An angry donor is a nonprofit's worst nightmare. Even organizations with the best of intentions can make a mistake that will lead to a long, and often loud, phone call. The phrase "the customer is always right" applies in these situations, even if you think the individual is the one in the wrong. The fact of the matter is this person invested money into your organization, and it's in your best interest to him/her happy.
So how do you calm down a donor who is losing it? 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.