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A Method for Research and Practice: Using a Developmentally Informed Interview to Increase Donor Engagement

Jennifer Amanda Jones, David L. Daniel


In this article, we argue that researchers and fundraisers can use a theoretical framework from developmental psychology and its related assessment technique to explain philanthropic giving and improve fundraising practices. Specifically, a constructive developmental interview approach will help fundraisers to identify how donors might react to specific types of information, communication styles, and measures of success (or failure), particularly as it relates to complex problem solving (e.g., climate change or poverty). First, we present Robert Kegan’s model of constructive adult development and the related Subject-Object Interview developed with Lisa Lahey. Then we provide examples of the sorts of insights that can be drawn from this technique and identify challenges for researchers and fundraisers using the technique. We conclude by outlining a research agenda and offering recommendations for fundraiser trainings.

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philanthropy; fundraising; constructive developmental theory; nonprofit management; nonprofit leadership

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