From the early seventies until a couple of years ago, the title of this blog was nothing more to me than a Simon & Garfunkel title of a song from their best album ever “Bridge over troubled Water”. But, now I know better…
I recently received a letter from a donor who was about to turn 80 in a few weeks. Here’s a quote from that letter: “I hope to celebrate my 80th birthday in a few weeks’ time and wanted to ask everyone who came to visit me to donate to your cause as a gift to me“.
Sounds great at first, a dedicated donor, willing to give some extra attention to our cause, right? And maybe even bring in some more donors? The man had been a donor for a long time, so he thought of our cause and contacted our head office to give him the necessary material.
And that’s where our story really starts. Because here’s another quote from his letter: “I emailed and called your office 3 times“. And he never got an answer, so he wrote me a letter to explain his next step.
What is it that we bust our asses bringing in new donors on one hand and on the other hand we forget the ones that have been with us for a long time. Too busy? Too many other things to do? Not interesting enough? I don’t know, but there must be something wrong with us, because we lose sight of things that are so obvious. Because if one thing is obvious it’s that we need to hold on to what we’ve got. And we already had this donor!
My point is that we should pay every donor we have all the time they deserve. And that´s much more than we do now. Be honest, how often did you neglect a message like that? Or how often did you think that a donor was just bothering you about insignificant little things, while you were busy working on much more important things. Honestly?
Do you have a protocol for complaints? Does your organization have specialised staff handling incoming calls from donors? All I’m saying is that you should never forget the old rule “It’s easier to keep the donors you’ve got, than to find new ones”. And these days it seems that many organisations are more focussing on new donors than existing ones.
What was his next step you’re asking? Well, he told me he was done with us and he contacted another charity, which was quick to respond so now he’s celebrating his birthday with them. And probably telling his family and friends all about how we messed up. Another broken charity-donor relationship, which is not likely to be whole ever again.
Oh, and you should check out that Simon & Garfunkel album!