Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Donors are NOT irrational

Seth Godin and Jeff Brooks were talking about "irrational donors" this week. I know they meant well and that it may have even been a little tongue in cheek. Someone who thinks at a higher level could probably pick up on that. I'm not thinking at a terribly high level right now I'm surviving the trenches. I read quickly and moved onto work stuff.

I went back later and thought about it more:

Websters online Dictionary defines irrational as:

a: lacking usual or normal mental clarity or coherence b: not governed by or according to reason

Here are two stories from my trench:

Donor story #1

I was quietly plugging away on an outrageous grant application when the receptionist called me. Apparently a donor was at the front with a complaint. He had two envelopes from us in his hand and needed to talk to the Executive Director. What a nice distraction I donor 1 came in. We chatted. He presented his two envelopes. We had made a mistake.

There was one address, two different names, one actual bank account/person. "Thank you so much for letting us know about this Mr. Donor 1, lets check the database and see what we have there." I said...or something like it anyway.

So. I turned my trusty laptop around, in full view of the donor, sharing all our secrets and showed him not one but two donor profiles. We made a mistake. His name was spelled two different ways. We fixed it right there in front of him.

He then very rationally realized he didn't donate in 2008, took out his cheque book, made a donation and thanked us for all we do.

Donor story #2

Anyone who feels grateful enough for their assistant to send her to New Zealand for four weeks should slap themselves! She doesn't deserve it! Don't do it! Well, for better or worse I did.

Judy is gone but we are doing fine thank you. Or are we????

Well it would seem that our lovely event coordinator whois new to us has been is doing two jobs. Her huge event is in eight weeks and now she is processing donations too...welcome to a small shop! Karin didn't realize that we have two sets of monthly debits. One set on the 1st and one on the 15th.

Now Karin is a very competent, mature, capable and fabulous person. When she realized her error she came to me right away. Apparently 50% of our monthly donations didn't go through in February. It is now March.

"Well Karin what do you want to do to fix this." After some discussion, she decided the smart thing would be to phone the donors and admit we had made an error, ask them if we could process or do they need a months "vacation" for February and a fresh start in March. GREAT! Good for you Karin. Carry on. Then I jumped off to my massage...because that is what Executive Directors actually do when they leave abruptly without warning.

Karin phoned our donors and explained the error. 100% of them were very grateful and understanding. All donations have now been processed and Karin received the gift of developing relationships with some of our donors. All the conversations put a smile on her face. Everyone was very reasonable

So, are donors "irrational". I don't think so. I think they are very passionate about our cause and expect great service. If we given them that...not only will they be very reasonable, they will also be very loyal.

Thank you for spending time here.


  1. Hmmm - Good post Kimberley. I remember being told that the best donors are the ones that bitch - excuse my french. I know that Jeff's post is totally tongue in cheek and hopefully most of his readers will get that. Your approach and stories from my point of view are applaudable. The charities (and businesses) that will come out the other side of this recession will be the ones that listen to their donors - not talk to them.

  2. Ahhh John. Thank you. We welcome french here BTW.

    Obviously I agree. Listening is the best strategy. It is also really, nod and fix it!