89percentstopped 2014-Oct01
I had a frustrating experience last week that reminded me how easy it is to forget that we serve others. The experience got me thinking about donor service and the six things you, as a MGO, should watch out for in your relationship to the donors on your caseload.
Here’s what happened.
For over 15 years I have done business with a company that has provided me with good service. I had been in discussions with the owner, who had provided the services, about renewing some of the current business and, in one case, buying some additional services.
I have been traveling quite a bit the last month, in different cities almost every business day, and we were trying to find a time to talk on the phone so that I could answer some questions he had.
He offered “Wednesday or Thursday” as options. I replied that I was traveling on Wednesday and in meetings all day, morning to night, on Thursday. He countered that he did not have time on Friday but “maybe Monday or Tuesday of next week could work” for him. I replied that I was traveling to New York on Monday and was in meetings from morning to night on Tuesday, and then I was traveling on Wednesday with more meetings on Thursday and Friday. And then I said: “How about we talk this Saturday or Sunday?”
And here was his reply: “I normally do not work on weekends.”
Fascinating. He normally does not work on weekends. Perhaps it’s because he is too busy spending all those commissions he earned on the business he has done with me over the last 15 years, and there just isn’t time to deal with the source of the money. Interesting. I was not happy. And I immediately got a taste of what it feels like to be treated as a source of cash. It did not feel good.
So, following my own rule not to respond immediately when I get angry, I waited for several hours and then wrote back: “Well, perhaps we could wait until next month or the month after, when the schedules clear up.” And the call was scheduled for the weekend.
Now this tiny interaction may seem like a small point. But it isn’t. Because it illustrates the fundamental lack of awareness on the part of this good man as it relates to the source of his income.
Jeff and I have heard a number of stories of MGOs putting donors off just like this. And the put off is always packaged as an “I can’t…” I can’t meet then. I can’t do this or that. I wish I could but I can’t… fill in the blank.
And the donor is left to wonder who the person of value is in the equation.
We have always said that major gift work is a 24/7 job. And that is why good MGOs do not hold to a rigid schedule for phone calls or meetings – it is about fitting in with the donor and working hard to book time when they can connect. It is also about trying as best as you can to provide the information that the donor requests, rather than responding to her with some “I can’t” excuse.
You know about bad service or bad attitudes on the part of the people you buy stuff from. You have experienced it yourself; we all have. Which is why it is amazing to me that any of us would then turn around and treat others in the same poor way we have been treated.
Treat others as you want to be treated.
The graphic at the top of this blog says that 89% of consumers stopped doing business with a company because of poor treatment. It is not surprising. I would like to get a statistic that shows what it is in the donor world.
I know that most of the donors who stop giving to an organization do so because they did not know their giving was making a difference. That’s poor donor service right there – not telling the donor what happened with their money. But I assume that many more just leave because they feel they have been treated shabbily.
Jeff and I hear the stories. No thank-you or, if there is one, it comes 100 years after the gift was given. No response to the inquiry. No sharing of requested information as if there was something to hide. Difficulty scheduling a meeting. And it goes on.
But stop a second and ask yourself WHY this happens. Why do MGOs treat their caseload donors poorly? Why do organizations regard their donors as merely financial cogs in the machine – the oil to keep the engine running? Why does this happen? More importantly, if you have a little bit of this attitude in you, how is it that you even regard your good donors this way?
It’s because you don’t – and I mean here the collective you, not necessarily YOU – it’s because you really fundamentally do not care for the donor. She is simply a utilitarian and functional source of money, and that is all she is good for. And as long as she keeps giving, then who cares what happens?
Well, that’s the problem. The donor will not keep giving with this kind of attitude. It will not happen. And that is why this six-part series on outrageous donor service begins with YOU. You are the key to great donor service. You can make things right for your donor. You are the one who will ensure that each donor on your caseload is treated with respect, honor, authenticity and mutuality.
Outrageous donor service starts with you and your attitude.
Take a moment to check on your attitude about the donors on your caseload. Are any of them a nuisance to you? Do you get a knot in your stomach when you think about some of them? How do you really feel about them? If you do not have a feeling of thankfulness, generosity and compassion for your donors, it’s time for an attitude adjustment.
Leaving things like they are is not going to work. Your donors will not stay with you or give to your cause if your attitude is not right. You are the foundation of outrageous donor service.
Series details:

  1. It Starts with You
  2. Donors Have Another Life
  3. Donors Care About Specific Things.
  4. Donors Need to be Thanked
  5. Donors Need to Make an Impact
  6. Donors Need to Give Input and Criticism