When you get bad service at a restaurant, do you go back? When you don’t get your money’s worth from a purchase, do you buy from that business again? With nonprofits competing for fewer dollars, make sure your shelter or rescue is doing everything you can to be professional and offer competent services. Improving basic business skills can help you shine when compared to others. Donors must believe their money will be well spent.
Here are some common-sense ideas to improve your dealings with the donor community based on snafus I’ve seen as a donor to local nonprofits.
Acknowledge each donation. These can be printed or emailed. I’ve donated gently used items many times to a thrift store benefiting a local animal rescue group. They do not acknowledge these donations. Nor do they send requests for dollar donations.
Do everything you can to correctly diagnose and treat any medical problems of your homeless pets. When we adopted our Pepper, we were told he had/was being treated for conjunctivitis. We soon discovered he actually has feline herpes, which has similar eye symptoms. My research and discussions with two vets indicate this is very common in shelter cats, yet this poor kitty was treated with medication for many days which did nothing to help. (Conjunctivitis is bacterial; feline herpes is a viral condition). Since herpes is a permanent condition (it can be controlled but not cured) it was disappointing to us that he wasn’t treated properly and we weren’t told of this life-long condition upfront. Next time we’ll probably adopt from another group.
Protect your computer system with antivirus and firewall software. A group I’ve donated to apparently doesn’t do this since I recently received a bogus request for a foreign donation in the name of one of the officers. Clearly, the email addresses for this nonprofit group were obtained fraudulently. After this experience, I’ll think twice about giving my email address. Yet I know they need to reduce costs by using email rather than print.
Purge all lists of duplicate names and addresses. When you send duplicate to mail to the same household, you look as if you’re not spending your donors’ money wisely. This is especially true for print mail pieces.
Don’t send more than one print mail piece to the same household. We received duplicate mail pieces this week from the same nonprofit with the name and address exactly the same except the ZIP code. With database programs such as Microsoft Access, you can remove duplicate addresses. You can also hire a mailing service in your community to clean your mailing list in terms of address standardization, zip+4 coding, etc. Search for “purge duplicate addresses” online to learn what to expect of these services. My yellow page directory uses the categories of “mail order fulfillment service” and “mailing list services” for companies offering these services.
Don’t send the same email twice to the same email address. For example, if you send email newsletters, use one of the many email services online to handle your sign up procedure and mailing. They will not allow duplicate email addresses to be added to your list. I use Aweber for my blog updates and have been very satisfied with the service and price. For email newsletters, you set up a template and just fill in the new content each time you send the newsletter. I’m currently using their blog broadcast service which uses the RSS feed to generate the email updates. You can try this service free by signing up below.
You can learn a lot by noticing how nonprofits conduct their email and written contact with you. Also, notice how the staff treats you on the phone and in person. When so many groups need help, most donors will direct their dollars to shelters or rescues which use their donations in the most productive manner.