Asking: The Value of Questions

Asking: The Value of Questions

April 16, 2014 by jga_admin

by Ted Grossnickle


My colleagues and I at JGA ask lots of questions. At any time, our firm is doing a number of studies for our clients and that involves asking many questions. We talk with staff and volunteers, prospective donors and others to learn – and help our clients learn – how their organizations should proceed.


In our experience over now twenty years as a firm, we’ve come toappreciate the value of a good question. And the way a good question can not only help us learn but also how it can help the person answering to think more deeply and clearly about their cause.


Sometimes we hear an interviewee pause and say “That’s an interesting question” or “Let me think about that for a minute” or “I hadn’t considered that.”


It seems to me that sometimes the best question is the one that we didn’t plan to ask but which was the right one to ask given what the interviewee has been telling us. At that moment, it is the right question to ask.


If this sounds as though our interviews are highly iterative and based upon what we hear in that moment, well, that is partly true. We go into interviews knowing generally what we want to learn, that is true. But we also leave plenty of room – or space in the conversation – for what the interviewee is getting at or trying to articulate. That is, I suppose, where the art and the science blend in our work with interviewees and for our clients.


There is an old saying that the best way to raise money is to ask for advice. That sure feels right to us because it is not uncommon for those we interview to end up being very generous supporters of their organizations. And we have witnessed some interviewees going to their organization after having participated in a study interview and saying “I’ve thought about this and want to go ahead and make my gift.”


Asking questions is a big, big part of what we do. And a big part of how our clients find their best ways forward.


My next blog will talk again about asking – only next time about asking for gifts.