In May of 2019 I wrote a blog post detailing an experience I had after calling the four nonprofits where I am a monthly donor.
Well whaddya know, I had to call all over because my credit card had been compromised AGAIN!
Following a quick website search and armed with phone numbers, I set out to call and update my credit card information.
As a donor, the experience to contact the organizations was an exercise in frustration. As a fundraiser, it was disappointing. Granted, we are currently going through a very wonky time and every organization has had to adjust their regular ways of working to accommodate the different work-from-home regulations. So we have to cut them some slack and be patient.
But then something occurred to me. For the past 3 months there have been countless webinars and virtual conferences offered to help nonprofits cope with COVID-19. While every single webinar always talked about how to maintain relationships with donors, how to keep donors engaged, etc. I have yet to come across a session dedicated to donor care or donor services and how your usual systems have to be adapted. Have you noticed that?
Like most, I assumed this would be a no brainer and that organizations would figure out ways to be easily accessible to their donors. While most have done a brilliant job at adapting, this exercise to update my credit card information has brought to light a few bumps in the road that are worth mentioning.
Let me explain. I had to call 4 different organizations. Of those four:
- 3 are national (2 of which are professional associations)
- 1 is local and very large
One of the national organizations has a dedicated donor care team that answers calls across the country. While the service was courteous and prompt, it felt transactional and impersonal – basically I get better service from my bank that charges me to hold my hard-earned money captive!
The local and very large organization went straight to what appeared to be someone’s personal voicemail. The message did not provide a name and said “I can’t take your call, I’ll call you when I can”. And then the system indicated that the voicemail was full so I couldn’t leave a message. I headed back to the website to find an email and fired off a quick email.
Within 20 minutes I received a call back and the fundraiser explained that the donor care phone line had been forwarded to someone’s personal cell phone. It appeared that the person hadn’t changed their voicemail message.
With the other two organizations, I either left a voicemail message or emailed because I couldn’t get anyone on the phone. It’s been 4 business days and still no news.
Lastly, I selected a local small organization to make a significant first donation online a month ago. I know they received it because I have since been added to their newsletter. No thank you has been received.
What we can learn from this experience?
- The pandemic variable
We must recognize that every organization has had to adapt to the current reality and some may not have found their “sweet spot” when it comes to donor care. The pandemic variable calls for kindness and patience in these instances so look at COVID-proofing your donor care procedures; ask your donors if it’s been easy to reach you; look for easy and simple ways to find you.
- Ghost shopping
This is widely used in the commercial sector. The concept is quite simple: a person pretends to be shopping at your establishment to report back on what works well and what needs improvements in order to make the customer experience as enjoyable and successful as possible. Do some ghost shopping in your own organization or ask a friend to make a donation or to try to call to get information. Have them report back to you with their feedback so you can make the necessary changes.
- Update your messaging
By now, it is common knowledge that most are working from home or some hybrid of that. Check to see if you’ve updated your website, your voicemail, your email signature – basically anywhere that can make it easy for your donor to know who and where they can get information.
- Make it personal
Whomever is responsible for responding to donor queries should be clearly indicated on the organization’s website. A sentence as simple as “Ken will be pleased to answer your calls/emails from 9:00 – 17:00” (or something along those lines) will let your donor know that another human will be available to take care of them.
Don’t be afraid to set an automatic email reply so donors know their message was received. It could read as such: “Thank you for taking the time to write to the ACME organization. We value the time you have taken to write to us. I promise to respond within 24 hours. Until then, have a wonderful day. Ken”
- Thank your donors for their gift
This goes without saying but sadly it still seems to escape many organizations. I am not only referring to the moment when the donation is received. I’m also referring to that moment when the donor calls for another reason – whatever that may be. Taking the time to say “Suzy, I see you have been giving (every year or monthly) for 3 years. Thank you for your trust and commitment to ACME organization” can make the difference between having a transactional conversation or having the donor potentially increase their gift (or better yet, leave a legacy).
Doesn’t taking 7 seconds to show gratitude sound like such an easy thing to do to help improve engagement and increase donations?
These are some simple suggestions that require very little effort but can make a huge difference in the relationship you develop with your donors. Go on, inject some love and gratitude in your donor care services, it’s so worth it!