5 open ended questions to get you closer to a gift

What is this groovy book? It’s called Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss.

My friend Aaron Levine (of podcast fame) recommended this book recently and I’m SO glad he did. I’ve been recommending it to anyone I know who needs to be persuasive, whether a fundraiser, someone in sales, or even my own mother. She loves it!

First, let’s talk about how to connect with people-without telling them what they want. As fundraisers, this is super important to us. But we can also use these around the office, to get along better with our co-workers. Chris Voss, an international hostage negotiator, has had better luck asking variations on these simple open ended questions:

2 questions for when people want you to stop having good workplace boundaries:

  • How can I do that? (When someone asks you to do something impossible)
  • I’m sorry, what? (when it’s really out of line to ask you to do this thing)

This way, if your boss is haranguing you for not staying til 7pm, or maybe asks you to make 10 copies at 5:30 when you’re walking out the door on a Friday, you can push back, without being abrasive or acting offended. This method makes them explain themselves, and helps them see that what they want MIGHT not need to get done right now, or at all. gently.

5 Open Ended Questions That Get You Closer to A Gift

For donor relationship building:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • It seems like ______ is valuable to you
  • What’s the core issue here?
  • What happens if you do nothing?
  • It seems like _______ is important.

When you’re making an ask-

This book taught me something about negotiation that I never knew.

For example, the BATNA is unnecessary and can even be harmful to you. A BATNA is a best alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. This is when you have a low range, mid-range and high range for what you are negotiating for (usually money.) First, Establish a range, and put the lowest number you will take at the bottom of the range.

For objections-Do an accusation audit

Before they even start to make an objection, you can bring up doubts they may be having. And address them.

For example, you might ask them about previous bad experiences they’ve had as a donor or with nonprofits. And then ask, how would you wish to change what happened? If they have doubts about your nonprofit-or your team, it’s good to bring it up here.You get their fears out in the open. If there are dealbreakers, things they are hesitant to say, you can uncover them with this tactic.

As they make their objection, Chris Voss suggests repeating the last 3 words they just said, to get them to explain themselves even further… and create a sense of connection. This will allow them to feel like you get it. Ultimately, you’re looking for them to say the magic words, “THAT’S RIGHT.” Not “You’re right” because you’re right is really code for “please shut up now”. You’re trying to get them to be comfortable with you, and see you as an ally.

My grandmother, for example, says, “All nonprofits are scams!” (THE OVERHEAD MYTH AND HOW TO ANSWER IT!)

You might say, “Scams?” and she would go on with,

“YES because the executives make so much money and they all steal!”

And you might say, “They all steal?” and she might say,

“Well, I don’t have a specific example right now but they are dishonest!” and you might say,

“Dishonest?” and she would say,

“YES, because they don’t use your donation for programs, only for overhead!”

And you might say, “Overhead?” and she would say,

“YES, that’s right, their overhead is TOO HIGH” and you might say, now that she’s said, “That’s right”…

“Well, ok, but how can nonprofits run unless they have administration? They need some overhead, because programs have to focus on programs, and administration has to be there to fundraise and set direction.” 

Because you spent some time repeating what she said, she believes that you are listening to her. This helps her get her guard down.

Do you see how I asked her to explain herself, and helped her through a process of uncovering her rationale behind her beliefs, without ever telling her she was wrong?

I cannot recommend this book highly enough, to help you get better workplace relationships, OR to help you get better donor relationships! Try it, and let me know what you think!

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