The Donor Is Always Right — Right?
When the ‘other Margaret’ (you know, the editor-in-chief of FS magazine) asked me to write this article, I immediately thought of my first mentor and his canny advice: “Margaret, the donor is always right — even when they’re wrong.”
After years of practice and thousands of conversations, I have to admit he was right!
Situation ONE: Donor calls and wants to speak to someone “in charge.” That’s you. In less than a minute, you have the picture: “I told you to stop sending so much mail. I give twice a year — that’s it!”
As you check the database you see that, for the past three years, the donor has given nine times a year. What to do?
First, thank the donor for his past giving. Second, apologize for any inconvenience your organization might have caused. Third, ask the donor how/what communications he really wishes to receive and how often. You might be able to interject, “I see that you’ve been giving about every other month; would you like to continue that?”
Finally, confirm with the donor how you have coded his record; indicate that it might take a month or two for the new process to be activated; make a note in the file about the call. Thank the donor for bringing this to your attention.
Situation TWO: It’s April 10. The donor calls and says, “I don’t have that tax statement from you, and I need one today for my CPA.”
You know all the statements went out the end of January, but mail can get lost — even by the donor. What to do?
Always thank the donor first and always apologize for any inconvenience. Confirm the address and ask if there is a fax number available to receive the information. Tell the donor his total giving for the year and identify any large gifts. Some donors will verify the total amount right on the phone. Mail another receipt that day. In this case, the donor can appreciate the efficient and immediate method of handling the problem. Finally, thank the donor for bringing this to your attention.