Posts tagged ‘apology’

July 27, 2018

How to NOT Make a Mistake Worse

There is an adage, first published in The Bankers Magazine (1964) that advises wisely:

If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”

The Law of Holes suggests we should strive to not make bad situations worse through further unhelpful, counter-productive behavior.

Sadly, many people, including nonprofit managers and fundraising professionals, fail to heed that fine advice. Instead, when in a bad situation or when confronted by criticism, many folks make matters worse by reacting defensively, acting helplessly, remaining in denial, criticizing the critic, or ignoring the situation altogether.

Fortunately, many people handle criticism gracefully and, in the process, set a fine example for the rest of us.

Recently, I wrote about my wife’s failed attempt to donate to a local charity. While my wife and I have never supported the organization, we do agree with its mission. Therefore, it was with great interest that I noticed that the charity was hosting a fundraising event with a speaker I wanted to hear. My wife went to the organization’s website to buy tickets. However, due to a website glitch, she was unable to complete the transaction. So, she then called the organization during office hours. Not being able to reach a live person, she left a voice-mail message. No one from the organization returned her call. We ended up not attending the event.

After I posted about my wife’s experience and what fundraisers can learn from it, I sent the organization’s Executive Director an email and a link to my article. I sent the email on Tuesday evening at 7:01 PM. I expected one of two things to happen: 1) I thought I might receive a defensive response the following business day, or 2) I might not receive any reply, ever.

Instead, my guess was happily wrong. That very evening at 7:21 PM, I received a message from the Executive Director. We can learn much from the tone and content of his response:

Dear Michael,

Your email was both upsetting and instructive. I appreciated the spirit of the message and have already begun to think about how to use it to create change and improve. Also I read your blog. I’m curious if you are a professional fundraiser? Either way you and your wife have my apologies for this unfortunate experience. It is clearly our loss when customers and potential friends are turned off. It’s contrary to the purpose of running these events and clearly counter productive.

In addition to my apologies you have my gratitude for bringing this to my attention.

Sincerely,

(name withheld here)”

Here is what we can learn from the email response:

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September 20, 2013

I’m Sorry

Eventually, we will all do something for which we need to apologize. So, it’s essential that we all know the right way to do it.

Unfortunately, one of my readers reminded me recently that many people find it extremely difficult to say simply, “I’m sorry.” She told me about a secular charity that had scheduled an event to be held during Yom Kippur, the holiest holiday for the Jewish people.

Sorry by butupa via FlickrIf the nonprofit organization with the bad scheduling sense was based in North Dakota, there might not have been much of a problem. However, the charity is based in Philadelphia, home to a large and philanthropic Jewish community.

Ironically, the organization’s mission honors an individual who pioneered religious and ethnic tolerance in America.

My reader emailed the charity to alert it to the conflict, to let it know she would not be attending this year despite having attended in the past, and to express her displeasure with the organization’s scheduling decision.

Here is the response my reader received via email:

The choice of this date was not meant to offend anyone or exclude anybody. This event has been held on this weekend since its inception. . . .

[We] apologize for any offense you may take from us scheduling these events on Friday and Saturday.”

Let’s closely examine the message.

Regardless of whether or not the organization intended to cause offense, it did. The scheduling mistake was either a result of outright intent or oblivious carelessness. By excluding an important part of its donor base for this once-a-year event, the charity caused offense.

The nonprofit organization further offended my reader by lying to her in the email response. The charity claims the event has been “held on this weekend since its inception.” However, as someone who has attended the event in the past, my reader knows otherwise. She documented for me that, in recent years, the organization has hosted the event on a variety of different weekends. Even if the organization’s statement were true, it’s still no excuse for failing to consider a different date.

The person who responded to my reader then concluded by apologizing “for any offense you may take.” That’s not an apology! It’s a deflection. With this statement, the organization has not taken responsibility for its actions. Instead, of taking responsibility for causing offense, the charity put the blame on the donor who took offense.

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