Our Final Thoughts on Complaints


I had three main goals when putting this series together. I want organizations to:

  1. Not fear complaints
  2. Know how to respond to the complainer
  3. Have a right-sized internal reaction to complaints

But that’s not easy. Complaints are a scary subject for many organizations.

An organization doesn’t usually just “flip a switch” and become comfortable with complaints. It’s a journey with a handful of ideas on the way:

I hope it’s obvious that I’m not saying you should attempt to get complaints. It’s just that, in my experience, every organization that’s reliant on individual donors is going to get a complaint now and again.

So it’s better to have an understanding of what causes complaints, and to know how sophisticated organizations deal with complainers and their complaints.

Furthermore, as organizations grow they begin to see that the better an appeal does, the more likely it is to also generate complaints.

That’s because a great appeal or e-appeal tends to tap into peoples’ emotions. Most people will respond by sending in a gift. But the more people whose emotions you stir, the more likely you are to receive a complaint.

My hope is that organizations will realize that complaints are a cost of doing business for a growing organization. And that receiving the occasional complaint (or even five complaints) is worth it in exchange for raising more money, retaining more donors, and doing more good.

Read the series:

  1. Getting Used to Complaints
  2. Outline for How to Respond to a Complaint
  3. Not All Complaints are Equal
  4. Natural, But Not Productive
  5. The Two Times Smaller Orgs Get More Complaints
  6. So. Many. Reasons. To. Complain.
  7. The Harmful Big Assumption
  8. Turning Complaints into Gifts
  9. “Friendly Fire” — Complaints from Internal Audiences
  10. Our Final Thoughts on Complaints (this post)

Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

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