In my last post, I discussed the importance of getting to know your donors personally to encourage a growing and lasting relationship, and ways of making that contact. By speaking to them face to face, you create a dialogue in order to learn about them and what is important to them. From the insights you obtain during your conversation, you may find the best ways to help them discover the joy of making a difference in lives of others.
Let’s start with some basic housekeeping questions that can make a big difference to your donor and their perception of your organization; contact information preferences. In my opinion, this is pretty basic stuff, but you’d be surprised how many organizations blow this. If the simplest stuff is wrong, you are already off to a bad start.
Let’s begin with the donor’s name. Are the first and last names spelled correctly in your records? An example of the problem can be made with my last name, Freedlund. I have never had an employer spell my name correctly on my first paycheck. I have had it spelled Freedland, Freelund, Friedland, Friedlander, and a couple other variations, even though I have had to show my driver’s license and other identification at the time of hiring and filled out paperwork correctly. Consider how a donor would feel after writing their first check to your organization, only to receive an acknowledgement and (hopefully) a thank you note with their name misspelled. It indicates to the donor that you don’t care that much about them, only their money.
How do the donors prefer to be addressed when you correspond with them? Do they want to be addressed with a prefix like Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms., or the gender neutral Mx.? If you are dealing with a married couple, do they want mail sent to Mr. and Mrs. Jones or Bob and Betty Jones? What about couples who keep their family names for professional purposes or couples who are not married? I have had many of my peers complain that they receive mail to Mr. and Mrs. Bob Jones, even when the partner’s name is Betty Brown, and is written on the check they sent to the organization. Because of a simple mistake like that, another check was never sent again.
Are street numbers and street names correct? How often has someone entered information in a database and accidentally transposed a digit and not noticed? I know I have before, which is why I now double check everything I enter. Many cities have numbered streets and avenues that can be confusing, along with thoroughfares like streets, drives, lanes, circles, etc., all starting with a tree or flower name, or something generic. My parents get loads of address labels with incorrect addresses from nonprofit groups, making them useless trash to go the recycling bin. Believe me, it doesn’t make points with your donors when information is wrong.
Email addresses should always be double-checked as well. If you use .com instead of .net or .org, the email you send will not arrive, and donors might assume you don’t care enough to contact them. Many times the mistake is made by the donor setting up an online account themselves, and that is why you need to double-check when you have this opportunity.
Do you have the correct telephone number and is it the contact number the donors want you to use, when and if you call? Once again, it is too easy to transpose digits when entering information, so it is important to confirm. Another problem is that people now have multiple phone numbers. There are landlines and cell phones used by individuals. People have home numbers, cell numbers, and work numbers. Which contact number does the donor want your organization to use to reach them? Do they want you to call their work number during the day and your cell after work hours? You have to remember, there are a number of options to deal with, and the important thing is finding out which is the way your donors prefer.
What contact method is best for your donor, and how often does your donor wish to be contacted? If you send newsletters and updates (and you should), ask them if they would like your updates or newsletters sent by email or snail mail. Do they want them sent monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually?
As I said earlier, these are the questions you ask at the beginning of your donor interview. They tell the donor that their preferences are important to you and your organization. These questions also warm up the donors to answer other questions later on in the interview. Those questions and why you should ask them will be in the next installment.