Handling Nonprofit Donor Complaints

Donor_Complaints_nonprofitThe fear is always there: the fear of complaints from donors. It will eventually happen to your nonprofit if it has not happened yet. For those who have experienced donor complaints, the fear of a re-occurrence sometimes never subsides. The good news is that you do not need to keep that fear with you constantly as you are trying to grow your not-for-profit and your donor base. Fear can stop you from doing things that could greatly improve the financial standing of your organization. Here are a few ways to mitigate the fear AND keep your donors happy.

Responding Properly to Donor Complaints

Two types of situations can generate complaints: “We messed up” or “We can’t please everyone”. The latter usually occurs when prospective donors complain about getting too many fundraising brochures or emails, did not like photos you shared on social media, or did not like a specific aspect of an event. Your best response is to engage the donor and understand their concerns, but you do not need to start making changes just because of a complaint or two. It is impossible to please everyone.

When it comes to a “mess up”, you need to move fast: acknowledge when you are at fault. A donor may be upset because a request was ignored or forgotten. When this happens, engaging the donor and admitting fault  along with showing them changes are being made to correct the error will go a long way. These steps will help keep that donor from taking their philanthropy elsewhere.

Talking to Donors Who Complain

The way you communicate a correction to a donor is just as important as the correction itself. The biggest concern among disgruntled donors, in a recent study out of the UK, was whether or not their complaint was being taken seriously. The most important step in resolving a negative situation is communication: make sure you are accessible and responsive as you discuss the situation and make it clear that the donor has been heard. This still applies even if you are unable to meet their request.

You also need to employ “active listening”: ask questions and restate their concerns in a follow-up email to confirm that you were listening and respect their opinions.  Though you may not be able to fix something immediately, letting the donor know you are working to correct the situation to the best of your ability goes a long way in making the donor happy.

Complaints on Social Media

An organization must also be prepared to quickly and effectively address donor complaints on social media. You have put a lot of time and effort into your social media presence and if there is no follow-through on public complaints, the reputation of your organization could diminish. Show that you are taking the complaint seriously by responding publicly that you appreciate their feedback and that you will follow up with them privately via direct messaging or email correspondence. If the situation escalates and they continue their public rant, your pages’ visitors will see you tried to respectfully manage the complaint.

With a well-thought-out plan and standard procedures for handling complaints that arise, your employees and volunteers will be prepared to properly diffuse donor complaints in a consistent and genuine manner. Then, your organization will not feed the fear of donor dissatisfaction!

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