out of officeIt’s a fact – you need to be out of the office or unavailable sometimes, for any number of reasons.
You’re visiting donors. You’re on vacation. You have a personal reason (medical, relational, family, etc.) Or any other reason.
You have to be out of the office.
But many of the out-of-office messages I read are all about you, not me. Your schedule. Your convenience. Your agenda. What about what I (your caseload donor) want or need?
This is the problem with out-of-office messages. The usual work-around is for the customer or donor to “work around” the schedule of the company, the organization or the MGO.
It doesn’t seem right to me. There should be another way. A more donor-friendly way that doesn’t put the burden on the donor to keep track of when you will be back, so they can get their question or concern answered.
Here’s an idea that I think works.
What if your out-of-office message simply said: “Sorry I missed you just now. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
Then you set up a system where your support person, or another person in your organization playing backup in your absence, contacts the donor to hear the question or concern and explains, if it’s appropriate, where you are and what to expect about your interaction with them. It would sound something like this:
“Hi, Bill (the donor). This is Paul (the MGO proxy). I just received your message and wanted to let you know that Ann (the MGO) is on vacation this week and will be back DATE. Is there something I can help you with before Ann gets back? I’d be happy to help.”
Then the MGO proxy pauses and listens and helps. Plus, they assure the donor that the MGO will be fully apprised of the interaction and will be in touch. And that the MGO proxy will handle the question or concern in the MGO’s absence.
There are several advantages to this approach:

  • There is an immediate response, which is good. Jeff and I are aware of many situations where the donor is forced to wait for days, even weeks for a response. This is not a good way to treat a partner/investor.
  • The donor doesn’t have to keep track of the MGO’s schedule, so the burden is on the MGO, not the donor.
  • The question or concern gets worked on immediately, which elevates the donor to a true partner whose time and concerns are valued.

What is your out-of-office protocol on email and voice mail? Is it all about you, or are the values of your caseload donor considered? Check on it and make it right.
Tweet it!When you’re out of the office, are your auto-replies donor-friendly? How can you make sure your donor doesn’t hear “you’ll have to wait”?