When Donors Say Hello

“Hello??!!??”  We’ve all heard that word – used in that way – before.  You, perhaps, have used it yourself.  You’re at a store and the teenage clerk doesn’t stop the personal call on her mobile phone long enough to scan your items on the belt.  You may feel the urge to say, “uhh, Hello??!!??”  As in, “I’m here, pay attention to me – I deserve it!!”

Occasionally, donors say, “Hello??!!??”  They are upset with our inept response to their gifts.  They will write a letter or email, typically to the President/Vice President and complain.  They claim to be complaining not for themselves of course but, “for the other donors who may take offense” with our shoddy donor stewardship practices.  And while these missives are troubling and demand quick responses, we should thank these donors for pausing to say, “Hello??!!??”  We now have an opportunity to fix our response.

The real problem comes when our donors simply go away – quietly, frustrated, and determined not to give us another chance.  We’ve missed an opportunity to learn and grow as an institution.  We’ve lost a donor and we have no clue as to why.

I’ve grown convinced, both from experiences with my own giving and in receiving gifts, that responding with sincere gratitude to donors is just about the most important act in the philanthropic process.  And while that may sound like a “well, yeah, of course!” statement think about your shop – are you really doing donor stewardship well?

What do you do for your $1,000 annual donors?  Are there multiple methods of expressing gratitude in place?  What about those donors who give $500 annually?  Or $10,000 annually?  Do you have a stewardship plan in place more robust than your gift receipting policy?

Here’s a strategy:  Before one of your donors says, “Hello??!!??” how about surveying your donors to find out how they might respond to your donor stewardship plans.

And don’t ask the questions phrased as, “Would you like to be thanked in the following ways. . . ”  Instead, simply ask them what they think other donors would like.  Remember, they don’t say, “Hello??!!??” because they feel taken for granted, they just don’t want others to feel that way.



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