Among the most transformational parts of our workshops for development professionals are the Process for Locating Philanthropic Passion™ and the Passion Question.

It seems like a simple enough question, but when asked in the right way and under the right conditions, it can be the catalyst for meaningful contributions with far-reaching and lasting results.

We often get feedback from workshop participants who have used the Passion Question and the Process for Locating Philanthropic Passion™ with donors and have had outstanding results. One participant recently told us, “I just had to tell you that the Passion Question is a game changer!”

Here are some of the most Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Can you ask the Passion Question of a donor with whom you have a long relationship?

A: Using the Passion Question with donors you know well can be extremely effective when approached strategically. One technique is to lead into the Passion Question with the Organizational Update. This offers a comfortable and natural way to turn the conversation toward connecting the donor’s meaningful experiences with the opportunities of your program without feeling like you are returning to an earlier phase in your relationship.


Q: My instinct is to build up to this question instead of asking it up front. What is the best approach and when do I ask this question?

A: Keep in mind that the Passion Question is about the donor and his/her preferences. Consider the donor’s personality and communication preferences. In general, the donor is almost always ready for this question sooner than you think. This is true for many reasons, not the least of which is that donors are usually much more comfortable talking about money than you are.


Q: What do you say when people answer the passion question with “I don’t know?”

A: Approximately 50 percent of the time this is the response you will get. Most donors have never had the opportunity to really think about it. Keeping in mind what you know about the donor, consider appropriate questions that will get him/her to think about experiences that were life changing. Some donors need a little time to reflect. Once they’ve shared then circle back to the Passion Question.


Q: Can you turn loyalty giving into passion giving?

A: Yes! Countless development professionals have used the Passion Question to help loyalty-gift donors advance to making deeply meaningful philanthropic investments. Albert Einstein has been quoted as stating, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Connecting a donor’s life experiences to your organization’s priorities can turn an ordinary loyalty gift into something extraordinary, both for the donor and your organization.


Q: I notice that in all the questions in the Process for Locating Philanthropic Passion™ you ask “what?” and “how?” but you never ask “why?” Is that intentional?

A: As the saying goes, “I live for the day when a chicken can cross the road without having their motives questioned!” We should keep in mind that “why?” can feel interrogational rather than friendly and conversational—and can quickly derail the conversation and prevent you from discovering the donor’s philanthropic passions.

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