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Nonprofits: We’re Looking for a Live Person

When donors and foundations can easily find and talk to a live person at a nonprofit organization, they feel better about entrusting resources to them. It helps them ask questions, get clarity, learn more, fix an issue–and in some cases, facilitate or make a larger gift than they might consider otherwise. (They know nonprofit staff and volunteers are super busy and cannot drop everything to talk. It’s knowing that they can reach a person relatively easily and within a reasonable time frame that makes them feel comfortable.)

Conversely, the inability to quickly locate contact information of helpful individuals can make the desire to support your organization challenging at best.

Man searching under the bed

Here’s a quick story demonstrating the rabbit hole of missed opportunities that can leave people with little interest in giving, making a second gift, or suggesting your organization to others.

One of our generous donor advisors recommended a grant to a large, national nonprofit. For an unknown reason, the “foundation liaison” at the organization sent the grant agreement to a different foundation. That foundation forwarded it to our community foundation. We weren’t sure how this happened, but we are all human.

Here’s what happened next. It’s the truly mind boggling part.

  • We attempted to reach the signer of the grant agreement, but we were unable to find contact information (phone or email) for the individual–or anyone–on the organization’s website.
  • We next attempted to send our message to a general address found on the website. The email was bounced back, returned as invalid.
  • Plan C was calling a 1-800 number listed on the website for those who wished to make a gift. (There was no other number available.) After spending a frustrating few minutes with a “virtual assistant,” we were rerouted to a live person who asked if we wanted to make a donation.
  • While explaining that our call was regarding a grant, the representative asked if a grant was a monetary gift. He then attempted to reach the individual who signed our grant agreement and sent it to the wrong foundation. When unable to reach her, we learned that we would not be able to obtain her direct contact information to resolve the issue. Instead, we were given an option of sending another written communication to a different general email address, and “someone” would relay our message to yet another person.

We opted to participate in a survey to provide feedback at the end of our call. As you might expect at this point, we did not receive the survey. We have yet to hear back from donor/foundation services about the grant agreement, and we may not.

Regardless of your nonprofit’s size or resources, providing an easy way for donors and foundations to connect with you will benefit your fundraising efforts. Your organization may be large with several well-staffed departments and many resources available to cultivate and steward donors. It may be small, with limited staff or volunteer capacity to spend one on one time with donors.

But if you are prepared to accept gifts from charitable people, you should give your donors the tools to access someone they can talk to at your nonprofit.

Though the time-sucking scenario above is a rare find, our team is often unable to locate contact information on local nonprofit websites. Our goal is to reach out and learn more so that we can help facilitate a gift. This makes it, well, harder than it should be.

Here’s how to reach our team members.