Q. When I asked one of our donors to increase her support, she became very upset. She asked me whether I did not appreciate what she was already doing. How do I smooth her ruffled feathers?

The delicate act of asking donors to increase support is, at times, received in a less than receptive manor. Perhaps there have been multiple asks in the recent past. Maybe the donor doesn’t see the results of past donations. Or, perchance, the donor has been asked for increases from other organizations as well. No matter the cause, it is time to smooth the “ruffled feathers.”

There is no doubt that you will want to arrange a meeting at the donor’s convenience. But before you ever get face-to-face with her, you should spend some time evaluating not only the last meeting you had with her that upset her in the first place, but also all the systems that you employ in terms of donor stewardship, as well.

  • Did you begin the last meeting by thanking her for her past support?
  • Did you explain what her past support has enabled your organization to accomplish?
  • Did you explain the organization’s new goals and their importance to the agency’s mission and vision?

As for your systems,

  • Who is responsible for managing the relationship with this donor?
  • Who solicited this valued supporter?
  • Who wrote and called to say thank you? Did you find seven ways to acknowledge her gift?
  • What kind of recognition, if any, was provided in your newsletter, program guide or annual report?

Now, you should be ready for the meeting…a wonderful opportunity to deepen the relationship between the donor and the organization. And, when you are face to face, you should listen. Indeed, the key is to listen and respond to where the donor is at the moment—to the issues she raises with you—not those that you think are on her mind. Be prepared to respond in a manner that is not defensive, but rather expresses the way in which all who are associated with your agency value the support of this donor and others like her.

If you have done your homework effectively, if you are genuine in your approach with her, if you listen well, then you should overcome this small bump in the road and be able to restore the sense of gratification that your donor feels in her support of your worthy organization.