Say What? Listen to the Messages Your Donors Are Sending
Donors constantly talk to us. One important way they communicate is by what they support (or don’t respond to). They also talk to us through their letters, e-mails, phone calls and face-to-face comments. While there’s plenty of talking going on, it’s critical that we learn to listen and interpret their messages.
It’s everyone’s job
Often, the team that reads/listens and responds to donor communications is isolated from “real” fundraisers. Yet its job is critical to building donor relationships. Make sure this team sees the mailings or e-appeals before they go out, and take the time to explain the offer to everyone on that team. If you’re trying something new, tell them about it — and explain why.
Develop systems so every comment is captured in a meaningful format. You may not have time to read every comment yourself, but if the report shows a disturbing trend, you need to know about it so you can take any corrective action.
Donors often call to say one thing but really mean another. Worse, we interpret what they say to fit into our limited computer codes. “You mail to me too much” may mean a person wants to be removed from the mailing list, but more often it means, “You mail to me too much — so mail me less!”
Offer donors options. For example, “too much mail” should trigger an offer to reduce appeals to once a quarter, mail only the newsletter, mail only twice a year, etc. It should not automatically result in removing a person from the mailing list.
Another common donor comment is, “I can’t give as much as you ask for.” This is a great time to explore if the donor is on a fixed income. Perhaps he or she has become a candidate for planned giving. The large gift that triggered the higher gift array on the reply form may have been a memorial gift or a portion of an insurance payment. This is an opportunity to learn more about the donor and strengthen your relationship.
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.