Preventing Donor Fatigue

It’s the thought that occurs while you lay awake thinking about your latest campaign, “With all of this communications being sent are we wearing out our donors?” The fear of donor fatigue is real, but I believe is misplaced. I think what organizations or fundraisers think is donor fatigue is really irrelevant communication or bad story telling. Donors aren’t tired of supporting causes they care about. More often it’s a failure to excite supporters or talk about what they do in a new way that inspires generosity. A more appropriate description would be “donor apathy” rather than donor fatigue.

So what are the causes of downturns in campaigns or funding? Donor fatigue or donor apathy can be caused by organizations talking about what they do rather than who they help.

An example would be asking donors to give because they did last year, or failing to connect the dots in how a gift will make a difference. So to “fix” this dreaded disease organizations should tell stories about how a person or outcome has been affected in a positive way, which would not have been possible without the donor’s support. When you consistently make the donor the hero they won’t become apathetic to the cause, they will want to know how they can get more involved.

Another way is to report back on the progress that has been made thus far and then cast a vision for what still needs to be accomplished and show donors how they can be a part of that process.

This means moving your communication calendar away from discussing the current month’s holiday and staying focused on connecting with your donors.

I worked with an organization a few years ago that had been trying to connect donors to give to various holidays each month. So, for example, they asked donors to give in May in honor of their mother for Mothers Day. The strategy wasn’t working and income was way off. We led them back to why a donor gave a gift in the first place which was based on the mission of the organization. Once we realigned the communications back to the purpose of the organization, the number of gifts jumped back up. The problem was that the organization was tired of talking about what they do and assumed that donors had grown tired of hearing about it as well, when that was not the case.

The key is to keep changing the narrative. Think of your organization as a diamond, it is your job to show a different facet of the organization each time you communicate with your donors so that the message is new and there are different aspects that a donor can support.

Donors are going to get a lot of different communications from the various organizations they support, so in order to be the most compelling donation, remind donors why they support the organization in the first place, have a goal that you want to reach that aligns with the mission, their passions, and inspire your donors to make a gift.

Remember there is no magic bullet to fundraising. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline to do the fundamentals well. Be consistent in your communication and connect your donors to the end results and you will see the difference it makes.

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