Calming Angry Donors In 10 Steps

An angry donor is a nonprofit’s nightmare. Even nonprofits where fundraisers have the best of intentions can make a mistake that will lead to a long, and often loud, phone call with a donor.

There’s a popular saying in business that “the customer is always right.” This statement might have been overused to the point where it is now meaningless, but it is still important to remember not to be defensive when dealing with an unsatisfied donor.

    In their book “Being Buddha At Work,” Franz Metcalf and B.J. Gallagher outlined 10 steps to take to both calm the individual down and to solve the problem. The steps are:

  • First, be compassionate. The donor is frustrated, angry, disappointed, and upset. Do not meet anger with anger. Meet anger with compassion.
  • Thank the donor for bringing the problem to you. Your mission is service and you cannot be of service if there are no problems to fix.
  • Listen carefully to what the donor is telling you. As you listen, sift through the words and sort out facts from feelings.
  • Take notes, if it is appropriate, explaining that you want to make sure you have the information correct.
  • Emphasize what you can do, not what you cannot do.
  • Get help from others if you need it.
  • Explain and educate the donor as you continue to interact with the person.
  • Commit to what you can do. Be clear about what the individual can expect and when.
  • Thank the donor again for the opportunity to help turn around a negative situation.
  • Follow up. Keep your commitments, and keep the donor informed if anything changes.