Whether you’re a nonprofit of one, 20, or 100, customer service permeates your entire organization. The way your nonprofit reacts when supporters reach out with questions, concerns, or complaints, can greatly impact donor relations. While you should have some predefined engagement strategies, your staff must also be able to think on their feet and deal with unexpected situations with grace.
At the end of the day, it comes down to creating a professional, reliable space where your nonprofit’s network can go for support.
Here are three best practices you can embrace to show donors you value their input. These will go a long way toward refining your overall donor stewardship tactics and fostering a positive relationship with your donors.
1. Be Approachable
Build trust and reliability by showing donors that the staff in your nonprofit is accessible. If it’s difficult for donors to contact your organization, they will most likely give up and be unimpressed with your lack of attention.
Make sure donors know they can get in touch with your nonprofit. There are three main ways they should be able to reach you:
• Email: Don’t make your donors feel like their emails are being sent into a black hole. They should be confident that their messages will be read and promptly responded to. As a customer service best practice, respond to emails within 24 hours. Even if you can’t immediately answer the person’s question or concern, at least reply to their message and let them know you’re looking into the issue.
You can also make an email exchange feel more personal by adding a friendly face to your contact page. Consider featuring a picture of a staff member next to your email address. This touch simply humanizes your brand and helps supporters feel like they’re talking to a real person.
• Phone: The contact page on your nonprofit website should offer a phone number supporters can call. Hopefully, this line connects to a team member involved in communicating with donors. In any case, your nonprofit should always answer phone calls professionally.
You should always sound happy to hear from your constituents. Give a sincere greeting and pay attention to your tone and word choice. This can go a long way toward making donors feel valued and welcomed.
• Social Media: Social channels foster conversation, so make sure you join in. “Liking,” sharing, and replying to supporters’ comments are easy ways to engage donors and show them you’re listening. Also, promptly answer any questions directed your way.
The first step of successful donor communication is being available with a timely response, but it’s the content of conversations that will leave donors delighted. Encourage staff to personalize their conversations in simple ways, like referring to a donor by their name and mentioning how long they’ve been a supporter of your organization. These subtle, but thoughtful cues will make a donor feel valued and appreciated. The personalized touch is especially important when engaging with supporters online as they can’t hear the emotion in your voice.
2. Be Patient
No matter how great your donor stewardship tactics, there’s a chance you’ll encounter a disgruntled donor or two along the way. These are the moments when your nonprofit’s customer service skills are most critical. Sound annoyed or frustrated on the phone, and you risk losing a donor.
This is why patience is a pillar of great customer service. Even if you don’t have the answer to a problem, remain calm and simply let them talk. People often relax when they feel the person on the other end is willing to listen. Being attentive to your donor will not only help you mitigate the situation, but it can also help you identify what exactly the donor wants. Keep in mind that every conversation is a learning opportunity, as other supporters might have this same concern but simply haven’t reached out to you.
3. Be Responsive
In a similar vein, making someone feel heard requires a caring response. Not only should the donor feel like you listened to their problem, but they should feel confident that you want to solve it too.
When speaking to constituents, try restating their concern in your own words to show you want to understand where they’re coming from. Explain what you can (or cannot) do to remedy the situation, and keep their expectations realistic. If you don’t know the answer to a donor’s question, don’t guess. Supporters will only be more upset if they find out you gave them false information. Instead, let them know that you will look into the issue and contact them soon.
Follow up the conversation by sending more information on the issue that concerns the donor. Correct any mistakes, and discuss the issue with your staff leadership to hammer out any preventative procedures, if needed.
If your donors know that the person they speak to is truly listening, empathizing, and working to resolve their issue, they will leave the conversation feeling satisfied.
For-profit companies aren’t the only ones that should provide great customer service. By prioritizing intentional communication, willingness to listen, and prompt follow-up, nonprofits can demonstrate how much they value their supporters. This commitment to customer service can go a long way in boosting donor happiness and loyalty.