What Would You Ask the World’s Most Successful Fundraisers?

The following guest blog is written by accomplished fundraiser, social entrepreneur, and best-selling author, Darian Rodriguez Heyman. Most recently, Heyman launched the Nonprofit Fundraising Masters conference series to connect experienced and emerging nonprofit leaders to the tools and service providers needed to maximize fundraising results. Sessions for the Nonprofit Fundraising Masters series are coming up in Silicon Valley on July 27, and in San Francisco on October 19. 

As we prepare to launch the Nonprofit Fundraising Masters conference series in Silicon Valley on 7/27 and San Francisco on 10/19 and share the secrets of some of the world’s most successful fundraisers with a live audience of nonprofit professionals, I’ve been debating what questions to ask these leading luminaries.

I’ve come up with a few ideas but am hoping to land on a standardized set of killer questions before launch, and that’s where you come in: I’d love your input.

Let me put it this way… you’re on a stage with the likes of:

  • Beth Kanter, author of The Networked Nonprofit and social media guru
  • Lynne Twist, author of The Soul of Money
  • Kay Sprinkel Grace, major gifts consultant Beyond Fundraising author
  • Story of Stuff developer and Greenpeace US E.D. Annie Leonard
  • Sierra Club E.D. Mike Brune
  • Planned & legacy giving guru Greg Lassonde, and more. 

You can literally ask them anything… so what would you ask? Your goal is to unearth their secrets to success, most valuable tips and tools, and sources of inspiration. 

I’m hoping to develop a set framework that I can use with all interviewees at both these events and others coming up around the country, sharing the insights generated with both a live audience and book readers down the road. I’d love your help balancing the need for inspiring stories with concrete, useful tactics and tools.

So far, here are a few questions I’ve been toying with:

  • If there is one thing that you believe most enabled you to succeed in fundraising where others have not, what would it be?
  • Can you share one specific document, template, or practice that’s facilitated your work engaging donors and supporters?
  • Tell us a story of a prospect who initially declined to contribute, but who ultimately decided to provide support.
  • Please share the story of the single largest gift you ever raised. 
  • In today’s attention economy, how do you ensure that your cause is able to cut through the clutter and appeal to donors?
  • What keeps you inspired when things get stressful and hard?
  • How did you first come to realize that you were a fundraiser?

Hopefully that’s enough to get your creative juices flowing, or at least give you an idea of what we’re thinking. So let me know what you think: which of these questions would you be most excited to hear experts answer; which aren’t that compelling; and which killer questions am I missing? Bear in mind each interview is only 45 minutes, so we won’t have all day, but we hope to cover a lot of ground in these dynamic fireside chats. Tweet me @dheyman with your burning questions.

Thanks and can’t wait to hear your ideas!

darian rodriguez heyman

DARIAN RODRIGUEZ HEYMAN is an accomplished fundraiser, social entrepreneur, and best-selling author. His work “helping people help” started during his five-year tenure as Executive Director of Craigslist Foundation, after which he authored the best-selling Nonprofit Fundraising 101, edited the best-selling Nonprofit Management 101, and co-founded the world’s only conference series dedicated to social media for social good, Social Media for Nonprofits. Most recently, he launched the Nonprofit Fundraising Masters conference series to share the secrets to success, most valuable tips and tools, and sources of inspiration of the world’s most successful fundraisers with nonprofit professionals, and he assumed the Executive Director role at Numi Foundation, where he oversees their clean water and curriculum development programs. Heyman is an in-demand fundraising consultant and board retreat facilitator, and a frequent keynote speaker at social impact events around the globe.

Fundraising