It has happened to all of us. A donor wags their finger and authoritatively tells us to stop wasting money by sending them acknowledgement letters or newsletters or stewardship pieces. They trust us. They don’t need that kind of attention. They want all of their money to go directly to our organization’s mission and its programs.
When this happens, you should not interpret it as “the donor is always right and I need to comply”.
In reality, the donor is not letting you off the hook. It may sound that way, but it is not the case. The first time you accidentally misuse their contribution or do something that doesn’t align with what that donor thinks you should be doing, they will be upset and you will hear about it.
So, what should you do when a donor instructs you to stop using a stewardship tool and best practices?
You need to double down and figure out how to best provide stewardship. Of course, you need to comply with the donor’s wishes. If they want to be removed from the newsletter list, you better do it or prepare to face their wrath. However, don’t stop there . . . engage those donors in a deeper conversation. Tell them why transparency is so important to your agency. Tell them why you’ve elected to employ certain stewardship tools with your donor pool. Most importantly, ask them how you can achieve the same stewardship objectives with their charitable contributions while still honoring their wishes.
It could be as simple as donor wanting to be taken off your newsletter list because they want less junk in their mailbox, but being OK with being added to your e-newsletter list. Or it could be complicated and involve periodic phone calls and a personal visit with your annual report in hand. While each donor will come up with different solutions, it is worth going through the trouble because it will save you potential grief and “gotcha moments” down the road.
Have you ever been faced with a donor like this? How did you handle it and still remain true to your non-profit organization’s values and stewardship principles? Please share your experiences in the comment box below.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC