Uncovering Philanthropic Passion

Uncovering philanthropic passion sounds like a big job, doesn’t it?

It isn’t, really—as long as you are a good listener, enjoy spending time with people and know how to build authentic relationships.

Uncovering someone’s philanthropic passion is simple. You ask key questions, then shut up and listen. I mean really listen. Don’t spend the time between questions thinking about the next thing you’re going to ask or how you want to respond. Be taking in every bit of info the prospect is sharing with you. This is how you build authentic, trust-filled relationships.

She says, “I’m really interested in children.” You could respond by saying, “Great! We serve kids too! Let me tell you all about our great kids programs, blah, blah, blah.” She’d listen. She’ll probably entertain a proposal. And who knows, you  might even get a gift from her at some point. But it won’t be significant—a transformational gift.

Why? Because you don’t really know her at this point. You don’t know why she’s passionate about kids, or which kids she is interested in investing in.

Instead of jumping in as soon as you hear a potential connection, wait. Ask more-detailed questions. This could look something like:

“Kids, huh? Hmm. What in particular excites you about helping children? When you think about helping children, what specific groups or types of children do you envision helping? Why? Tell me more about that.”

Then she tells you, “When I was 15 I was kicked out of my home and forced to live with friends. I worked my way through high school, got scholarships for college, and held a job all four years to make it through college, too. There are thousands of girls in situations like I was in, who find themselves on the streets, victimized, taken advantage of, and not able to realize their dreams. I want to give girls like these the chance to dream again, and to achieve great things.”

There. She’s told you what her passion is. Heck. She’s nearly written the case for you!

Marrying passion to program

People ask all the time, “What field are you in?” I’m often tempted to tell them I’m a fundraiser, or that I work in development or philanthropy.

But let’s be real. When it comes down to it, we’re all matchmakers.

We take compassionate, caring people and match them up with worthy, successful programs to create philanthropic partnerships that help improve our communities all over the world.

Now when I’m asked, I think I’ll just say that I’m a philanthropic matchmaker.

In all seriousness, if you’re a good gift officer you’ll thrive on uncovering people’s philanthropic interests and pairing them with exciting, engaging projects and programs that your nonprofit offers. And your donors will love the fact that they’re investing in custom-built projects you’ve designed just for them.


P.S. This post is an excerpt from my new book, Rainmaking: The Fundraiser’s Guide to Landing Big Gifts. You can buy it here if you like.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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One thought on “Uncovering Philanthropic Passion

  1. I am a student supervisor at my college call center. We always tell our callers that it is not hard to get a gift from a prospect as long as you listen to them! We have them establish a rapport by asking a lot of open ended questions to figure out what the prospect is interested in. If they talk about how much they loved going to sports games, then we obviously try to get them to give to athletics.