We Should All Be Relationship Professionals

July 22nd, 2011

Raleigh, North Carolina

Day one of the Southeast Donor Relations Conference, being held this year at North Carolina State University, was a great success.  The regional conference has exceeded expectations with nearly 70 attendees!  As always, this gathering is a mix of old friends and new faces, and we are as impressed as ever with the caliber of thoughtfulness and camaraderie among this group.

The conference was kicked off by keynote speaker, John Taylor, Associate Vice Chancellor for Advancement Services at NC State.  He gave a lighthearted but insightful presentation illustrating the importance of integrating the donor relations professional in all plans that involve – or even potentially involve – donors.  He brought focus to the role of the donor relations professional as the front line problem-solver.  “Donor Relations must be involved from the beginning on issues that could impact a donor,” he emphasized.  As this audience well knows, it is the donor relations professionals′ role to help repair relationships should something go wrong.  More importantly, avoiding situations that might cause conflict is the real benefit of these professional relationship managers.

John included key research that will help us all see the benefits of avoiding an unhappy ″customer″ – be that a donor, a client or a co-worker.  No matter what our individual roles, these reminders can help us all be better ″relationship professionals″:

• An unhappy customer will tell 10-20 other people about their dissatisfaction, whereas a typical happy customer will only share their feelings with 3-5 people
• A totally satisfied customer contributes 2.6 times more than one that is only somewhat satisfied.  Moreover, a totally dissatisfied customer decreases revenue 1.8 time more than what a totally satisfied customer contributes!
• As a rule of thumb, for every filed complaint, there are 26 unresolved complaints or problems.  Avoid the first and you avoid them all.
• Use clues to figure out who is disenchanted, most particularly lack of interaction.
• Ask for feedback only if you are prepared to take action.  Once a customer’s concerns have been voiced, expectations that you will enact change dramatically increase, as does the level of dissatisfaction if the situation remains the same.
• REALLY LISTEN – understanding WHY the customer is dissatisfied is much more valuable than just knowing WHAT they are unhappy about, and is key to crafting a response that will win the customer back.
• A heartfelt apology, without blame or excuse, is always the first step.

Every year I learn much from the Association of Donor Relations Professionals and Southeast Donor Relations Conference meetings.  The talents of these professionals are often undervalued, yet they are key to the success of their fundraising organizations.  I encourage us all to learn from the example they set – be consistent, proactive, supportive, clear in our communications and understanding in our relationships with others.

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