Recently I had occasion to make a telephone call to a donor whom I do not know personally. For the sake of context, I was in the process of contacting lapsed donors to give them an opportunity to make a renewal gift. This particular donor had a history of giving for several years, but had not made a contribution since 2012 so I wanted to reach out to him.
As is my habit before calling donors, I checked our CRM system to see if there was anything that I need to know, or if a gift had come in recently that I did not know about. Seeing nothing, I placed the call. That is when things went downhill.
The donor answered and I introduced myself. He then asked, “How many times do I have to tell you people not to call me during business hours?” I was taken a little off guard, but apologized and explained that I am relatively new to the organization and was not aware of his communication preferences. He indicated that he asked for this courtesy over and over, then he made a statement that was very profound, and I am not sure if he even realized it. He said to me: “Then I guess it was not important enough for anyone to write it down, contact me when your group makes donors a priority,” at which point he hung up.
I was stunned for a minute, but then I put myself in his shoes. How maddening would it be if you made a reasonable request over and over, yet it seemed to fall on deaf ears?
When my son KJ was small he loved to dig holes in the back yard. He would be happy if I gave him a garden trowel and left him in the back yard for extended periods of time. I was convinced that one day he would end up in China. I let him dig away, as he really wasn’t hurting anything. However, I would remind him over and over again: “Please put the dirt back in the hole after you finish digging, I need the ground to be ready when I run the lawnmower.” Those of you who have children will understand what I mean – sometimes we have to repeat ourselves over and over and over. And I still had potholes in my lawn.
Those of us in small organizations spend a lot of time and money trying to acquire new donors. People who support our mission are critical to sustainability and strategic success, so this is important work. However, it is also important to remember that keeping a donor is much easier and less expensive than finding a new one. And sometimes keeping a donor can be as simple as doing the little things right – like ‘listening to what they tell us.’
Have a good week,