How to Handle Donor Silence: What to Do When a Donor Doesn't Respond to a Meeting Request
What happens when a donor doesn’t respond to your meeting request? Whether your request is to take them to coffee, to offer a tour, or to request a gift — donor silence can be disheartening, but it's not the end of the road. While sometimes silence can be directly attributed to a lack of interest, it’s important to remember that people's lives can be quite busy, and there are numerous reasons why someone might not respond to a request to get together. Let’s explore a few ways you can politely and respectfully inquire again.
First and foremost, it's important to exercise patience. Donors are busy people, and they might not have seen your initial meeting request. It's possible that your email got lost in their inbox, or they've been inundated with other commitments. Give them some time, typically a week or two, before following up.
If you haven't received a response after a reasonable period, it's appropriate to send a polite follow-up email. Express your continued interest in meeting and reiterate the purpose and potential impact of the meeting. Keep this message short, respectful, and to the point.
Be Curious Instead of checking in about the gift or meeting, check in on the donor. Take the gift off the table completely and focus on the person. "Hi, we haven't heard from you --- just wanted to make sure you are okay” can go a long way to establishing a positive bond. This type of correspondence works really well when you have an established relationship with a donor. Most times donors truly mean to respond, but just haven't gotten around to it. Other times, there really is something going on - a sickness, a death, a big life change - and we always want to empathize, honor, and respect when the time isn't right!
Try a Different Method If you've sent an email, try the phone. If you've left a voicemail, try a text. Sometimes the best method is actually a handwritten note that lets them know that you miss them and would love to find a time to get together. It's not uncommon for an email to get lost in "junk" or a voicemail to not get picked up (I'm super guilty of not listening to voicemails right away!)
Find Someone Else Who Can Reach Out
This is the classic case of "they just aren't that into you". It could be that they don't know you well and connecting makes them feel uncomfortable or that they just don't like you (I doubt it, but I know instances where this has been the case). Thinking through alternative connections is always a good strategy. Is there a board member or another staff who they are connected to that might be just the gentle nudge they need to respond?
Even if a donor doesn't respond, it doesn't mean they won't in the future. You can periodically send updates on your organization's progress and achievements. This keeps your cause on their radar, and they may eventually reach out or respond to a meeting request at a later date.
Dealing with donor silence can be challenging, but it's an inevitable part of the fundraising process. How you handle the situation can make a significant difference in building and maintaining positive donor relationships. By being patient, respectful, and flexible, you can increase your chances of receiving a response and moving forward with your engagement efforts. Remember, persistence, personalization, and a genuine commitment to your organization's mission can go a long way in connecting with potential donors, even when they initially don't respond to your meeting requests.