With any fundraising campaign you run, you may run into the occasional donor that’s not so happy about something related to the campaign.

Donor relations is an essential part of running a nonprofit. Maintaining a healthy and positive relationship with your donors is key for donor retention and allows donors to stay engaged with your organization.

However, sometimes that’s easier said than done! When donors are upset, angry, or challenging to work with, it can be really stressful and difficult to navigate those muddy waters.

At Mightycause, we get it! That’s why we have compiled a couple of easy tips to follow when dealing with a disgruntled donor.


1. Listen

This might sound simple, but active listening is so important! Active listening involves listening to not only what is being said, but the vocabulary and tone that is being used. Active listening builds trust and helps defuse the situation.

Before jumping in with a solution, let the donor air out all of their frustrations. Donors are like everyone else! We all have our bad days where we just need to vent and have someone listen!

When you’re on the phone with a donor, mirror their vocabulary and interject with ‘yes’s’ and ‘uh-huh’s’, to signal to them that they are being listened to and supported. When the donor has finished sharing their issue, summarize back to them what you understood: “If I understood you correctly, you (restate what you believe they said), is this correct?” This shows that not only are you listening, but you want to find a solution to their problem.

2. Remain Calm

When a donor is particularly angry and raising their voice at you, de-escalate the call by remaining calm. Do not heighten the issue by raising your voice or getting angry back at the donor. Getting angry can jeopardize your relationship with the donor. By remaining calm the donor can meet you at your level and lower their tone. This is also easier said than done. Remind yourself to BREATHE and know that the donor is not upset at YOU, they are most likely just upset with the issue at hand.

3. Empathize and Apologize

After you have de-escalated the situation, it’s time to apologize. Regardless of who is right and wrong, let the donor know that your organization understands their frustration and are incredibly sorry for that. Be empathetic. We all have our bad days and sometimes we’re angry at the wrong people. Seeing an empathetic attitude is going to help an angry donor express their dissatisfaction in a calm manner.

4. Set Boundaries

This might be difficult for some, but you may have to set some boundaries with your donor. Because donors play such a pivotal a role within a nonprofit, organizations tend to shy away from saying “no” to their donors. If a donor asks or demands something that is not beneficial for your nonprofit or your mission, it’s ok to say “no” and breakdown why. Additionally, in your emails or on your website, share clearly your working hours so that donors are aware when they should expect a response. 

5. Refer to your organization’s mission, guidelines, and policies

As I mentioned above, it’s ok to say “no” to requests or demands that are not beneficial for your organization. However it’s very important to provide reasoning so that the donor can understand your position.

In order to do so, it’s always helpful if your organization has a clear and written out mission and policy that you can refer to. By doing so, you can help breakdown current practices and policies your organization abides by. If you don’t have a mission or policy list created yet, I would highly recommend creating one. This also can be a great resource for new donors that want to learn more about your nonprofit.

6. Contact Mightycause Support for Technical Issues

If a donor is dealing with a technical issue, please feel free to direct them to Mightycause Support. We are here to help! Sometimes a technical issue can be directly related to the donor’s device, web browser, or credit card so it’s always easier if our Support team can directly speak with the donor to figure out the issue. If it’s a sensitive issue and you would prefer to reach out instead of the donor, please make sure send our Support team the donor’s name, email address, and comprehensive breakdown of the technical issue so we can properly assist. The more information, the faster we can get it resolved.

7. Follow Up

This may not be necessary for every donor, but once the issue resolved, follow up with a call or an email to the donor. Check-in to make sure that they feel heard and understood. By following up, you make it clear that you truly care about their experience and are willing to help with any further issues they may have. Donors are more likely to give again if their last experience with your nonprofit was friendly and positive.


Donor relationships can sometimes be difficult to maneuver. They are an essential part of fundraising and impacts the success of a nonprofit. We hope this list was helpful in guiding you on how to deal with those difficult situations.

If you have any of your donors have any questions or need support, please feel free to contact Mightycause Support.

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