Nonprofit communication starts with smart questions

Charitable work is rooted in storytelling: Getting or giving assistance and support depend on communicating effectively. And good communication is a two-way street.

Yet far too often, nonprofit professionals treat communication as a one-sided pursuit: They talk, and talk.

And then, when they should be listening, many nonprofit professionals simply are waiting to talk again.

The key to communicating is to ask questions that prompt people to talk about what matters most to them.

What matters to donors are their families, their business, their values, the causes they hold dear, the difference they want to make in the world, the concerns that may be keeping them from making a gift.

So work to understand your donor, volunteer, partner, or board or staff member. Ask questions, listen, and absorb what you hear, as well as what may be left unspoken.

Questions are key to an on-going conversation about community needs, your nonprofit’s role and impact in addressing them, and the sense of purpose and fulfillment someone will get by getting involved with your work.

Every conversation can be an opportunity to engage a donor, supporter or other partner.

Don’t blow it by talking when you should be asking questions, listening and responding thoughtfully.

Want help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or

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