I decided not to cancel – but for how long?

By Lucy Gower
On April 18, 2013 At 2:00 pm

Category : communication, donor service, individuals, Latest posts

Responses : 2 Comments

My last blog was a bit of a rant. It was a rant because I was really cross with a charity that I had supported for over 12 years that hadn’t been in touch with me to:

  • thank me
  • tell me how my support had made a difference
  • ask me for a larger gift
  • offer me opportunities to support in other ways
  • or any single other piece of correspondence

In fact they hadn’t been in touch with me at all for at least 5 years. After my last blog I got so cross I called up to cancel. This is what happened.

Bad donor service? Or good?I looked on the charity’s (that will remain nameless) website for the number.  It wasn’t that easy to see which number to call. That annoyed me. When I found the number I called, and a woman (we’ll call her Jo) answered on the second ring. I was all ready to be an angry person on the end of the line, but she was so nice when she answered the phone I changed my mind. After all it wasn’t her fault that no one had written to me – it would have been very rude of me to take my annoyance out on her.

Jo asked why I wanted to cancel, and she sounded genuinely upset about it.  I said it was because I never heard from them. I didn’t know if my support was needed or how it was being used. She was surprised and said that they would definitely have written to tell me. She checked my details and said that Royal Mail had sent correspondence back saying I was no longer at that address. Why Royal Mail thought that remains a mystery. Jo made me feel better by telling me an anecdote about a less than satisfactory experience she had with Royal Mail once. She apologised (even though it wasn’t her fault) and updated my details.  She asked beautifully if I would consider staying – assuring me that my contribution was really important did make a difference.

Despite my crossness I just couldn’t bring myself to cancel. The cause is close to my heart, I had been a volunteer for years before I was a donor. I didn’t really want to cancel, I just felt upset and hurt and cross and unappreciated.

Jo updated my details and I said I would stay.

She reflected about an earlier comment I had made; that I didn’t want to get too much mail and we talked about how often I might want to hear from them.  We agreed x4 a year. I felt better about the situation.

Then Jo said, “It might take a couple of months before you hear from us as we have to get you back in the ‘system”

What? I DON’T WANT TO BE IN A SYSTEM! I want to be a valued supporter, helping make a difference. I don’t want to be systemised and receive correspondence like thousands of others. I want to feel special.

In that split second Jo ruined everything. The rapport she built and her excellent telephone manner, making me feel like I was an individual, not just a number on a system.

One of a kindBeing told that it will take two months to get me in a ‘system’ is a) ages and b) made me feel totally undervalued. I’d like to receive a thank you right now for choosing to stay with them, and some acknowledgement about how together we can make a difference. An email to say this would have been fine, but I wasn’t asked to update my email address – which was a wasted opportunity.

In almost all cases you are not your target audience. So you must take great care not to think just because you like something, that it will be what your donors want. Time spent to get a better understanding of your supporters is absolutely invaluable to good fundraising.

Even though it is rare that you are the target audience there is a lot to learn from ‘mystery shopping’. Get involved with a range of charities including your own as well as your direct competitors, and market leaders.  If you work in DM sign up to be a regular giver, make a cash gift and a text donation, if you are an events fundraiser take part in other organisations events. Sign up to campaign for them as well.  Do you get two sets of correspondence with different messages or are your competitors’ internal teams working together to give you an excellent overall experience of supporting their cause?

Learn to notice. There is a huge amount to learn; both from other organisations excellent service, like the lovely Jo’s brilliant telephone skills, as well as the not so good service, like the clunky process that means a supporter will wait two months to be churned back into a ‘system’. If you know what others are doing you can work to make your service, systems and processes better. In a competitive environment this is crucially important.

I did decide to stay. I’m still waiting for some correspondence. I might tell you what happened next blog….

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Lucy Gower (27 blogs on 101fundraising)

Lucy has been a fundraiser for over 10 years and is passionate about innovation and how it can transform organisational and individual performance. Lucy is an independent trainer and consultant specializing in innovation in fundraising. Lucy also blogs for fundraising website sofii.org and is a conference speaker both in the UK and overseas.


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