Here’s an easy way to find out whether your nonprofit is operating in a way that’s helping to ensure your current and future success.
Not only is it easy, it takes nothing more than a few minutes of your time. And what you discover could really be eye-opening for you and your fundraising team.
This is what you do: You pretend you’re a donor who has just received one of your fundraising appeals in the mail, and you have a question. Now you simply pick up the phone and dial the phone number for your organization that’s on your fundraising. Then you sit back and see what happens.
If your organization is like most, your call does not connect you with an actual living human being. No, that would be too easy. Instead it goes into the pit of despair known as the automated phone attendant.
Okay, fine. There you are in the pit. But you realize that it happens to everyone at some point. So you stay positive, despite the despair, as you listen attentively to the computer voice explaining your options, meaning possible ways out of the pit and back into the sunshine.
If you’re unlucky, the computer voice tells you to key in the extension of the person you want. But you don’t know anyone personally at the nonprofit. You just have a question about this appeal that you received. So you wait, hoping that you’ll be connected to a receptionist – which may or may not happen. Spoiler alert: there’s no receptionist, just the computer voice telling you that you can repeat the menu options. Oh boy!
But let’s say you’re lucky. The computer voice rattles off a list of departments, and you hear “administrative office.” Your mood suddenly brightens. Yes, maybe that’s it – the administrative office. Do you dare to hope? You press the button, and miracle of miracles, the line is ringing.
But do you hear a cheerful “hello” on the other end? No, that would be too easy. Instead, it’s voice mail, the second pit of despair that’s only slightly less demoralizing than the first.
You hang up. It’s not worth the trouble. Defeated, you shake your head, thinking, “I just had a simple question: I want to give $100,000 – who do I talk to about that?”
How many times has this happened and to how many charities? It’s impossible to know. What we do know is that most nonprofits can and should do more when it comes to basic donor service.
Be accessible to your donors. If they call, make sure somebody answers the phone. If they email, make sure somebody replies. If they request information offered in an appeal, make sure they receive it. Spell their names right on their appeals. Keep track of how long they’ve been donors, and let them know that you know by acknowledging their giving anniversaries. Things like that – the basics.
With all the high-minded talk about donor centricity and donor love and so on, it’s easy to get caught up in all the philosophical hand-waving that these topics tend to inspire. But as with most things, it’s often best to focus on the fundamentals, and you can’t get much more fundamental than this: Provide your donors with the basic service that they deserve and expect. It’ll pay off.