Simple Questions to Better Understand Your Board, Donors and Staff


Remember Your Why

In the day-to-day hustle of our work, it’s easy to forget why we do what we do. To-do lists, deadlines, and budgets can get the better of us. That’s why we remind clients to step back from the immediate tasks at hand and remember their greater purpose and mission.

We encourage our nonprofit leaders to stay connected to why their volunteers, donors, and staff are involved with their organization.

The best way to learn? Just ask.

Why do your board members give their time?

New board orientations are a perfect time to learn more about your new volunteers. DBD Group’s Jan Brogdon shared a question she often poses at the beginning of a meeting: Why are you here? Why are you giving your time to our organization?

Inevitably, every board member will have a different “why” and, in sharing it, will affirm their commitment to your organization. You will learn invaluable insight into the reason they give their precious time and other board members will learn more about their peers. Try this at any board or campaign cabinet meeting. I’d be willing to bet you will learn something new, even if a volunteer has been with you for years.

Why do your donors support your organization?

With all the choices donors have for their charitable contributions, they choose you. Do you know why? And just because they gave to a specific program area, don’t assume that’s all they care about. Have a conversation.

Make a list of a few of your largest or longest-standing donors and invite them for coffee. A few key questions will help you learn more about them, what they care about, and their relationship with you:

  • What are some of the biggest needs facing our community today?
  • Why do you support our organization?
  • What are your hoped-for outcomes/results of your giving?
  • What reason would you give to a friend as to why they should support us?
  • How do you like to be acknowledged for your contributions to an organization?

Why does your staff work at your organization?

During our case development work with clients, some of the most heartfelt conversations start by simply asking staff why they do the work they do. Why is their work important and what impact does it have on those they serve? What is the ripple effect of their work?

The answers don’t always start to flow right away. The stress of the day or endless tasks that lie ahead can be distracting, but as others start to share their “why,” there’s a palpable emotion in the room (or on the Zoom). Heartfelt stories are told. Colleagues smile and nod in agreement as they are reminded that the work they all do is important.

Take a moment in your staff meetings or one-on-one conversations to ask your staff why. It’s a great way to learn about what matters to them and recognize the impact they have on the organization and those you serve.  

And when you think you have all the answers, ask again. Continue to be curious and have conversations that will help you understand your board, donors and staff and keep them connected to your organization.  

12-1This Month's Focus

This month we're taking a look at ourselves and our relationships. Join us in taking a step back and considering the questions that we should be asking to continue developing and nurturing what matters most.



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Posted by Sara Luke
Sara Luke

Written by Sara Luke

Sara is fueled by an enthusiasm for helping organizations craft and present the right message to help further their mission. Coupled with her passion for non-profits and the life-changing work they do each day, Sara is eager to find creative and effective solutions to marketing/communication challenges.

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