Because You Care and THEY Need to Know You Care

in Cultivation & Stewardship

You care about the people who support your nonprofit. And they need to know it.

They need to hear this message often. Your donors, members, volunteers, advocates, etc. need to be continually reassured that you don’t merely view them as a source of money. And that brings me to my topic for today.

This is Customer Service Week, October 3-7, 2011. It was officially declared by Congress as a nationally recognized event in 1992, and it’s also an international event.

As I understand it the primary idea is to show appreciation for your Customer Service staff. And the goal is to also make more of your organization aware how important it is for EVERYONE within your nonprofit to give exceptional service.  In other words, the responsibility goes far beyond the folks in your service department (perhaps known as donor services, member services, or something similar).

The website CSweek.com (Customer Service week) has plenty of ideas along that line. Plus I think their ideas will spark ways in which you CAN ALSO express more appreciation toward the supporters of your organization.

And that’s what my post today will focus on: Giving supporters an exceptional service experience with your nonprofit.

Why is exceptional service required?

If you want to grow … if you want to acquire AND retain donors and members … if you want to build loyalty … if you want to increase average gift size … if you want your nonprofit to be healthy and survive these challenging times … then you must give supporters an EXCEPTIONAL experience.

As a general rule or trend, donors and members are supporting fewer nonprofits than they have in the past. In some cases they’re giving similar amounts, but again to fewer charities. And in many other cases they’ve reduced both the number of charities they support and how much they give.

For associations, people are scrutinizing the value of a membership harder than ever. Is it worth $375 to join Acme Association? What do I really get out of the deal? What else could I do with that $375?

So to be chosen as one of the select few you must stand out. You must do more than have a worthy cause because there are thousands and thousands and thousands of worthy causes. Many quite similar to yours.

Exceptional service is an easy way
to stand out from the crowd

Read over the ideas on the CSweek website (tips for customer service week). Much of what they recommend for boosting morale of your donor/member service staff can also transfer to your supporters.

Brainstorm creative and even fun ways to show how much you appreciate and value the people who keep the doors of your nonprofit open.

For example:

Create a short 20 or 30-sec video of your staff as a group saying “thanks for being such a caring and helpful support of <insert name of nonprofit>. “ Say you’re a hospital…

Mary holds up a photo of a child and says, “Without you 5-year old Tommy wouldn’t have received the emergency surgery that saved his life after a car accident.” Sam holds up a photo of a baby in an incubator, “The Johnsons would have lost their precious daughter Eloise if you hadn’t helped make possible the purchase of new equipment for our maternity ward.” And have a third employee share one more example.

Then the group says together, “Thank you on behalf of all the children, parents, and people of our town – including you and your family – who depend on you and <Charity Hospital> everyday of the year.”

Use that idea for any mission. Grab a dozen people. Whip it together today or tomorrow.

Post it on its own page on your website with a headline and paragraph of introductory copy filled with sincere gratitude. Then send out the email Thursday to everyone who is on your list.

Put a teaser ad about it on your home page. Send out multiple tweets and Facebook updates Thursday and Friday. Post the video on your YouTube channel.

Show your gratitude as you simultaneously demonstrate terrific customer donor/member service.

Include any staff member who answers your phone in the video even if they’re not “officially” part of your service team. Include employees who don’t typically interact with donors and who aren’t on the fundraising staff. They’re still ambassadors for your nonprofit when they leave the office and talk with family and friends about what they do for a living.

Everything you do is CUSTOMER DONOR/MEMBER SERVICE.

Don’t over think it. Don’t try to make it a snazzy studio production. Informal and fun will make a greater impact in this case.

What else can you do?

Call major donors and as many mid-level donors as you can. Thank them for their support. Maybe share a very short success story that’s only a paragraph long. Ask if they have any questions or anything they would like to know. Wish them well. Call is over in a minute or maybe two – depending on their questions and response. 

Perhaps you can involve staff people in these calls that don’t normally interact with supporters. This would allow you to make more calls and also highlight within your organization the importance of exceptional service by everyone.

Send a short email with a photo of your staff with a message of gratitude.

Next year, when you have more time to prepare you can send a postcard to your direct mail list. Include a trackable vanity link and QR code to the unique landing page with your “thank you video” (see example above).

Use your social media networks and send out messages of PURE gratitude. Do the same with text messages.

If you have any kind of a party for your service staff to show your appreciation of their great work, take some photos and video. Share these on a special page of your website and drive traffic to it.

Mention how much your employees enjoy serving those who help make <insert an expression of what your mission does> possible.  You can also highlight this in your next newsletter. Just focus the message on your readers.

Remember: None of these messages contain any form of an “ask.” Not even a soft ask. It would be dreadfully tacky in this case to highlight donor/member appreciation and all they make possible; and then ask for money. Tsk-tsk.

Make time to not only show how much you value the customer donor/member service people on your staff … but also the supporters of your nonprofit.

I assure you that the return-on-investment (ROI) for whatever time and money you devote to showing that you care deeply about your supporters will be high. You may not see the return next week. And it may even be difficult to quantify. But it will be there.

More ideas and help from these related posts:

Don’t encourage donors to choose a substitute for you

12 Donor cultivation tactics  to make your supporters “feel the love”

The role of compassion in nonprofit fundraising & marketing … How L.L. Bean compassion can inspire nonprofits