How have the last 15 months changed you? Have you been impacted by the political and social justice developments of recent years? I can tell you that I’ve felt significant effects — everything from my business and my husband’s business, our conversations around the dinner table as our kids were sent home from college to attend remotely, to distance from family during health challenges, and so much more. I know we all have our own stories to tell.

Our donors have the same stories: stories of evolution, personal reflection, trauma, and so much more. As more and more fundraising teams are returning to in-person engagement with donors, we must make sure that we don’t also return to outdated assumptions about donors’ personal circumstances, world views, or causes they care about.

Instead, we must re-discover our donors, re-qualifying their philanthropic priorities, capacity, and personal circumstances. Re-qualifying is one of the most important and timely tools in your toolbox to ensure relationships are authentic and evolving.

The right questions will allow you to grow your relationship based on how your donor experiences the world today, not 15 months ago. Consider how the following questions might support your donor strategies:

  • The last 15 months have been hard, but I talk with a lot of people who have also found some unexpected positives. When you think back over this experience, what has been your silver lining? Your family’s silver lining? Your professional silver lining?
  • How did you use this time differently, and how will you carry that forward?
  • This time has been really challenging, and not just because of the pandemic. Has it changed how you think about the causes you care about?
  • This was a difficult time for a lot of businesses. How is your company doing?
  • I feel like we all found different ways to connect during quarantine: virtual events, phone calls instead of meetings, etc. Do you feel like you might carry any of those into the future?
  • I know I spent a lot more time with family during COVID. Did you end up doing the same?
  • When you think about your engagement with us now, how do you want to engage (virtually, in person, a combination)? Note: we should know how every person in our portfolio wants to engage with our organizations. If you have not asked, build this question into your strategies, and ensure that the information learned is captured in your database! And then, respect the wishes of our donors/volunteers!

Taking the time to thoughtfully re-discover our supporters creates space for openness and reflection and will enrich our relationships and our strategies. And if we skip this step, we may be surprised when some of our most generous friends fade away. By staying connected to your donors’ motivations and personal circumstances, you can make sure your cause fits into their future, not just their past.

What questions will you be using to re-discover your donors this summer? Share in the comments!

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