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Following on from my post about donor complaints, I promised some positive ways to deal with donor complaints.

Because it’s always unpleasant having to deal with a donor who is unhappy.

But first, I should point out there are some complainers who are actually loony. For example, they think some key person associated with your organisation is a member of the Illuminati. Yes, truly, I have heard of this.

Or they have an agenda and the mail you sent them somehow set them off on a rant. I could give examples but am a little concerned that it will set someone off on a rant – but anyone who has to deal with complaints will know what I mean.

However, assuming the complainer you need to deal with is a reasonable person, here are some positive things you could do when a donor complains:

1. Listen and let the donor have their say. Don’t get defensive. They are calling because they care about your charity or cause.

2. If the donor complains the content is too emotive or confronting, explain the story or content you used is an accurate reflection of the beneficiary and the situations you have to deal with. And it was used with permission.

3. If the complaint is about frequency of contact, you can explain it is necessary for you to make your needs known regularly in the most compelling way possible. However, the donor is not expected to give to every appeal but only to those they choose. And you really appreciate everything the donor has contributed so far.

4. If the donor demands to be taken off the mailing list, try to reduce the number of mailings rather than remove them altogether. Ask what the donor would like to receive.

I once heard of a charity who did this with a complaining donor – let’s call her Grace. Grace agreed to receive the annual report, the special high-profile annual appeal, the Christmas mailing (because it’s Christmas!), the Christmas catalogue (because she loved “shopping”), and she wanted the appeal to help children affected by a certain problem. Then yes, she wanted to help with any emergencies and no, she didn’t want to miss out on the updates (newsletters) about what her gift had achieved. By the time they’d finished, Grace was back on almost every mailing the charity would have done anyway!

Imagine if the person handling this call had just flagged Grace as “no mail” – this almost certainly would have resulted in lower donations from her.

Obviously, you can only do this if you have the database to track donor preferences.

5. Explain the long, emotive appeals they’re complaining about raise more funds than short, vague letters that don’t ask for support (if that’s actually the case). And with the funds you raise, you’ve been able to achieve {Insert Important Achievement – lives saved, dogs rescued, homeless people fed}.

6. Thank the donor for making their views known.

7. If appropriate and you get a chance, ask why the donor supports your organisation. You may be able to move the conversation towards a more positive tone and acknowledge the donor’s own contribution to your charity.

What NOT to do when a donor complains:

DO NOT apologise for fundraising. When you apologise for your fundraising, you are telling the donor that your cause is not important enough to warrant asking for their help.

Please feel free to share how you’ve dealt with donor complaints!

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