Difficult Donors (It's Not Your Fault!)

difficult donor donors fundraising fundraising tips nonprofit nonprofit fundraising raising money Nov 15, 2017

This month, in Fundraisers' Monthly, we're getting really real.

We're talking about difficult donors. (booooo!)

Our awesome member, Alex, said:

"Every fundraising training/book/etc. seems to operate on the assumption that all donors are warm, trusting, altruistic teddy bears that are full of love and sunshine."

It's true. There is a lot of sunshine, roses and sickeningly sweet talk in fundraising.

Nancy and I are guilty of this, too. We like to say - when you're generous, you can't be mean - when you're giving, you can't be angry. But that's just not always true.

Sometimes, people - even generous people who are giving away their hard-earned money for a damn good cause - are just plain rude.

And fundraising is 1000% percent a people business, so, here it is, the really real truth about fundraising:

You will absolutely meet and have to deal with a few jerks. (I'm sorry for this and I'm sending you an e-hug right now.)

More than a few people will hang up on you (ah, the joys of cold calling!). Some will be angry that you didn't address them as "Dr." in your email. Many will tell you their super-harsh opinions about "those Millennials." And, if you're me, just a very, very tiny handful will call you incompetent and make you cry in your office.

It's not your fault. (Remember that scene in Good Will Hunting?)

Seriously. It's not you.

You're okay. In fact, you're more than okay. You're awesome and we have your back!

But since we can't be there with you in every visit (dang it!), here are a few tips to help you deal with difficult donors:

  • Get Back-Up. It's easy to think you are overreacting when someone is being a jerk, but if you're feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable, go get some help - your boss, the director, a colleague - someone to help diffuse the situation.
  • Agree to Disagree (then get back to the part about money). Despite all of the crazy rant-comment-rant-comment arguments on Facebook, it IS actually totally and completely okay to disagree with someone - even if that someone is a donor. When someone Facebook rants in person, say, "Hmm. I'm going to have to disagree there, but I do want to go back to the part where you said you wanted to give some money."
  • Get Zen. If you're dealing with one of those people who always rants - about politics, the weather, their neighbors, their kids, how you never answer the phone when they call (I wonder why?!) - give yourself a moment of zen. Pause. Breathe. Try your hardest to remember: It's not your fault. You're okay. In fact, you're awesome and...


Sunshine and roses disclaimer: MOST donors are awesome and you will probably never (or, if you're me, hardly ever) cry in your office. You might throw your phone a few times, but that's okay! If you need a little back-up right now, join us over at Fundraisers' Monthly. For just $10 a month, we got you.