Donor Fatigue – Fact or Fiction?

 “Donor fatigue” is when your organization’s donors lose interest in your organization over time, and it is accelerated by asking for donations too often.

 Over time every organization experiences the effect of long-term donors losing interest. This waning interest has more to do with human nature, but how does asking for money come into play? Thing of the work it takes to keep people engaged in a relationship over the longer term, and this is true of any relationship whether it be with a donor, a spouse, an employee or a friend. Relationships need to constantly be refreshed to avoid feeling taken for granted. It’s not necessarily the asking for money that causes donor fatigue, but if the ask is made poorly, it can help accelerate this process.

Monitoring your “asks” and their quality can minimize the donor fatigue effect.  Here are a few ideas with regards to your fundraising process that will improve the quality of your relationships and ultimately the amount of resources raised for your organization.

Don’t Be Desperate

Asking too often, too close together or with no regards for the past donations of an individual can make an organization seem desperate. Yes, you need to raise money to keep the doors open.  However, if your donors think your survival is in question, they may decide to use their resources for endeavors that will be around to bear fruit.  If you have a sudden event calling for immediate help, your base will understand.  However if you are always in immediate need of help, it gives the impression of an organization that is either mismanaged or not one supported by enough people to be successful in its mission.

Year-Round Plan

Plan your donor outreach activities for the year in advance.  Be conscious of how often you’ll be asking, and try to space those asks out logically according to your organization’s calendar.  If you do have asks that fall close together, make sure you have systems in place to either acknowledge that they have recently given or bypass the donor for an ask in that cycle.  Asking your donor for more money shortly after they just gave without acknowledging their recent gift will tell your donor that they are just another email address to be solicited.  You need to have a personal relationship with the donor. Know when they give, how much they give, and factor that into your yearly plan accordingly

Make your Ask Effective

A good ask is more of an art than a science. The ask should clearly show what the funds are going for and what they money will accomplish. An annual operations solicitation is ok, but doing that 4 times per year will get stale.  Instead, have a specific program or need in mind, and let the donor know their money will be accomplishing.  The more they can understand what their money will do, the more likely they will show their support and give donations.

Communicate with Donors When You Don’t need money

Carefully look at your interaction history with your donors.  Do you only reach out to them when you need money or support?  Most organizations do.  Instead, find ways to communicate or engage donors without asking for money.  Some organizations use news letters some use quick email updates.  Here is where you need to be creative.  Have you ever consider sending out a short 1-minute video in an email showing something interesting or heart warming happening at your organization?  Don’t ask for money just let them share in the good that is happening.

Treat your donors with respect and share with them using the avenues that they are most likely to see (snail mail, email, Facebook, etc.). They need to be a complete part of your organization and not just an ATM.

Track your Emails

Get into the details of your email campaigns and look to see who is and isn’t opening your emails.  Its easy to know that someone who has unsubscribed is no longer interested in your communications but what about the larger group that doesn’t unsubscribe but doesn’t even bother to open your emails.  Review these donors and try to determine if you need a better way to communicate with them or if they are possibly growing tired or your organization?  Maybe send them an individualized survey that doesn’t have a mass email look to see if you can solicit feed back on your organization.  You need to re-engage these folks if possible to keep them part of your team.

Donor relations is a never-ending process, and donor fatigue is a real issue that needs to be considered.  Larger organizations have the luxury of dedicating a full-time staff to communicate with, engage, and build up relationships with supporters.  Unfortunately, smaller organizations do not have the same privilege of a dedicated donor relations staff.  It often falls entirely on the Executive Director or key Board Members in small organizations.  Unfortunately, the process is the same for all organizations. Your organization needs to constantly monitor your donor relationship to make sure they are fresh and a benefit to both parties in the relationship.

Author: Dennis Mueller

Dennis Mueller is the founder and managing partner of DonorSnap. Dennis and his wife Kellie founded Malaika Early Learning Center in Milwaukee before discovering the need for good, web-based donor management software. Long story short, DonorSnap was born. Dennis splits his time between DonorSnap, Malaika, and biking.

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