Your Donors Aren’t Fatigued, They’re Just Feeling Unloved

Feb 8, 2017

Donor fatigue, a familiar phrase in the fundraising world, as a concept essentially means that donors (or prospects) get tired or burned out from over-solicitation. While the derivation of the expression may be relatively unknown, it’s typically cited by the higher ups within organizations to compensate for generally poor fundraising. The truth is that everyone on the receiving end of an organization’s appeal gets tired, but not from the solicitation itself but rather the quality of the ask. Within the current fundraising landscape, there are so many techniques and technologies that development professionals can employ to improve their ask, nurture donors, and get those repeat gifts throughout the year. So while Blackbaud’s study states that donors cite the unending ask as the number one reason they stop giving, the truth is that the donors call it quits because you’re not doing the following:

1. Showing enough love

Someone makes a gift to your organization, now what? Perhaps an automatic confirmation of the receipt of an online gift or a relatively boilerplate acknowledgement letter. But is that enough? While a thank-you should be received promptly, it’s important to understand the motivations of your donors to adequately engage them in a way that demonstrates how much they mean to you. This is where stewardship comes into play. Because fundraising is about building relationships and not just cashing checks, you have to establish trust with your donors. Find ways to talk to your donors about the value of their contributions and put them at the center of the story that demonstrates how they’re helping you fulfill your mission and make an impact. Every donor, regardless of gift size, should feel like a hero.

2. Telling them how you spent their money

Transparency is key to maintaining a trusting relationship with your donors, so be sure that your donors have a good understanding of how their money will be used by your organization without having to sift through the pages of your Form 990. Are you giving out grants, and if so what types of projects do these grants support? Is enough money being allocated to program development and administration? And do your programs help fulfill your mission or are they just cool sounding ideas? Get into the habit of “lifting the veil” so that your donors know exactly what they’re supporting. Consider how you can better inform your donors about how their gifts are used throughout the giving process. Consider aligning specific outcomes or actions with each level of your ask string on reply devices or on your donation page. Sometimes it’s difficult for people outside your organization to quantify impact, so allay confusion by being up front with information.

3. Properly valuing the impact of a well written letter

Sometimes organizations put so much emphasis on stunning creative that really solid writing falls by the wayside. While it’s important to make a good impression, that doesn’t negate the ability of a traditional letter to accomplish that. A personal or even handwritten note can provide that individualized experience that is necessary when it comes to nurturing a donor, especially a new donor. Without the distraction of gratuitous visuals, a simple letter provides an opportunity for an organization to demonstrate that they really know and value their donors. For donors with whom you have a years-long relationship with, they’re a chance to make reference to their specific gifts over time or non-monetary contributions to the organization. The point is to show your donors that you know who they are. Highly designed collateral serves a purpose, but there’s a time and place for flashiness. Regardless of the construction of your communication, if it’s poorly written or lacks substance, then your investment in producing such a piece completely goes to waste and who knows how much money you’re leaving on the table with donors as a result?

The Wrap Up

Disjointed and impersonal communications do not help your organization. When things aren’t intentional, contain preventable errors, or address causes that are of no concern to your donor base it reflects poorly on you; it causes your organization to appear troubled and no one pays attention to those organizations. Put the work in and stop being afraid to ask. Donors that feel loved and love you back will give, maybe not every time, but when they’re approached the right way they won’t get tired of hearing from you. Balance your asks with stories of impact and adequate stewardship, and focus on building and maintaining relationships. Fundraising is a two way street, and once this is recognized everyone will arrive at the desired destination.

You Might Also Enjoy:
5 Out of the Box Tactics for Thanking Your Donors
Storytelling Lessons for the New Year: Part One
Keep Communications Afloat: The Battle Against Donor Attrition

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