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Not every repaired donor
relationship leads to a 5-figure gift but I know of at least one that did. A
colleague listened to the concerns of the donor and worked within the
organization to correct the problem. In an effort to reengage this donor, the
fundraiser took her to lunch and was presented with a 5-figure gift. How did that happen?
Let’s look at the steps involved in
repairing this relationship:
1. Keeping communication lines open:
this can be as simple as continuing to send them stewardship reports,
newsletters and other communications. Make sure that you mail often enough to
keep their address current. Also, check with people throughout your
organization to see who knows an unhappy donor and might be able to help you
figure out why.
2. Listening to their concerns: many
times an unhappy donor needs an opportunity to express their feelings to the
organization. Listening without becoming defensive is challenging but worth the
restraint. Something obviously has gone wrong. Listen with an open mind and
find out where the breakdown has happened.
3. Admitting to mistakes and
apologizing: we are not perfect nor are our organizations. Admit the mistake
without throwing anyone under the proverbial bus and apologize. Determine if an
apology needs to come from someone else in your organization and facilitate
that if necessary.
4. Correcting the mistakes: this can
take some time and may seem like a waste of time when there are goals to meet
but don’t skip this step. In the case I heard about recently, the correction
took months of coordination because it involved several parts of the
organization. The development officer forged ahead – never knowing it would
result in a gift – because it was the right thing to do. He knew that it was
important to the donor.
The final step - and it's really more of an ongoing process than a step - is to continue to
communicate with the donor. There may never be an opportunity to ask for a gift
again but you never know…for my friend, he didn’t have to ask. The donor was so
pleased that the situation had been corrected that she made an additional gift
without being asked.