You’re excited – and so am I. Sometime over the next few days we get to invest five glorious minutes to configure our inbox and voicemail so anyone who tries to email or call our office is kindly informed that we are unplugging for Independence Day. Effectively raising money for a nonprofit organization is hard work and we need, and deserve, some dedicated downtime. However, so does everyone else, even if they aren’t working at your nonprofit.
Too often, the Out-of-Office notification, be it email or voicemail, is a missed opportunity to creatively promote your nonprofit, build or enhance a relationship or advance the donation process through meaningful engagement. Let’s face it, nobody really cares that you will be out of the office, why, or for how long. They care even less that you’ll have “limited access to email,” or that your office “will reopen on July 5, 2016.” The person trying to contact you probably has a question – and the call may even be related to making a gift to your organization. They need, and deserve, an answer – holiday or not.
After all, generosity doesn’t take vacations. Existing and would-be donors may want to provide a credit card number, ask where they can make an online gift, get your mailing address to send their check, or ask a question about donor benefits or tax-deductibility.
With that in mind, consider a proactive, donor-centric approach when creating our OOO messages. Here are three simple ways to make your OOO notification meaningful, memorable and possibly even profitable:
- Connect your greeting directly to your Mission and programs.
Think impact. Explain that you may be out of the office yet your nonprofit continues to make a major impact even when the office isn’t open. For your email OOO message, graphics and tag lines should instantly showcase the impact and value of your nonprofit. Use positive action verbs in your voicemail OOO notification to confirm that a closed office does not mean your nonprofit is taking time off from its vital Mission.
Think about all of the time and energy you invest in trying to thoughtfully engage your donor. When they contact you via phone or email, the opportunity is there even if you’re not. To make it a worthwhile engagement for both the person reaching out to your organization and your nonprofit, use the technology available to share valuable information about your programs and donation process. Convey a similar but abbreviated message as you would in an appeal email or letter.
- Anticipate why an existing or prospective donor needs to connect.
Think FAQ, then efficiently direct them to the information they need to make or fulfill a gift online or via direct mail. Your email OOO message is an opportunity to brand your organization and demonstrate value without writing volumes of irrelevant details. Use relevant or seasonal graphics and links to anticipate the person’s immediate needs while showcasing the impact and value of your nonprofit. Remember donor-centric puts the focus on the OOO notification reader, not on you. And most definitely not on the wonderful details of where you are spending your vacation or with whom or for how long.
For voicemail OOO messages, leverage voice tone and energy to convey attentiveness even in your absence. Yes, smiles do transfer over phone lines. The caller is far more concerned with a resolution to their question than with your official title, 3 alternate contacts, and a litany of phone numbers or extensions. Keep it donor-centric, sincere and high energy while providing actual directions to aid the caller—not send them on a wild goose chase. Be sure to provide details about your nonprofit’s Mission, donation process, and available resources to answer their question without sounding like a directory. After all, your recorded voicemail message is still a dialogue between two people.
- Recognize everyone over weekend “will have limited access…”
If your OOO notification or message can make them smile, laugh or be memorable, you have initiated or enhanced a relationship. If it drones on with meaningless or perfunctory information, you can expect their eyes to roll but you probably can’t rely on their immediate donation. If you love the good your nonprofit does throughout the year, express it in your OOO notifications. Guide them through the online or direct mail giving process and give them access to other vital information they may be looking for. Make certain your website and social media anticipate their needs as well as simplify the donation process. And invite them to share their philanthropy with their social networks.
Everyone on the planet knows that if they’ve reached a voicemail the person they’re calling is unavailable. Don’t state the obvious. Use that valuable time to inspire them with humor related to your nonprofit or the time of year while demonstrating with sincerity that they, and not just their potential gift, are important to you and your organization every single day.