Tact: On the Importance of Kindness

The Scene: One of Houston’s myriad mattress retailers. [Seriously, why are there so many?] My wife and I, looking for a new guest room mattress. Twenty-something salesperson who couldn’t seem less interested in closing a sale.

SALESPERSON: This mattress is $800.
Us: Okay, we are looking to spend about $600.
SP: Okay, maybe, but I need to call my manager to approve it.
Us: Okay, go for it.
SP: No, I’m not gonna call him unless you definitely buy it. He’s a very busy man.
Us: ……..
SP: ……..

I was flummoxed. As the only people in the store, it seemed odd to put so much effort into losing a sale. That may not have been the intent, but it happened. Imagine if fundraisers did this? Yeah sure we want your major gift, but I’m not gonna connect you with my executive director unless you guarantee you’ll make the donation.

There is something to be said for tact, and common sense and subtlety are so important in the donor (or customer or client) experience. I say it often, this is the field of feel, where nuance and thoughtfulness go very far. You catch more flies with stewardship than you do vinegar. Or something…

To be clear, some nonprofits work this way. Heck, I’ve worked for some of them. And it might just work and it might just be fine. But who really shines by being fine? Especially as it relates to philanthropy, there’s A LOT of competition out there, and we all need to be our best nonprofit selves. [Note: This piece is a few years old, and the focus is a little social media-heavy, though good wisdom is ageless.]

So get out there, nonprofiteers, and sell those mattresses. Or raise awareness of your mission. Whatever, really, just do it graciously. Always and in all ways. Onward!

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