The Art of the Apology
Despite our best efforts, we all make mistakes. Of course, we want to make as few as possible, but there will be misunderstandings in fundraising. Especially when it comes to donor relationships, it is important to make things right – quickly and carefully. While there is no formula for the perfect apology, the following tips should help smooth the way and build deeper, long-lasting relationships.
Say, “I’m sorry,” promptly and sincerely
“I’m sorry” won’t solve everything, but it opens the door for understanding and resolution. As soon as you realize there may be a problem, don’t hesitate to make the first move. Pick up the phone, make the call and apologize sincerely. Sincerity comes naturally when you genuinely care about your donors and the organization’s mission.
Listen with a goal to understand
Begin with an open mind to find out what went wrong. Very often, problems are routed in miscommunication. Allow donors to express themselves fully. The more they talk, the better. Don’t try to curtail the conversation by explaining your side of the situation too quickly. The more you hear, the better able you will be to answer questions, give a proper response and finish well. Not only that, but you may hear insights to help adjust and improve the nonprofit’s systems of communication.
Learn the lessons and let it go
Mistakes are part of a continual improvement process. If we do not learn, we are destined for failure. If appropriate, let the donor know it will not happen again, because you plan to make adjustments and improvements.
After you have apologized, listened and learned, let the donor know you understand the mistake cannot be undone, but ask if there is something that can be done to make things right. Research tells us that customer satisfaction improves when mistakes are acknowledged, corrected and communicated appropriately. We never want to make mistakes, but when they happen, we can use these opportunities to build trust and deepen our donor relationships.
Karin Cox, Co-Founder and President, email@example.com
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