FLICK the haters: complaints can be a good thing

Quick note: This isn’t just another article about how you can turn a bad donor experience into a good experience by handling it properly!

At pretty much every job I’ve ever had, people FLIP OUT when lots of angry emails come into the supporter services inboxes. Especially senior people.

Here’s a truth to repeat in those moments to quickly ground yourself:

Your best campaigns – the ones that motivate most people into action – will probably also generate the most complaints.

If you’re doing your fundraising properly, you’ll be telling a deeply emotional story that will feel uncomfortable. To lots of people, they want to right the wrong you’ve just told them about.

But there’s also a small section of people who don’t seem to enjoy life. They’ll just get angry that you’ve made them feel uncomfortable and will flick off an email about how bad you are.

It can be easy to get caught up in the hysteria about needing to change stuff to address the complaints, especially if your boss is the one receiving emails. So, take a step back and do this:

  • Figure out how many complaints is “a lot” (often it’ll be fewer than ten)
  • Look at how many donations you’re getting
  • If you’re getting lots and lots of donations, don’t worry about it – you’re running a great campaign! Get back to the people who have written you the angry messages, but pat yourself on the back for a job well done – because of you, you’re raising lots of money to make your mission possible
  • If you’re generating a lot of complaints and your donation rate is shitty, your campaign might actually be pretty grim. I can’t help you there, better go into damage control mode.

It’s about reframing the conversation to “look at how much money I’ve generated for our cause!”

You’re doing great work.

The Four Whys of great donor-centric copy

I used to have a problem when I started out in fundraising – I was trying to make my copy emotional, while also ticking all of the boxes to really speak to the donor’s desires to create change.

I’ve found that before I write copy, I picture having a quick conversation with my donor – and she’s only asking me four questions about my appeal. I call them the “four whys”:

Why this?
For most of us, this is the easiest part – you’re defining your problem for your donor. It’s also where most of us stop.

Just telling people what’s going on isn’t quite enough to completely nail an awesome fundraising appeal.

Why now?
This is where you need to add urgency – define why giving *now* is critical. You want to give your donor the drive to get out her wallet now, before the next thing in her life comes along and she forgets about you.

If there’s a deadline coming up, it’s usually a great chance to ramp up the urgency. Deadlines can include all sorts of stuff – big decisions being made, events… even the possibility of someone dying.

Why me?
You need to tell your donor how her donation will make a dent in solving your problem. Do this by telling her your plan – the specific things your organisation is going to do to resolve the issue.

One of the biggest issues that make our donor feel disconnected to our causes is that we’re making our problems too big – so big that it feels they can’t be solved. Make sure your solution will have a realistic impact that her £20 will help move forward, and then show that to your donor.

Why you? (I also like to call this So what?)
Answering this is where you describe why your organisation is the best positioned to tackle the problem.

This is your chance to show your connection to the issue.

You can do this simply by making sure you’re using the right signatory for appeal (someone with a strong personal reason for asking for donations, like an Exec Director or someone with family affected comes to mind), but you can also by describing your past successes (without taking away from the need to donate this time!) and describing the expertise you have in tackling the issue. Pretty often you don’t need to put this one front and centre, just further down in the appeal is ok.

Give the four whys a try next time you’re coming up with an appeal.