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Five tips to handle suggestions from your supporters

April 17th, 2015 Posted in Fundraising

Passionate, deeply involved supporters are a godsend, but when they start to provide well-intentioned feedback, it can be more distracting than helpful.

Here are some pointers on separating the wheat from the chaff and fielding supporter feedback.

1. Consider the Source

Some of the loudest opinions come from the least credible sources. Don’t get caught up in how elaborate, persistent, or aggressive someone is. Instead, focus on their credentials and experience.

There is always the possibility that the person offering advice actually knows what they are doing. These suggestions will most likely look legitimate and be composed in a respectful way that clearly demonstrates sound thinking.

But if the advice is coming from someone who has no experience serving the needs of your beneficiaries and simply has loud opinions, you can safely move on.

Look for experts and people who have accomplished something like what you hope to accomplish. Take the advice of these people seriously when it’s offered, and go out of your way to ask for it.

2. Look for Patterns

Even if those offering suggestions and advice are not experts in the field, you might still take notice if the same thing is mentioned by more than one person. Sometimes being close to your cause makes it easy to miss the obvious, and external input, even from non-experts, can be revealing.

If you notice a lot of your supporters are offering the same kind of advice or criticizing the same issue, take a deeper look. Even if it’s not a real problem, it’s clearly something you should address in your messaging, since it’s popping up on the radar of many of your supporters.

3. Get the Details

Vague, non-specific criticism or advice is a safe way for people to feel involved without actually having to produce any concrete items that they could be held accountable for. If you follow-up on feedback of this kind, make sure to ask for specifics.

  • If someone says your message is confusing, ask them specifically which part is confusing, and what you can do to make it clearer.
  • If they loved your presentation, ask what specifically connected with them so you can use it again next time.
  • If someone expresses anger, frustration, or sadness, ask they what made them feel that way. It might have nothing to do with your message, and explaining past it could earn you a supporter.

4. Stay Cordial

One of the most useful tricks I ever learned in dealing with criticism as a writer and a blogger is to thank people for their criticism. It catches them off guard because they are expecting defensiveness and it can turn an irritation into a genuinely invested supporter.

  • Even if the advice is not helpful or appreciated, thank the person for taking the time to offer it.
  • If you’ve decided to ignore it, you don’t need to offer an explanation. Simply saying, “thank you for your feedback,” is enough.
  • Assuming the people offering advice are your donors, it’s important to acknowledge them, since how you handle an interaction like this can determine how willing they will be to support you in the future.
  • Remember, people just want to be heard and recognized.

5. Remember You’re in Charge

Finally, remember that you are the final arbiter of what your nonprofit does and does not do. Even though you rely on donations from outsiders, those people are entrusting their money to you to do with as you see fit You are the expert here, and giving their support, donors acknowledge that to be true. They don’t have the right to dictate how the money is used after the fact.

You are the one who stepped up and decided to do something about a problem in the world. And while your solution or your execution may not be perfect, you are the one in the field, taking the risks and expending your precious time and energy.

So, realize that everyone will have an opinion, but you only have to listen to those that will improve what you’re doing.

February 26, 2015

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