Complaints are opportunities: Expletives deleted

Last week, a client received an expletive-laced email complaining about the quality of their premiums and the consistency of their delivery. The email author is a senior and wants to pass on the premiums to his grandchildren to encourage their interest in the cause. Expletives-aside, I was struck by how passionate the donor was about the issues the client works on. Regardless of his frustration, his passion showed through. He was simply tired of what he called “the false promises.”

For some non profits, this email would have disappeared into the swamp of inputs they receive on a daily basis and this donor could have been lost for ever.  But not for this client — they were able to turn it into an opportunity!

The client has a fantastic feedback loop — with at least 2-3 staffers checking the general email inbox on any given day. The email was surfaced and directed to the head of Direct Marketing with 24 hours. She called the donor to apologize about his experience (he was truly shocked to hear from her and appreciative) and she sent out a package of “high-quality” gifts for him to give to his grandchildren.

He said he’ll now never give anywhere else.

What a 180 degree shift — simply because the organization got the message and responded appropriately.

  • What systems do you have in place for handling customer service opportunities?
  • Are your staff empowered to make decisions to “make good” for donors? Do they know how to respond and what they can offer?
  • Do the staff know what types of requests to raise up to leadership?
  • Are you documenting the types of complaints you receive and reviewing them on an ongoing basis?

If you don’t already, having a donor service task force is an amazing use of time and resources. Keeping your donors happy equals huge gains in fundraising revenue. Are you doing enough here?