Why I love it when supporters complain

TBH LP - Image 4

By Marissa Stewart | Wednesday 05 February 2014

‘So you’re the one who sends out all that junk mail…don’t lots of people complain about all the letters you send?’


The team carefully review and refine the letters we write to our supporters.

These were my mum’s words as I told her excitedly, one year ago, exactly what my new job as Direct Marketing Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK would involve. Eagerly, I assured her that no, what we send isn’t junk mail and that hardly anyone gives negative feedback.

People understand that as a charity we have to find new supporters, as well as ask the people who already support us for more support. And it’s true, we don’t get many complaints as a proportion of the people we write to. As a newbie, I found our low complaint rate reassuring. I hated to think that our carefully crafted campaigns could irritate, or worse, upset people. But it wasn’t until I’d been at Alzheimer’s Research UK a few months that instead of dreading angry letters and phone calls, I really learned to love complaints.

Here’s why:

Sometimes we get it wrong

We’re not perfect at Alzheimer’s Research UK. Sometimes we make mistakes And when we get something wrong, we want to know about it – whether that’s because:

  • We’ve sent you something you didn’t want
  • Our database isn’t up to date
  • You want to know how we got hold of your details.

Without knowing there’s a problem, we can’t do things better next time. And if it’s something we can’t fix, we can explain how and why it’s happened. Complaints are important – they alert us to problems and they help us do things better.

People care

It’s an absolute joy to speak to people who are that passionate about the work we do.

People get in touch because they care. At the end of the day someone only bothers to pick up their pen or the phone and talk to us because what we do matters to them.  They care about what we’re doing, how we are spending the money they’ve generously donated, and most of all, because they really care about defeating dementia. They want us to succeed. And it’s an absolute joy to speak to people who are that passionate about the work we do.

I get to have a conversation with a supporter

I spend most of my working day at my desk, developing appeals that I hope will persuade our generous supporters to open their hearts and wallets to help fund research to find treatments.  And while I love that part of my job, I really relish being able to engage one-on-one with a supporter. Complaints allow me to explain to someone why we do what we do, why we used that picture, why we wrote them that letter, why we have to fundraise. I never get a better chance to tell people why our cause is so urgent, and why their support is so crucial, than when they pick up the phone and complain to us.

I love complaints

So Mum, in answer to your question, yes some people do complain. And isn’t that great?

If you have a comment about our work that you would like to share with us, get in touch! Ring us on 0300 111 5555, tweet us, or drop us an email.

1 Comment

  1. Annie Shaw on 6th February 2014 at 3:31 pm

    It’s refreshing to see that charities are aware of the downsides to ‘spam’ mail as well as the upsides. Personally, I hate to think of money I donate going into publicity materials, although I understand the economics of it as a strategy. Great article!

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

About the author

Marissa Stewart