Specific questions have power. When we ask something that is too broad or too generic we get a broad and generic response that is typically not engaging. This works whether we are talking with a long-time donor or prospecting someone new. An engaging targeted question around an area of interest for a donor ignites interest in a much greater way than a compelling elevator pitch.
If you are trying to engage an existing major donor in a significant way, ask them a question linking their passions to the area you are interested in their funding. If it is really is an area of passion, they will start the conversation around how they can make a difference. When you are prospecting new donors try and engage them in a way that targets a specific area of interest.
For example if you ask someone about their passion for information technology, they might just give you a blank stare. But if you ask that same person what is happening with the future of IT in the area they work you might get a totally different answer. You can probably follow up your question asking them if that same kind of future thinking could impact the mission of your organization.