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  • Writer's picturePooya Pourak

5 Steps to Complete Donor Interviews as a Nonprofit

A step-by-step guide to planning, completing, and putting donor feedback into action.

Building and fostering genuine and lasting relationships with donors is at the heart of effective fundraising. What’s a great way to build those relationships? Actually find time to connect with your existing donors and get to know them better. Imagine the delight of your donors when they get a call from you that’s not about a lapsed credit card on file or an appeal for more donations. You just want to learn more about them and hear their feedback about your nonprofit. Novel, right?


Here are 5 steps your nonprofit organization can take today to lead donor interviews to build your nonprofit's network and strategy:

 
After you decide to complete donor interviews, the first step is to come up with a list of donors to reach out to

1. Organize a list of donors to reach out to

Start small, consider a list of 1-10 donors who have donated to your organization within the last year. The more recent the better. Starting with smaller donors can be a “safe” group to practice your first round of donor interviews with. Here are a few things to get in order before you start:

  • Identify an initial list of donors that you want to connect with for feedback, this could be a list of 5 donors, 10 donors, or if you want to get ambitious go for more

  • Identify who will reach out to each donor from your nonprofit, this is ideally someone from your organization who has a relationship with the donor

  • Set a realistic timeline to send the initial email out to your donors, plan for 1 week to compile the list and 1-2 weeks to schedule and complete the interviews,

 
Time to start reaching out to your donors and ask for some time to connect

2. Send an email to ask donors for time and feedback

Don’t cold-call your donors. Draft a simple email thanking them for their donation(s) and ask if they would be willing to connect with you over a call, and make it even easier on the donor by using a tool like Calendly. Here’s a general email structure and example:

  • Provide a personalized thank you for their previous donation(s) to start

  • Be clear that you’re seeking feedback to help inform your nonprofit’s strategy

  • Be mindful and propose 15-minute call to connect to hear their thoughts


SAMPLE EMAIL TEMPLATE

Hi [Donor Name], I wanted to reach out with a sincere thank you for your recent donation to [Nonprofit Name]. It’s the support of donors like yourself that make our mission and programs possible and we’re so grateful for your generous contribution to our nonprofit.

We’re currently leading a campaign to learn more about our supporters' motivation to give and would love to hear your feedback on a few [Nonprofit Name] topics that could help inform our fundraising strategy. Would you be willing to connect for 15 minutes in the coming days?

If so, let me know when might work best or feel free to use this link to book time on my calendar.

Thanks so much, [Your Signature]

 
Time for questions and answers and to give the stage to your donors to share their feedback

3. Ask questions, listen, and keep it conversational

Remember, you’re taking the time to reach out to your donors because you want to learn more from and about them. Genuinely seek to understand their background, interests, motivations for giving, interests, and other personal connections to your organization and mission. Here are a handful of questions to consider asking:

  • [Background] Where did you learn to give? What shapes your giving?

  • [Mission] What’s your personal connection to our organization’s mission?

  • [Motivation] What’s your personal connection to our organization’s mission? What motivated you to first give to our organization?

  • [Best Giving Experience] Would you be willing to share the best giving experience you’ve had with another nonprofit organization? What made it so special?

  • [Open to Feedback] Any questions you wish I asked or other feedback for me? [Closing] Thanks so much for your time, your feedback is greatly appreciated and helps us better understand our donors that make our mission possible

 
Taking time to follow up and to express your gratitude for feedback is an important step in the process

4. Send a brief follow up thank you email to your donors

Your donor just took time out of their busy day to give you feedback, and you can quickly capitalize on the moment of generosity by sending a simple brief thank you email in follow up. Here are a few things to consider in the email:

  • Give them thanks for their time they took to provide you with feedback

  • Share a few takeaways from your conversation that stood out to you

  • Provide a sense of next steps and explain how you plan to use their feedback

 
Synthesis example
Adding themes of feedback to sticky notes can be an easy way to visualize feedback

5. Make sense of donor feedback and put it into action

Congratulations! You’ve connected with your donors and heard a lot of valuable feedback. Now it’s time to make sense of everything you’ve heard (and update those Donor records !) and decide what to act on now, in the future, or scrap. Here are some questions to ask yourself as part of the process:

  • [Old] What have we heard before whether internally or from other donors?

  • [New] What did I hear that was new from this conversation?

  • [Surprising] Was there anything that I learned that was surprising?

 

💡 ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR NONPROFIT INTERVIEWERS


BEFORE

  • Relax, drop your shoulders, take a deep breath… it’s just a conversation!

  • Minimize distractions and always keep it conversational

  • This is NOT the time to make an appeal or ask for money

  • Remember, people LOVE when they’re asked for feedback

DURING

  • Listen more than you speak (80% listening, 20% speaking)

  • Take lots of notes, jot down direct quotes to keep notes unbiased

  • Acknowledge and reflect back what you hear from your donors

  • Be mindful of the time and respect your donor’s calendar

  • Don’t shoot down any ideas, say thanks, take it back and follow up

AFTER

  • Reflect on the conversation, what were the key takeaways?

  • Email a follow up thanks for your donors’ time and feedback

  • Organize notes and share your findings with your team

 


Want more personalized advice on how to lead donor interviews at your nonprofit? Feel free to connect with our CEO Pooya Pourak on LinkedIn!


Listen to Pooya's episode on Nonprofit Lowdown with Rhea Wong at the link below: #229 How to Learn Through Interviews with Pooya Pourak

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