Treat Your Donors Like Family

Dear Christian Radio,

What comes to mind when you think of spending time with your family? Is it a warm cozy fire by the Christmas tree while you watch the kids open presents? Or is it a lazy summer day sitting in your grandma’s porch swing, as she tells you about her first love while the corners of her eyes crinkle in a smile? Close your eyes and grab hold of that memory and the warm feeling that it evokes. I can guarantee a smile has probably already crept onto your face. 

What a joy to remember those special people in your life, and how important they made you feel! How loved you felt when you talked and laughed, cried and prayed with them. Did you know you can show that same love and care with your donors? Wait. What?

Build trust
This is such an important piece in donor care, maybe the most important. Your donors have to know that they can trust you. It’s all in the details. Things like making sure you have the correct spelling of your donor’s name on file. Or that you have the correct pledge information. Is it a one-time gift or an ongoing pledge? Does your donor mail you a check each month or are they set up on auto draft? Accuracy with donor information matters! Another way to help build trust can be as simple as a follow up call or e-mail communication with your donor to let them know you’ve completed their request. It can also look like returning voicemails as quickly as possible. Do you smile when you answer the phone? That simple little adjustment to your face will make all the difference in your tone of voice. Do you sound warm on the phone, or like the grumpy old troll who hasn’t had any coffee yet? Things that can seem very small are in fact very big in building that relationship and trust with your donors. Those small acts of trust are the foundational building blocks of relationship with your donors. If the strong foundation of trust isn’t there, the structure will crumble.

Connect with them
The majority of calls you take are probably what most would call a typical interaction. Your donor needs to update her payment information, or change an address, or yes, even cancel a pledge. But in that simple phone call is a wonderful opportunity to make your donor feel like she is part of something much bigger, like being part of a family. So, how do you make those connections when you aren’t even face-to-face with the person you are talking with? Simple…ask questions. I’m not talking about a standard question such as, “Do you mind verifying your address for me?” Instead, ask her how her day has gone. Ask her how the weather is out her way. (Yes, I just said to ask about the weather…hang with me!) Here’s the thing: you must be sincere about it. A donor will catch on in a heartbeat if you are just asking the question to fill the silence, versus honestly asking and listening for her answer. Most donors will tell you their story even if you haven’t asked for it. I’ve had several calls that I thought were just typical account updates that turned into 15 minute chats where we were swapping our favorite vacation spots.

Sometimes your caller doesn’t want to “shoot the breeze” and that’s okay. They just want to take care of business and be finished. Ask them at the end of the call how you can be praying for them and thank them. Always say, “Thank you.” Those two words are so powerful.

Laugh with them, cry with them and pray with them
If a donor shares with you a special detail of their life like a birthday, an anniversary, or the birth of a new grandbaby, be there to celebrate with them! Send them a card congratulating them. If they share the sad news of the death of a loved one, cry with them and pray with them. Send them a note of condolence. Or if you had a nice chat with a donor, send them a note saying how much you enjoyed talking with them. There is something so special about receiving a handwritten note in the mail. In this technology driven world it’s just a nice way of communicating, I was thinking of you and it was worth me taking the time to let you know. Yes, you can ask the station to send things as well, but if you took the call, take the time to send them a note that comes from you personally. It’s such a seemingly small token of appreciation that will go a long way.

Surprise them
Maybe you want a special way to thank those donors who give just a little bit more. Think about something that you can send them along with their monthly statement–a simple token of your appreciation. This could be an inspirational quote or colorful scripture-based postcard that she can hang on her fridge. This will remind her just how much God loves her. Help her be “Super Mom” by sending her a coloring sheet for her kids to enjoy! Or maybe she could use some help in her day-to-day activities. A fun summer bucket list the she can download and print would do the trick. Remember, a little goes a long way, so whatever it is, it will most likely be appreciated.

Your donors are one of the greatest gifts that God has entrusted to your ministry. Treat them like family, because they are family.

Dear Christian Radio…

1. Build trust and make those lasting connections with donors.

2. Be sincere, listen, and meet them where they are. Send something thoughtful to show your appreciation for them.

3. Always say, “Thank you.”


Tara Gillispie
PAR Network Donor Specialist
Positive Alternative Radio

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