I shared recently about how I was on a donor call with a development officer who is new to the industry. Before the meeting I was talking about the importance of asking good questions.

It’s not enough just to listen.

You have to ask great questions that elicit responses from your donor that reveal the heart.

Deep down I’m wondering if the development officer I’m traveling with really believes all of this.

She seems to.

But does she really?

We arrive at the donor’s office for our meeting.

Some good small talk. A real connection. This is a wonderful human being we’re meeting with.

We’ve already asked a few of our strategic questions.

We were learning a lot.

And then I asked…

Of all the gifts you’ve ever given, is there one that stands out now as having been especially meaningful to you? A gift that you think back and say to yourself, “I’m glad I made that gift.”

The donor leaned back in his chair.

It was like he was not even in the room anymore.

He was thinking deeply.

He was searching his heart.

He recounted two stories to us that revealed that this is a man who thinks often about his giving and his legacy.

He talked about being in Denver and overhearing another man tell a story about his giving. Our donor envied how connected this man was with his giving.

He talked about a very particular (not the largest) gift he’d given to his alma mater.

Are you asking questions like this?

How do you help your donors search and reveal their hearts?

You’ve got to do it.

What did this answer mean to me?

Standing alone the answer is interesting. Maybe even inspiring.

But coupled with a reponse he’d given me to a previous question — I had then learned enough to ask the pivitol question of the meeting.

If I’d been talking the whole time I never would have learned what I needed to know.

If I’d not done the prep work to know the questions that needed to be asked we could have had a pleasant meeting.

It would have been nice.

But is that why we get on these airplanes, spend valuable resouces, and leave our families behind?