In part one of this series, I outlined some key roles in organizations that are important in supporting fundraising.  In part two, I’m going to talk about how the first person your donor meets when they walk in the door can make a difference to an organization’s fundraising success.

Meeters and greeters

This one so important I’m going to dedicate this whole post to the reception in your office.

A phone call or visit might be the first and only time a person connects with your charity, so it’s vital to make a strong, positive first impression. Whether or not you have dedicated staff answering the phone and welcoming people as they walk through the door, ensuring that potential supporters have a good experience when they engage with you. Ways to do this include:

Being friendly, engaging and responsive

Here’s an example of why this matters so much.

I once worked with a client who was in a shared office space with a single receptionist that was supposed to direct visitors to where they needed to go. One day, a major donor dropped in unexpectedly and approached the receptionist, asking to see my client.  Without even looking up from her computer, the receptionist said, “There’s a phone on the wall, call the corresponding extension number.”  The donor tried the number, but when she couldn’t reach my client, she approached the receptionist again. The receptionist’s cringe-inducing response was “Well, she’s obviously not there then.” The donor was unimpressed, and expressed her concern to the Executive Director later. She was horrified, and had to do a lot of damage control to save the relationship with that donor.

It doesn’t really matter whose responsibility it is to greet people at the door or on the phone.  The fact is, you don’t know who that person might be and what they are there for.  Whoever they meet first will leave a lasting impression, so it’s crucial to make sure it’s a good one.

The phone being answered by a real person 

I know it isn’t always easy for phone calls to be answered by a live person, but unless you have a very smooth operating system that doesn’t involve your donor having to “press one” fifteen times, it’s always better for a donor’s first interaction to be with a person than with a series of automated messages.

Once, I found myself so moved by something that I’d read about an organization that I called them up immediately to donate. However, after having to jump through a number of hoops to get through to the right person, then being greeted by an voicemail message, my enthusiasm waned significantly, to the point where I didn’t even bother to leave a message.  While I intended to call back later, another charity soon got my attention and therefore, my donation.

If you must use an automated system, ensure that the process is not laborious for those reaching out to you, and that they can easily connect with someone who can respond to their enquiry quickly and appropriately.

Do you need some help with your fundraising strategy? Download my free checklist to guide you.

The greeter is knowledgeable

While your receptionist might not need to know every minute detail about your organization, having key facts on hand is extremely important to clear, effective communication.

From knowing the right person to connect with a caller or visitor, to being able to answer basic question about your organization’s work, ensuring that reception staff have a good grasp of your work demonstrates to donors that everyone at the charity is engaged in your mission.  Reception staff should always know about relevant, current events and activities, particularly at times when there are likely to be lots of enquiries about them, to ensure smooth communication with your donors.

Saying thank you! 

What if everyone at your organization remembered to say thank you to donors, including your reception staff and people answering the phone? What if, when you called up a charity to make a donation, the person on the other end immediately said “Wow that’s really wonderful, thank you so much for your generosity!  I’ll make sure I connect you with the right person who can help you with that.”  How great would you feel knowing you are supporting an organization that is truly appreciative of its donors?

By encouraging everyone in your organization to say thank you to donors when it feels appropriate, you will contribute towards creating a stronger culture of philanthropy where donors are truly valued.

Fundraising is absolutely a team sport, where everyone in your organization has a part to play in giving donors a positive experience. In part three of this series we will take a closer look at the importance of finance and communications. In the meantime, think about your role, and the role of others in your organization, and how we can all become better team players so that your fundraising can thrive.

First published for Hilborn Charity eNews.

Related Articles:

Developing a strong donor stewardship plan to increase giving and loyalty

The Fundraising Tour: One of the best fundraising tools

Using events more strategically to engage donors

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