Most non-profits do a terrible job of serving their donors. It’s a shame, because if they did provide their donors with great care, the actual investment compared to the eventual return would be overwhelming.
Richard and I see this over and over again from the non-profits we serve who really “get it.” These organizations invest in things like major and planned gift programs, mid-level programs, administrative support for major gift officers, and internal training about their programs for development team members. And they also invest in training program people about development, building a culture of philanthropy that stresses donors as part of the mission, and stressing relationships over money.
All of that takes an investment of time and money that most non-profits don’t provide, because they don’t see the immediate payoff – or they don’t care.
It’s so interesting to Richard and me because all you have to do is look at specific for-profit companies and services that make it their mission to serve the customers. Their customers are hooked for life.
Here’s an experience I had over the summer. Every year, my wife, stepdaughter and I go to the Jersey Shore for a week. We have this beach cart made from Tommy Bahama that we use to carry all our stuff out to the beach each day. One day, one of the wheels on the cart breaks in half and, it’s irreparable.
Now, I must have bought this thing about five years ago, so I thought, “okay, I’ll buy another one to replace it.” My wife said, “I heard Tommy Bahama has amazing customer service. You should call them and see what they say.”
I’m thinking, what are they going to do? This thing is five years old, and this plastic tire had been through a lot of abuse.
But I call them, embarrassed because – I mean, it’s a five-year-old beach cart. I have no receipt and no proof I even bought this thing.
They answer on the first ring — a delightful voice on the other end. I told her what happened, what kind of cart it was and she says this: “No problem Mr. Schreifels, since you’re still out at the beach, I’m going to send two replacement wheels out next day to you at the beach house, so you don’t have one new one and one old one.”
At no cost!
I was dumbfounded! Sure enough, the wheels came early in the morning, I snapped them on, and I was ready to go. There is no way I will ever buy any beach-related item that isn’t Tommy Bahama brand after that experience.
Look, if you can be the Tommy Bahama of non-profits, you’ll be wildly successful. As I said at the beginning, most non-profits are terrible at service to donors. I mean, downright awful. You’ll win your donor’s heart if you can show your donor you really care about them.
Do some of these simple things, and you will endear your donor to your organization:

  1. Thank them in multiple ways – handwritten thank you notes are powerful.
  2. Report back at least four times a year on how your donor’s gifts are making a difference.
  3. Show the donor you know them by surprising them in different ways throughout the year that shows you know who they are and what they care about.
  4. Solicit the donor with programs and projects that show you know what their passions and interests are.
  5.  Connect them to other donors.
  6. Connect them to other non-profits that they’d be interested in.
  7. Admit when you make a mistake.
  8. Stick with a donor that’s going through a financial hardship.
  9. Even though a donor has given this year, present them with another opportunity you know they’d be excited about.
  10. Use multi-media, video, and music to share what’s happening in your organization and how the donor makes it all possible.

In short, do what the donor doesn’t expect. If you can commit to that type of service and care for your donors, they’ll always be with you. (Tweet it!) Be the Tommy Bahama of non-profits.