how to turn mistakes into opportunities (and raise more money)

Mistakes. We all make them. Yes, the feel awful. Yes, the are embarrassing. No, you cannot hide under a rock.

Sadly, I can’t prevent you from making mistakes, but I can help you see the opportunity in them. And there is opportunity.


I hate typos. However, I’ve also made them. I work from a philosophy that done is better than perfect and that we’re all human. Guess what - you, my trusted readers, like that I’m human. I cultivate a friendly and casual tone in my communications and I get great feedback from it. A little typo here and there humanizes me. Your donors want to know that you are not some perfect machine, but that there’s a human on the other end of an ask, or newsletter. A typo isn’t hte end of the world (get that? <<<).

Opportunity for feedback or a conversation

Mistakes can open up opportunity to engage with people. First, apologize. Then, ask for feedback or start a dialogue. Let your donors tell you how you can do it better next time.

We recently sent out a donor survey for an organization and accidentally included their entire email list (a bunch of non-donors). This ended up being hugely advantageous, as we learned from non-donors what it would take to turn them into donors. Brilliant. I wish I could take credit.

You can correct it

This is my favorite. If you can fix a mistake, in a personal and hands-on way, you can turn a mistake into a meaningful and deep relationship. I had a coworker deal with a donor who gave $500 but wasn’t recognized properly. The time she took in trying to fix it and make him happy showed him that we really cared about him, not just his money. That donor made a $250,000 donation the following year, because she had listened to him, build a relationship and treated him well, regardless of the size of his donation.

Mistakes open up the opportunity for organizations to ask their donors what they can do better, and donors always love giving feedback and are impressed when you can handle a mistake well which reflects well on your organization and how you communicate. Mistakes are human, and it is how you handle the mistakes that showcase to your donors that you are committed to improvement and that their support matters.