How to not bore your donors to tears


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Do you fear your donors are bored with you?

Here's some good news: with all the holiday parties at this time of year, you have virtual laboratory for learning to be interesting!

How to be interesting to your donors

In his classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie gives you a secret to successful fundraising:

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."

Everyone has a story to tell. And many people are just waiting for someone to be interested enough in them to ask them for the story.

You can be that person.

Questions to ask donors without being socially awkward

But have you ever noticed that some people think they're "being interested" but just being socially awkward? Sometimes it helps to arrive at the parties prepared with some questions.

My favorite question is:

"What do you do when you're not [at this event]"

The question is very intentional:

  • This question allows for humor: what do you do when you're not standing in this receiving line? The humor catches people off guard, catching their interest.
  • This question allows for any answer: Donors can share a hobby, talk about their family, or share about their work. But if you asked the more pedestrian, "What do you do for work?" not only are you boring, you risk offending stay at home parents, people out of work, and retired folks.

And it allows for a follow up I learned from Bob Burg:

"Wow! How did you get started in that?

This totally opens the door for them sharing their personal story.

It's remarkable how interesting people become when you become truly interested in them. (Click here to tweet that.)

More resources for asking interested questions

Those two questions will lead to hours and hours of conversation. But if you want more ideas here are two more resources:

  1. Professed introvert Jon Swanson has three great conversation prompts in his post How to make the most of holiday gatherings. These will not only help you be interesting to others, but will help reduce the stress of not knowing what to say.
  2. Another great resource is Michael Hyatt's post How to Maximize Your Holiday Conversations. His post comes complete with nine questions to practice.

Don't miss out

The only successful way to create sustainable funding for your nonprofit, you have to develop relationships with donors. And to develop relationships with donors, minimally, you need to not bore them to tears.

These questions will help you actually be interesting!

About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to


  1. Dale Carnegie's age-old classic was a great way to start this article. If you haven't read him yet you should! He is a must for anyone working in customer relations, sales, or pretty much anything people related. Certainly the case for fundraisers!

  2. I think the best way to avoid being boring is actually to ask the donor to tell you about them. They'll talk and talk. Then they'll think you are amazingly interesting.

What would you add?