The best way to deal with problems is to prevent them from happening in the first place. In the nonprofit sector, problems can come from many places, and one especially bad place is the one where a donor has a negative experience dealing with an organization. If a complaint or even confrontation is handled badly, damage to an organization can be irreparable, in both dollars and reputation.
At the 2015 Bridge to Integrated Marketing Conference, Emily Davis of Girls on the Run Northern Virginia, Sarah Caldwell of MVLE and Kelly Andreae of Back on My Feet DC said that avoiding conflict begins well before any potential problem occurs; Be ready well in advance.
Train the staff.
Prep the executive director. What information and support will help the ED interact with donors? Help the ED do the job.
Build strong relationships internally. Create an internal culture of customer service. Make sure staff feel valued and taken care of. Remember that mistakes are OK if we learn from them. Have open and honest communication? Don’t assume people know things.
Build strong relationships externally. Make sure donors know how important they are. Know who the point person is. Have open and honest communication. Don’t assume donors know things. Touch base often.
Remember that it’s about relationship building. If the organization is in a toxic relationship, feel free to walk away.
Be proactive. Reach out and ask for feedback. Earn their trust.