By Kivi Leroux Miller

To write a good profile about a client, donor, volunteer or other supporter of your nonprofit organization, you need to see several sides of that person. One good way to do that is to conduct an interview. You can interview in person, over the phone, or via email.

The specific questions you ask and how you word them will depend on the relationship between that person and your organization, how much time you have, and how long you want the profile to be. You'll pose questions about working with your nonprofit a little differently, based on whether the person is a donor, volunteer or recipient of services.

You'll usually want answers that relate back both to the nonprofit itself and to the larger issues or cause that the nonprofit works on.

Here are my 25 favorite interview questions. I've never used all 25 at once, because the profiles I write are usually only 500-700 words and the people I'm interviewing often really busy. On average, I pick ten questions. Adjust the wording to meet your needs -- insert real names, places, topics, etc. that relate directly to your subject.

  • Tell me how you first got involved in with (the Nonprofit or the Cause) . . .
  • What was your first impression of (the Nonprofit)?
  • What's your first memory of (something related to the Cause)?
  • What has surprised you most about working with (Nonprofit or Cause)?
  • What do you find most challenging about (the Cause)?
  • What's the best/worst thing to happen since you started working with (the Nonprofit)?
  • When you last (volunteered, made a donation, etc.), how did that make you feel?
  • If you could change one thing about (the Cause or Nonprofit), what would it be?
  • What do you wish other people knew about (the Cause or the Nonprofit)?
  • Why are you supporting (the Nonprofit) as opposed to other groups working on (the Cause)?
  • Tell me about some of the people you've met while working on (the Cause)?
  • What would you say are some of your strongest beliefs about (the Cause)?
  • What's your personal philosophy on what should be done about (the Cause)?
  • When your friends/family find out that you (volunteer, donate, etc.), what do they say or ask?
  • Tell me about someone who has influenced your decision to work with (the Nonprofit)?
  • What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?
  • The interest in (the Cause) seems to be growing/waning. Why do you think that is?
  • What would you tell someone who is thinking about (donating, volunteering, etc.)?
  • What do you think will change about (the Cause or the Nonprofit) over the next five years?
  • What's it like to be a (volunteer, client, donor) or (the Nonprofit)?
  • If you weren't (volunteering, using their services, etc.), what would you be doing instead, or what would your life be like?
  • As a (client, volunteer, donor), what sorts of trends do you see?
  • How would (someone) describe you?
  • What do you do when you aren't (working, volunteering)?
  • What else can you tell me about (the Nonprofit or the Cause)?

And don't forget to follow-up on interesting answers! Here are some good follow-up questions:

  • What makes you say that?
  • How do you know that?
  • Why do you feel that way?
  • Can you give me an example?
  • Has that ever happened before (or since)?
  • How would you respond to someone who disagrees with you about that?