dogteeth 2013-June03
You know the feeling.  You are trying to connect with your caseload donor and either you get no response or a slightly negative or hostile response, like the dog above with bared teeth telling you to stay back!
Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not comparing your good donor to an angry dog.  No.  But I am agreeing with you that the feeling of rejection can be pretty stark.
But look at it from the donors’ point of view.  They have a life and they want to stay in control of it.  That’s why the practice of just showing up at a non-responsive donor’s door might not be a good idea.  In fact, we have warned against doing that because it violates the donor’s privacy.
But just when I thought this dropping in subject was closed, I heard about a great strategy that approaches this topic from an interesting angle and gives the donor control and choice, two things they should always have.
So, let me set this up.
You are a new MGO or have a new donor and you have tried everything you can think of to connect with him. You have sent an introduction letter, sent a survey, called and called and called at different days and times, left one message or two, and emailed, but there is no response.
Should you just drop by?  Nope.  OK – but what can you do? MaBel Turner, a gifted MGO colleague of ours, shared with us what she does in this situation.
She calls up the donor, and if she cannot reach her, she leaves the following message:

“Hi this is MaBel Turner, the Donor Relations Director from the Salvation Army. I’m calling to let you know I will be in your area on date/approx. time and would love to stop by to meet you in person and drop off a small gift of thanks. If you have any questions or concerns, please call me back at this number (provides phone number). Otherwise I will see you on date/approx. time. See you then!”

This approach gives the donor choice and control.  They can call back, not be there, answer the door, etc. It doesn’t feel like an intrusion this way. MaBel shares that she has had a number of donors call her back to say they wouldn’t be there, but here is a time they would be. Or they leave another message, which gives her a chance to talk with them. She hasn’t had anyone call back and tell her never to visit, but even if she did, that would be very helpful information!
Now, if you use this strategy, you still are left with the situation of what to do if the donor does not call back.  Should you just drop by anyway?  Our thought is that you shouldn’t – but use your judgment or test it out and see if they call.  Then a drop by somehow feels better to you.
You may have a situation where a no response donor answers the door and says, “Oh, hi.  I received your message and just did not have the time to call back.”  But then she welcomes you warmly.
I think it’s worth a try to see how a pure cold call works against a phone first call.  If the responses you get from the phone first approach feel less intrusive and more honoring, that would be the way to go.  And the thing that trumps everything is that feeling you get when you know you have crossed the privacy control line with a donor.  You know the feeling and that’s when you stop.