How to Handle an Angry Donor

“One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, ‘David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them.’” (1 Samuel 25:14)

Abigail faced a crisis. David was ticked, rallied his bill collectors, and was fixin’ to make a house call. When Abigail discovered Nabal’s faux pas she jumped into action, gathered many gifts, and rushed to cut off David at the pass before he could cut off Nabal’s head.

This exhilarating story directly applies to ministries who fumble their major donor relationships. “An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city” (Prov. 18:19 NLT). More than one ministry has exasperated a key donor. Sometimes the issues are minor; sometimes they are epic. In either case, you don’t want major donors shaking the dust off their feet and walking away. Consider these six recovery strategies.

Go Immediately
Abigail lost no time because every minute she delayed put her family at risk. “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court” (Matt. 5:25). Don’t lull yourself to sleep by thinking “time will heal all wounds.” When someone is offended you must quickly schedule a face-to-face meeting. Be open and transparent about what happened and how you intend to solve the problem.

Express Humility
Abigail bowed down before David and said, “Pardon your servant, my lord” (1 Sam. 25:24). Genuine humility and repentance promote reconciliation. Abigail wasn’t the one who offended David, but she was the one who took responsibility. You may not have been the one who offended your donor, but as the ministry representative, you must take responsibility.

Speak Truthfully
Donors value truth. Abigail was brutally honest, “Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him.” Don’t use this as a proof text for calling your boss a fool, but if someone in your ministry said or did something inappropriate, face it head on.

Resolve the Conflict
Abigail didn’t just speak words, she acted. All the gifts she brought paid David’s bill for guarding Nabal’s flocks (1 Sam. 25:27). When you have an opportunity to right a wrong, do it even when it costs something. Your ministry will benefit in the long run.

See Your Donor’s Viewpoint
Abigail was shrewd in her comments and reminded David he would regret avenging himself. You can also reason with your offended donor. “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1). Help them see how God can use this situation for his glory.

Seek Reconciliation
Abigail accomplished her mission. David said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request” (1 Sam. 25:35). Abigail wisely reconciled with this future major donor. Take every donor relationship seriously.

Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored three books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising, Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving, and Keep on Asking – Bold, Spirit-Led Fundraising. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for  Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.

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