By Yvette LeGear Hartsfield, MA, CFRE, CAP, Vice President of Campaigns

How do we come back from criticisms that are less than complimentary? As professionals in a field that builds communities, shelters animals, cares for children and so much more, we partner with many different personalities. Our work is noble and most of us do it for the intrinsic gratification of knowing we are changing the world (clip on superhero cape).

Our donors also have goals and dreams to affect change. Capital campaigns are wonderful opportunities to share a big vision of daring growth with our donors who are most dear to us. We present them opportunities to demonstrate their philanthropy through a financial gift that can be considered a part of their legacy.

But, what happens when your favorite donor comes back to you with feedback that you missed the mark with your gift proposal? It happens, but it is not the end of the relationship.

Use this as the opportunity it is — an opportunity to know your donor better.

How to Navigate Difficult Feedback

After we have researched our donor prospect’s giving history in the community, reviewed their giving with our organization, assessed their potential financial ability, and engaged them in conversation about their interests — we carefully craft a gift proposal that we believe will motivate them to invest in our organization’s future.

And, yet, we can perform every action correctly and still not receive the enthusiastic response we were hoping to receive. Now is the time to step back and reassess.

1. Listen.

The hallmark of every interaction is to LISTEN. As fundraisers, we know we must listen 80% of the time. Listen to the feedback from the perspective of the donor. Use this as the opportunity it is — an opportunity to know your donor better.

2. Take note.

TAKE NOTE of the concerns, letting the donor know you will come back to them with additional information…and offer them a timeframe wherein you will respond.

3. Do your homework.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK. If you need to gather more detailed information, do so. If you learned the donor has other interests in your campaign, craft a new proposal. If the donor tells you they don’t fund capital, explore their interest in program expansion or endowment building.

4. Close the loop.

And, finally, CLOSE THE LOOP. Once the donor has expressed their concerns, be timely in getting back to them. The donor cared enough for your organization to take a difficult step — let you know how you can do better. The relationship will be strengthened through the process.

No great relationship is a walk down the primrose path. You stumbled, the donor caught you, and now you have a relationship that is further solidified by open and honest communication. You got this! I am glad this happened, and you had a chance to practice good relationship building.

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