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Customer service tips for the nonprofit world

When you think of your nonprofit organization, do you think customer service as a part of what sets you apart? If you dive deep into it, nonprofits are in the service industry and although there are differences in how operations work when compared to for-profit companies, excellent customer service is a value-add. By concentrating on excellent customer service, you can retain first-time donors and develop advocates for your organization.

Think differently, know your audiences

A nonprofit has to think differently than most service industry-based businesses, curating relationships and interacting with donors and members in a non-sales format, yet in a way that makes them feel welcome and part of the journey.

At a high level, nonprofits have two main audiences; participants (donors) and recipients (those that benefit from your organization).

Participants, aka donors

Storytelling and convenience to give drives great customer service with your donors. Understand what drives their contributions and how to provide easy ways to give as well as quick or easy-to-find answers and responses to their questions. Donor thank you processes are a huge part of this. In addition, your development department plays a role in customer service, identifying strong donor prospects and managing those relationships.

And while we tend to think of monetary donations when we hear the word ‘donor,’ those donors can be individuals who volunteer and give their time to your organization. Understand their wants, their needs and what drives them to give back to your organization through their actions. Develop great customer service protocols for these participants as well.


Those in need of your services need two things: Education to understand what services are available and convenience to receive those services. Think easy processes for applying, quick ways to get information out to populations who may not have access to traditional forms of communication, etc. You are impacting people in positive ways; treat your program recipients with the same level of importance as your donors; guide them from start to finish and be a helpful hand throughout the process.

4 ways to develop great customer service for nonprofits

1. Understand the customer journey

Map out your donor, volunteer and recipients’ customer journeys to better how they interact with your nonprofit, what makes them feel valued and appreciated, and where they get tripped up in the process. This provides you with information you can use to improve or keep at the things that are working well.

2. Build loyalty and dedication

Response time and communication can set your organization apart from the rest. Train your team to return phone calls and emails promptly and be quick to troubleshoot. If you are using email marketing or social media as communication tools to reach donors and recipients, ensure you’ve identified key people within your organization to monitor those accounts and respond promptly there as well. Doing so can help build loyalty and dedication to your organization. Using a personalized approach to communicating makes people feel like their time is valued and they have enough resources within your organization.

3. Be transparent and build trust

Donors should be able to get full details about where the money is going and who their dollars benefit. Develop education materials, one-sheets or key talking points internally so that your team members can provide clear answers to how money is being used when asked. Showcase that information on your donor landing pages and digital channels; this not only shows transparency, but it tells the story of how dollars coming in truly impact your organization and the people you serve.

4. Encourage feedback

Without feedback, you don’t know what you are doing right or wrong. When you provide good customer service, you are more likely to get open and honest feedback. Develop online surveys or ask people to provide their opinions in a chat or email or set up a call to go over their experience. No matter the feedback, always communicate with individuals in an understanding and thankful manner. Check out our Getting donor feedback: Q&A blog post for some helpful tips for better connecting with your donors.

When you create efficient customer service you build an atmosphere of warmth and trust; this can move your nonprofit to the next level and maximize the efforts you’re already putting forth. Think about the last time you received amazing customer service. How did that make you feel? That is the feeling we want to give to our donors and recipients all year long.

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Ronald Pruitt

Ronald Pruitt

Ronald is the President and Founder of 4aGoodCause, the fundraising CRM that makes recurring, monthly giving a breeze for small nonprofits.

For over 25 years, Ronald has had the joy of doing what he loves, building online solutions that make a difference in the world. He’s helped raise millions of dollars online for small nonprofits across the country. Connect with Ronald on LinkedIn.

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