Monday, August 13, 2007

Healthy Non Profits Know That Customer Service Is Required...Relationships Are Everything

Last winter I went through our closets, pulled together some lamps, and bagged other household items that worked but we weren't using anymore.

I decided to donate them to my favorite cause, locally. I drove them to the non profit's for-profit store and I was met by a volunteer. She walked around to my trunk and I opened it. She looked over our donations. She said that she wasn't going to go through all of the bags that I'd brought. They only had two people working and they had received many donations that day. She said that the organization didn't need anymore donations. She ended by telling me to take them to the Salvation Army.

I was floored.

I did take the donations to the Salvation Army and they were both helpful and appreciative. Meanwhile, they had a 'semi' sized truck full of donations, but they were still happy to accommodate me.

I was shocked by how exceedingly rude the volunteer was. All I could think was that the volunteer took it upon herself to get between me and that cause in our community.

You and I know how she should have properly dealt with this situation. If this volunteer had been professional she would have greeted me initially explaining that they have had a lot of donations, at the outset without seeing what I had (or didn't have) to donate. She would have further said that they were short staffed. Then she would have APOLOGIZED. She would've understood that her organization operates because of people in our community who care about the issue. I had taken the time to pull the donations together. I had decided to give the donation to them, of all of our local non profits. She would've said that they greatly appreciate my support. If I asked if she knows of another organization taking donations right then, she could share with me which other organizations need in kind donations. She put that non profit in a terribly risky spot. If I worked at the community foundation, a major grant source, she might have stopped potential funding.

In either the non profit or for profit sectors customer service makes or breaks relationships and everything is relationships in the non profit sector, including fundraising.

The answers to these questions are really really important:

Do your volunteers and staff always thank donors (grant donors, or otherwise) within 48 hours of receiving their donation?

Do your volunteers and staff always respond to clientele, constituents', or donors' questions or requests within 24 hours?

Does your organization's volunteers and staff always say 'please', 'thank you', and 'we appreciate your interest' or 'your support' to donors or potential donors?

Do all of your various faces with the public (your volunteers, clientele, and staff) know how your organization views its donors, or how your organization wants all donors (or potential donors) treated? Clientele should be treated this way, as well.

The only way that everyone in your organization is going to treat your donors or potential donors well is if you train them, and they must all be told the same thing.

I know that your staff and volunteers are professional. But, neither you nor I know how they interact with donors, especially under stress. Training everyone in your agency who deals with the public, and telling them what is expected of them will be a great first step to insure the best.

Do not risk your organization's relationship with its community by putting untrained people out there who do not know customer service skills. I will not give anymore donations to that organization.

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