I was meeting with a colleague last week when the topic of that Comcast Retention Agent viral phone call came up. Surely you have heard it by now, if Comcastnot you can go here: https://t.co/5TRpDmWQBU. After you listen to it you will assume that it was a hoax but I guarantee you it was real.

As we talked, it occurred to me that there are organizations who do the same thing to donors and prospects. Maybe not to the same extent, but it is the same concept. Have you ever gotten a phone call from the XYZ Charity, asking you to buy tickets to enable poor children to attend a circus, rejectionand the donation benefits “local firefighters?” It can be very difficult to decline without simply hanging up on the solicitor. How about a constant barrage of emails or letters from a charity that you have already asked to “remove you from their list?” Maybe you made a one-time donation in honor of a loved one 3 years ago, but you are not really interested in long-term engagement with the group.

This is going to be tough for some people to hear, but every prospective donor is not enamored with your cause. It is common for staff at nonprofit organizations to really believe in their mission and that is a great thing. However, some prospective donors are interested in the ballet and they are NOT interested in homelessness. That does not mean that homelessness is not important, it just means that you are speaking to the wrong person about it. And it is OK for that donor to select where she invests her money because it is HER MONEY.

It is true that “no” doesn’t always mean “no”. Sometimes no means “not now,” other times it may mean “you are not asking the right question”. As professionals it is our role to understand the distinction and know how to proceed from there. Building relationships with prospective donors will help you to understand the prospect’s philanthropic goals, which will enable you to hear “no” less often.

So, the next time your prospect is telling you “they are not interested,” remember this guy from Comcast – we are fortunate to be in the position to learn from this incident without the bad PR.

Have a great week,


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2 Thoughts on “Comcast Can Teach Us a Lesson in Donor Relations.

  1. Richard Freedlund on August 5, 2014 at 8:29 pm said:


    I enjoyed reading this post.

    As a fundraiser who at one time worked for Comcast as a customer service representative, I learned some very valuable lessons, not just about the topic of your piece, but of how the company or organization can alienate those people they can least afford to alienate. At Comcast, the customer must navigate a maze of electronic menus before they reach an actual human being. Many nonprofit organizations make it hard to reach a Development Director or Executive Director, and many do an awful job of getting back to the caller if they should have to leave a message.

    That is just one of several comparisons I could make. There are plenty more.

    • Thanks Richard, and you are absolutely right. There are some organizations that seek donations and you have to be very committed to research to even find out the name of the CEO. Unfortunately our organization has one of those phone systems like you described. We are in the beginning process of upgrading it for several reasons, one being that we need to be more accessible. Thanks for your comments, have a great week!

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