you give to our organization?
  • What do you think of our vision and plan for this year?
  • What do you want as a donor from us?
  • Which of our programs do you find most compelling?





Avraham Lewis guides Jewish leaders, running mosdos Torah, to change their current reality and to ‘up’ their fundraising game and personal productivity using effective mindsets, strategies and techniques, which have a track record of raising more funds.

See past ‘Fundraising on Fire’ blog posts here.


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