Turning Complaints into Gifts

In my experience, about 2 out of 5 people who complain about a piece of fundraising will give a gift immediately after complaining.

You read that correctly.

Here’s what it looks like…

If the complainer can be spoken to in person or on the phone, and…

The staff member does a good job listening & asking questions, and…

The staff member gently asserts that what the donor read in the fundraising was true and that the donor’s gift will make a real difference…

Then about 2 out of 5 complainers will make a gift on the spot.

This makes perfect sense if you think about complaints the way I do. (Note: I’m talking about complaints caused by the content of a piece of fundraising. I am not talking about complaints caused by poor data or mistakes, or generic complaints like “too many organizations ask me for money!”)

A high-performing appeal or e-appeal tends to tap into peoples’ emotions. It reveals tensions donors hold between the way the world is and the way they would like the world to be. Most donors respond to that tension by sending in a gift.

But some donors respond to the tension by sending in a complaint. (There’s no blame or shame here, by the way. Who among us has never said or written something they regretted while experiencing tension?!?)

So when a complainer gets to speak to a compassionate staff member who really listens to their complaint… who commiserates with the complainer about the situation… and who confirms that what was in the fundraising was true and that the donor can help by making a gift… gifts happen.

Not every time. But more often than you’d think.

In these conversations, many donors will even bring up making a gift without being prompted. Many times in my career I’ve had organizations share stories about donors who send in a note complaining about how a piece of fundraising made them feel… and include a gift to help.

Complaints and gifts are often more closely related than we think. They are both responses to tension.

Read the series:

Getting Used to Complaints

Outline for How to Respond to a Complaint

Not All Complaints are Equal

Natural, But Not Productive

The Two Times Smaller Orgs Get More Complaints

So. Many. Reasons. To. Complain.

The Harmful Big Assumption

Turning Complaints into Gifts (this post)

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