Laura Champion, Donor Relations Coordinator – Direct Response
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada
I am bad with confrontation. My face turns red, I stare at my feet and my first instinct is to run and hide in the corner. It’s a good thing I’m on the phone!
But as fundraisers, we have all been there. The phone rings and on the other side is a very displeased donor. Someone has issued the wrong receipt, sent too much mail or not enough mail. Perhaps they were excluded from a guest list. The donor is unhappy and they want you to know it.
As a millennial, I have easily avoided phone calls most of life. Call display, voicemail, texting and email have made it all too simple for me to go through my whole day without actually speaking to anyone. This has made my conflict resolutions skills mostly text based.
But one of the reasons I am a fundraiser and more specifically, an annual giving fundraiser is that it gives me the chance to speak to so many people. Most interactions are positive and cause my heart to soar! But every once in a while they are not the same type of inspiring.
Since I have met quite a few text based millennials among my fellow fundraisers, I have put together a few thoughts on how to maintain your composure and ease that pit in your stomach:
1) My motto both in the workplace and out is “Be a person”. Remember the reason that the donor is upset could be heightened by something else going on in their lives. It is a reminder to be kind, be honest and be present for those around you. A kind word from me may be all this donor needs to get through a tough situation.
2) Do not take it personally. It’s easy to internalize the criticism, especially if the mistake was your own. Remember that everyone makes mistakes. When you’ve completed the call with the donor, take a walk or get a coffee and settle back in. It is too easy to carry negativity – be careful not to let it burn you out.
3) Donors want to be heard. Whether it is a compliment, a complaint or a story, people want to feel heard. It is our job as fundraisers to understand that donors are giving to our organization because of a connection. When they take the time to call you – hear them. They are telling you what you can do to retain them long term.
4) Donors do not call unless they care. They do not want to leave your organization – they just want you to make it right. These crisis calls are an opportunity to learn more about these individuals and their motivation for giving.
5) Tell me about a time when… Remember you are always learning and growing in your role. These crisis calls may be difficult but it is important to think of them as an opportunity to improve your skills and gather material for the next interview!
With so much talk emphasis on being donor-centric and taking donors through their journey, we need to remember there may be some wrong turns or road blocks. Ensuring that everyone in your organization understands how to deal with dissatisfied donors without taking it to heart will lead to a healthier organization and a healthier donor base. Retention is the new acquisition.
And keep in mind – you are not alone. We have all been through a crisis – it is part of what forms a great fundraiser. Relationship management means working with donors when they are happy and when they are not.
Laura Champion is Donor Relations Coordinator at Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. She has a thirst for fundraising knowledge and is always open to discussion. You can find her on twitter @charitablelaura.