A great deal of volunteer departments rely on the donations they receive throughout the year to supplement their operations. Whether it is through a pancake breakfast, a chicken barbecue, a letter asking for a donation, or some other means – it is imperative that you know your customer.
Simply being the fire department is no longer enough to assure that you are going to get a donation. Yes, there are still some that blindly support their local fire department, and we are all thankful for them. However, to ensure that you receive the most for your efforts you need to take the time to know your customer.
With today’s technology it is pretty easy to set-up a spreadsheet or a data base so you can track the activity and generosity of your customers. You should also track your interaction with them throughout the year. Yes, you should be communicating with your customers at least quarterly. This can be done through a news letter, open houses, public demonstrations, as well as other methods.
The key is that the people you serve should hear from you more than once a year when you have your hand out. Anything less and you will be perceived as that deadbeat relative that is always looking for a handout.
How many of us receive letters that are addressed to someone or current resident? I mean really! I cannot imagine doing business or donating to someone who cannot even take the time to know who they are sending their letters to. If I am as important as they imply in their letter then the least they can do is know where I live.
An example of this is a letter I received today from a local car dealership. The letter goes on to say how important of a customer I am to them (I haven’t bought anything from them in over 10yrs) how they are having this special event that will not be offered to the general public. They tell me how they have a high demand for used vehicles and desperately need my 2001 Bonneville, a car I haven’t had since 2009.
I asked myself, “Do these people have any clue how turned off this makes me?” I mean really, I am so special that they don’t even know what I drive – Monroe is after all a pretty small town. Then I began to wonder, we recently sent out letters asking people to attend our annual pancake breakfast or send a donation. I wonder how many people were thinking similar thoughts about us.
On the upside we certainly have much more interaction with our customers than this particular car dealer but there is always room for improvement. Ask yourself, “How well do you know your customers?” If you don’t take the time to know them, don’t expect them to take the time to know and support you.

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