As a fundraiser, it's so easy to get jaded. To think we've seen it all. But curiousity is one of the most important tools a fundraiser can have. It helps in every step of the “Get R.E.A.L.” fundraising process:

  • Research: If you’re curious, you will not just enter someone’s email address, but notice that it’s a unique domain name and go check it out. Even if it doesn’t lead to a major discovery, it can be a talking point with the donor.
  • Engage: Being curious as you engage a donor involves asking perceptive questions. Once, while in the lobby of a factory that produced wrought iron products, I asked how paint got on the iron. That started a 2-hour tour of the plant, including a long (and fascinating) explanation of a new piece of equipment that not only fused the powder with the iron but also recovered the waste. The donor would never have spent that much time if all I talked about was my nonprofit. Curiosity shows donors you are interested in them and their business, not just what they can do for you.
  • Ask: Curiosity can be invaluable after making the ask. As the prospect processes how that size a gift might be possible, you can honestly ask curious questions like “When might be a good time to ask you in the future?” or “Would it be easier to make smaller pledge payments now and then bigger ones after the kids are out of college?”
  • Love: Curiosity will help ensure you are thanking donors in ways that mean something to them. Do they want public accolades? Or is a private lunch with the executive director more appropriate? Curiosity will lead you to show them gratitude in ways they will receive it.

The great thing about curiosity is that, when it’s genuine, it is always well received. Rather than being seen as annoying or probing, questions sparked from genuine curiosity show incredible respect for the donor and the things that are important to them. You can even draw on things you’ve read or heard in other places. “I was just reading that the publishing industry is trying to do x, y, and z to adapt. Is that similar in your industry?”

Even though you’ll be tempted to be the person with all the answers, if you want to be successful as a fundraiser, stay curious.

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