Folks, I get lots of requests for support, and my background in customer service is really helpful for getting back to people pretty quickly. Unfortunately, lots of orgs reach out but don't really have a specific ask in mind connected to specific outcomes. And, sometimes, people tend to forget that there's really another human on the other side of the screen. I think both nonprofits and funders could do better sometimes, and so I offer these lessons from customer service.
Given what I see, it feels necessary to stress the following:
1. Brevity is the soul of wit. For me, I read lots of books, and don't want the emails I receive to be a new novel. Bullet point lists are effective, and really to the point when I'm hearing from nonprofits. When asking for support, whether that's support in sharing your content and events, or fiscal support, be direct and concise.
2. Don’t make stuff up, and factcheck claims asserted by others. It's easy to just retweet or share content without looking into it, but if you're sharing things without verifying accuracy, it'll give your org a bad rep. Funders want to help out orgs that are the real deal. Always factcheck what you're sharing. Also, Ensure that your own links and titles accurately reflect your content, and avoid any misrepresentation.
3. Foster a robust online presence. Each time I meet with a nonprofit that I support, I suggest that they invest more time into their social networks. Your supporters want to know what you're doing on a regular basis. While many of the orgs sometimes forget or don't have capacity, lots just don't know what the right thing to do is. Here are 5 things nonprofits should be doing on social media in case you need a quick refresher.
In Sunday School, probably late '50s, I learned a few concepts to live by that have really helped me out...
4. Treat people like they want to be treated. My first inclination's to treat people like I want to be treated, but I realized that not everyone wants to be treated the same as I do...really, just treat people like humans, and do good. And when you're asking for funding for your nonprofit just remember that donors and foundations are constantly bombarded with funding requests so it's important to respect their funding priorities (you can research this on their websites) and their time.
5. Know when enough is enough. My philosophy has two basic tenets: First, stay focused on making a difference rather than raising a gazillion dollars. Sometimes nonprofits spend so much time and resources raising a lot of money and that funding does not match up to their impact. Second, as Kevin Spacey has said, if you’re lucky enough to do well (in this case if you're are funder), keep sending the elevator back down.
Doing direct customer service for 30 something years has given me a massive dose of empathy and compassion. It has shaped my approach to philanthropy and communications, and I hope it will help other nonprofits and funders to strengthen their relationships and maximize their impact.
[Photo Credit: Omran Jamal]