Great resources for apologizing to donors/champions

All of us nonprofits occasionally do dumb things to our champions. Maybe we accidentally keep sending mail under the name of a deceased spouse even after the surviving spouse called, wrote a change request on a reply card, and sent a death certificate. Hey, these things happen.

Now, you’re not going to do things perfectly, so you’re going to have some grumpy sheep (those who felt jilted)!  But don’t let that scare you away or back off of still trying to care for them.  A few things you need to know is: 1) The better an organization is at resolving champion complaints or queries, the higher its rates of retention will be and 2) champions who complain are generally more loyal than those who do not, even though they are not able to obtain any satisfaction!
Take a look at this chart taken from: Building Donor Loyalty by Adrian Sargeant and Elain Jay:
In the first column is a group of champions who experienced a major problem with the organization and failed to complain. Only 8% of these individuals will offer another gift. However, if they encountered only a minor problem, the percentage of these individuals who will offer another gift rises to 31%.
The next group of champions are ones who had a major problem, and complained to the organization, but the complaint was never resolved.  About 18% percent of these will offer a subsequent gift.  If the problem was minor, the figure will be 47%.
Moving along the graph we find a group of champions who had a problem and complained to the organization, which resolved the issue to the champions’ satisfaction.  Of these champions, 53% will give again if the problem is a major one, and 69%, if it is a minor problem.
Finally, we have a group of champions who had a problem and complained to the organization, which instantly dealt with the matter to the champions’ satisfaction.  The percentage of these champions who will offer a subsequent gift is 82% for a major problem and 94% for a minor problem.
Rather than regarding complaint handling as a necessary evil, regard it as an opportunity to build champion loyalty.
What also happens, as you can imagine, is that the better we handle those complaints, the more likely the champion is to continue in relationship with our organization.
To wit, check out these stats from Building Donor Loyalty by Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay:
  • When champions experience a major problem with a nonprofit and fail to complain, only 8% will offer another gift.
  • When champions experience a major problem with a nonprofit and complain, but the nonprofit can’t fix the problem, 18% will offer a subsequent gift.
  • When champions experience a major problem with a nonprofit and complain, and the nonprofit eventually fixes the problem, 53% will give again.
  • When champions experience a major problem with a nonprofit and complain, and then nonprofit resolves the problem instantly, 82% will give again

There’s a message in there somewhere.

While you’re contemplating that message, have your staff closely review the free materials presented on these two sites:

Both sites contain dozens of extremely relevant examples. I’m in the process of training a ministry how to deal with complaints from champions, and I’ve assigned them to pick one of the examples and commit to trying that approach out in the coming month next time they encounter a “nasty” call (funny we characterize them that way).

Why not commit to the same exercise yourself?

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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5 Responses to Great resources for apologizing to donors/champions

  1. Glenn says:

    Great article, Eric. Have forwarded it to my entire staff to read

  2. EFoley says:

    Thanks, Glenn. I find that this is an area where knowledge really is power. When we find out that champions are likely to stay with us if we simply make the effort to address their concerns, we can re-channel our anxiety and defensiveness (at being confronted or yelled at or made uncomfortable) toward assisting the complaining champion toward achieving the goals that we BOTH share, of advancing the cause together.

  3. Jonathan Roe says:

    This is a great reminder even if the champion does not give again. There is power in a wonderful and sincere apology and so often a heartfelt apology opens up an even greater, richer conversation. Also, orgs should love hearing legitimate complaints/concerns from their Champions – those who believe in them. If we live life only hearing from others what we think we want to hear, we’re the ones missing out. Criticism received in the right spirit spurs on greatness. Thanks, Eric, great stuff here!

    • EFoley says:

      Thanks, Dr. J. I concur with your note that these are good practices for us to do whether or not the champion remains involved or not. Absolutely.

  4. Pingback: Nonprofits and apologies, part II: Apologize like Toyota « Transformational Giving

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