When donors react, take care of them


It’s a small but interesting cat story. Daniel Dockery, a recovering heroin addict had a cat, Scruffy, that he raised from birth. According to a recent story in The Arizona Republic, Dockery could no longer take care of the cat and went to the Arizona Humane Society. The shelter accepted the cat from Dockery for adoption since he could not pay the bill for its stay and told him he could later re-adopt her. However, when Dockery returned to the shelter asking to re-adopt the cat, they could not locate Scruffy.

Angry donors to the animal shelter started complaining and according to a story in the Republic on December 25, one angry donor said: “This is not how I had contemplated my donations would be utilized.”

Reminds me of a few things I recently picked up from Ken Burnett’s classic “Relationship Fundraising,” and here they are:

  • Relationship fundraising builds on the special relationship between the non-profit and each supporter. Burnett says “Its overriding consideration is to care for and develop that bond and do nothing that might damage or jeopardize it.” In this case, the donor expressed grief because he felt his funds were not being utilized as intended.
  • The second lesson we learn here is about the importance of stewardship. The donor’s hard-earned money was given to a non-profit to take care of a societal issue.
  • So, what is the solution? The best solution is for the non-profit entity to be transparent and explain clearly to donors what happened. The next step would be to take proactive measures so that these errors do not happen again. This will help re-establish the trust it has among its donor base. Opennness, transparency and the willingness to listen to donor criticism strengthens non-profit organizations, especially during bad economic times.
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