LizChung-headshot
Elizabeth Chung
Nonprofit Customer Service Header

3 Ways to Improve Your Nonprofit’s Customer Service

The way you respond when supporters reach out with questions, concerns, or complaints can greatly impact donor relations. While nonprofits should have engagement strategies built out, they must also be ready to deal with unexpected situations. At the end of the day, it comes down to providing quality customer service.

To continually improve the way people connect with your organization, you have to be ready with the right response when donors reach out to you—for any reason. Here are three best practices you can adopt to show donors you value their input. These will go a long way toward refining your overall donor stewardship tactics and creating a positive relationship with your donors.

1. Be Approachable

Build trust and reliability by showing donors that your staff is accessible. If it’s difficult for donors to contact your organization, they will most likely give up and be unimpressed with your lack of attention.

Make sure donors know they can get in touch with your organization. There are three main ways they should be able to reach you:

Email: Don’t make your donors feel like their emails are being sent into a black hole. They should be confident that their messages will be read and promptly responded to. As a best practice, respond to emails within 24 hours. Even if you can’t immediately answer the person’s question or concern, at least reply to their message and let them know you’re looking into the issue.

You can also make an email exchange feel more personal by adding a friendly face to your contact page. Consider featuring a picture of a staff member next to your email address. The email account can still receive general questions and messages, and the featured staffer doesn’t have to be the only one replying to emails. This touch simply humanizes your brand and helps supporters feel like they’re talking to a real person.

Phone: The contact page on your website should offer a phone number supporters can call. Hopefully this line connects to a staff member involved with communicating with donors. In any case, your nonprofit should always answer phone calls professionally.

You should always sound happy to hear from your constituents. Give a sincere greeting and pay attention to your tone and words. This can go a long way toward making donors feel valued and welcomed.

Social Media: Social channels foster conversation, so make sure you join in. “Liking,” sharing, and replying to supporters’ comments are easy ways to engage donors and show them you’re listening. Also promptly answer any questions directed your way.

Twitter is a great place to both initiate and jump into conversations with supporters. Show them some public recognition by retweeting their comments. That’s what Blood:Water does here, and it also boosts their social proof, demonstrating how others have validated their cause to anyone who checks out their feed.

Blood:Water Customer Service Retweet

2. Be Patient

No matter how great your donor stewardship tactics, there’s a chance you might encounter a disgruntled donor or two along the way. These are the moments when your nonprofit’s customer service skills are most critical. Sound annoyed or frustrated on the phone, and you may wind up losing a donor.

Patience is a pillar of great customer service. Even if you don’t have the answer they want, remain calm and simply let them talk. People often relax when they feel the person on the other end is willing to listen. Being attentive to your donor will not only help you mitigate the situation, but it can also help you identify what exactly the donor wants. Keep in mind many supporters might have this same concern but simply haven’t brought it up.

3. Be Responsive

In a similar vein, making someone feel heard involves giving a caring response. Not only should the donor feel like you listened to their problem, but they should feel confident that you want to solve it too.

When speaking to constituents, it’s a good practice to restate their concern in your own words to show you want to understand where they’re coming from. Explain what you can (or cannot) do to remedy the situation. If you don’t know the answer to a donor’s question, don’t guess. Supporters will only be more upset if they find out you gave them false information. Instead, don’t be afraid to say you will find out an answer and contact them again.

Follow up the conversation by sending more information on the issue that concerns the donor. Correct any mistakes, and discuss the issue with your staff leadership to hammer out any preventative procedures, if needed.

For-profit companies aren’t the only ones that should provide great customer service. By prioritizing intentional communication, a willingness to listen, and prompt follow-up, nonprofits can demonstrate how much they value their supporters. This commitment to donor happiness can go a long way in boosting donor loyalty.


Keep Donors Coming Back: Download the Customer Service Guide Now

customer service guide for nonprofits



Photo credit: flickr user plantronicsgermany

Where social entrepreneurs go to learn and grow

Join over 20,000 leaders just like you who get their weekly dose of technology, innovation, fundraising ideas, and the latest industry trends.

Subscribe to the Classy Blog