I work with education nonprofits who have great partnerships with their sponsors because of the relationships. These sponsors are very important for funding their student programs. These sponsors are bombarded with people asking for donations, but they’ve chosen specific education nonprofits whose missions they value. To add value to their sponsorships, or investments in the community, we’ve asked these questions and acted upon the information.
These are open-ended and best asked face-to-face or at least over the phone. When I conduct interviews I record our conversations, with their permission, and have listened several times over.
· What are the top 2 or 3 challenges you/your organization is facing?
· What happens if those are left unchecked?
· What are the top 2 or 3 goals/results you want [for your organization]?
· What happens if you don’t get those results?
Three Major Benefits to Asking These Questions
1. Hearing their answers in their own words helps us gain empathy for their pain. As an education nonprofit, you might, for example, learn that one of your sponsors spends an inordinate amount of time recruiting qualified employees. Future workforce is a major concern and your STEM programs are providing a valuable service to their organization in educating the future workforce. A potential outcome would be to provide more transparency of your programs to help the sponsor see their donation as an investment.
2. Empathy for our sponsors helps improve programs or design new ones, the first step in design thinking. Here’s a great introductory design thinking article from Stanford’s d.school.
3. We have a common language. In continuing the STEM program example, we might ask a sponsor if or how the program or idea will help with their future workforce. It also helps everyone remember the ultimate goal.