Donor Interviews: Who, What and Why to Ask

The best relationships include communication from both sides, right? And how can you really know your donors if you haven’t talked to them? Donor interviews help remove the mystery and create the basis of a plan to reach and convince more donors to give, while also keeping current donors around.

Donor interviews serve two key goals:

  1. First, they’re great for donor retention. The donor will feel incredibly special while also giving you direct insight into what it’ll take to keep them around.
  2. Second, they’re great for recruiting new donors. You can use the language your existing donors are using and the insights they provide to jumpstart your donor recruitment efforts.

Who Should You Talk to?

To determine who to interview, we’ll need to identify your ideal donor. The donor of your development team’s dreams. Maybe that’s a recurring donor who often shares your content on social media. Maybe it’s a local philanthropist who gathers all of their friends to attend fundraising events.

A bit of analysis on your end can help you start to identify themes among your current donors and pinpoint ideal qualities.

  • What do your organization’s donors have in common?
  • What motivated them to give?
  • How often do they give? Annually? Monthly?
  • What marketing channels were effective at engaging them?
  • How else do they like to connect with you? Events or volunteering?

From there, you can get a better sense of your ideal donor to target. And then you can dive into donor interviews. Start by setting up short interviews with any current donor that seems like a fit based on the qualities of your ideal donor that you’ve identified through your analysis.

Not everyone will be able to chat, but five to ten folks is a good number to shoot for in this first round of interviews.

What to Ask in Donor Interviews

Begin each interview with a thank you and let them know why you’ve reached out. You want to get to know the people who support your organization and to hear their thoughts, feelings and opinions firsthand.

Then, you can get into the questions.

Donor interview questions

Through these interviews, aim to zero in on your donors’ values, what inspires them to give and what will keep them engaged with your organization. Feel free to adjust any wording to use your own words and help the conversation feel more natural for you.

  • What’s your connection to our cause?
  • Why did you decide to support our organization?
  • Has something that you saw from us or that we sent you inspired you to give, either recently or at some point in the past?
  • How would you describe our organization and mission to another potential donor?
  • What aspects of our work interest you the most?
  • How do you prefer to stay in the loop about our impact and the impact of your gift?
  • What types of content would you share with your network?
  • How can we make you feel closer to our community?
  • Could you see yourself becoming more involved with our organization? How so? What would inspire that additional action?
  • Do you have any advice for us to keep you as a supporter and inspire others like you to join our mission?

You may end up working through all or just a few of these questions in your donor interviews. So long as you come away with a better understanding of your donor, why they support your organization and what you can do to support them in return.

Save a recording

Don’t stress about taking notes and nailing down exact quotes during the interview. Instead, focus on keeping the conversation flowing and save a recording that you can revisit and analyze for insights or deeper meanings later. You may even opt to get them transcribed with a service, like Rev.

Where to Use Interview Information

You knew this part was coming. Dig out all of the useful nuggets that you’ve learned from donors and combine those insights with the analysis you did beforehand to create a donor persona for your target audience personas.

Build out a profile of information about your ideal donor through this persona, including what inspires and motivates them, helpful background information and communication preferences. Stop trying to reach “the general public” or all of your donors and use your donor persona to speak directly to these ideal supporters through your fundraising and marketing efforts.

And as you create personas, make sure that everyone on the team that could use them is introduced to the concept and has access to revisit them when needed. Especially your fundraising and marketing folks!

Optimize your donor communications

The creation of a donor persona is an excellent opportunity to revisit and make improvements to your donation process, including the lead up to the donation, the actual process of giving and what happens after they give. Does your process line up with what you’ve discovered about your ideal donor’s preferences and motivations? Our Donor Flow Optimizer tool can help you refine your process and cater to your donors.

Your donor persona can help to inform everything you do, from fundraising to marketing to overarching organizational decisions. And the closer you get to your ideal target audience, the better you’ll be able to relate to them and ultimately engage them.

Have you tried donor interviews or created a donor persona for your target audience? What questions did you ask? Any surprising insights you can share with us? I’m looking forward to hearing from you in the comments section.