Fundraising Decision-Making: No Power in the Audience of 1
I started my week off grumpy. It was all because of a reprint of a tweet from a popular blogger in a leading publication for the nonprofit industry. There was no commentary — just the tweet.
The gist of the tweet was that the author disliked a particular fundraising method; it did not encourage her to give. That's OK; donors are different and respond to different things. I know from experience that that particular fundraising effort is an exceptional way to retain donors and raise net dollars. But I also know that reading something in a magazine or online that is critical of a fundraising method can lead some to conclude that "everybody" hates that methodology and therefore it must be eliminated. (Obviously, if the methodology is unethical or illegal, that's a different story; I'm not talking about those cases.)
For some reason, fundraisers or their bosses often put too much weight on the opinion of an audience of one. Rather than thoughtfully considering it in light of the whole picture, the response is too often wholesale change.
The reality is complaints are part of a fundraiser's life. Somebody, somewhere, someday doesn't like something. And while I am absolutely passionate about retaining donors, I am equally passionate about retaining the majority — and that means not letting the audience of one dictate what we do or don't do.
When faced with complaints — and let's face it, we all have and will experience them — here's how I recommend you handle them.
Keep complaints in perspective. If you send out 10,000 letters and get five complaints back, that's 0.05 percent complaint rate. Even 50 complaints are only one-half of a percent. Yes, some people who take the time to complain are very irate. And yes, there are probably others who didn't like it but didn't take the time to complain. But why do they deserve the power to dictate fundraising for the remaining 99.5 percent of your donor file?
Pamela Barden is an independent fundraising consultant focused on direct response. You can read more of her fundraising columns here.