If donor retention is the #1 goal of every non-profit fundraising campaign, then donor fatigue is the #1 obstacle -- especially for small organizations relying on a limited number of regular donors.
Donor fatigue refers to the inexplicable downtrend in contributions from regular donors. With no other explanation for a reliable donor to stop giving to a charity he may have supported for years, it is presumed that the donor got frustrated or tired of repeated fundraising appeals.
So when your small list of regular donors steadily drops from 1,000 to 250 with no apparent cause, your first thought may be to decrease the frequency of your mailings or donor outreach.
Despite donor fatigue being a heavily discussed and accepted phenomenon in the world of fundraising, many fundraising experts have dubious beliefs not only about what causes it, but whether it might just be a catch-all concept to easily explain away a slump in donations caused by poor fundraising practices.
So forget everything you’ve heard about donor fatigue and over-asking and think about this: what’s the best way to get something that you want?
Your donors can’t read your mind. They don’t know what you need, how often you need it, and what they can do to help your cause unless you ASK. And asking sooner is always better than asking later.
Our ideas about donor fatigue and over-asking are based on feelings, not science. We think of how it feels to pull wads of catalogs and sales flyers and magazines out of our mailbox (“Here. YOU throw this away!”) to get to the one or two letters we are expecting. After a while, we might think that our donors feel the same way about receiving ask after ask.
But the difference between you drowning in pizza coupons and credit offers and your donor receiving weekly fundraising appeals for your charity is your cause -- and a donor who believes in and regularly lends a helping hand to support your cause is rarely going to throw in the towel because you’ve asked for help one too many times.
The truth is it’s never too soon to ask. Ideally, you should send another fundraising letter the day you receive a gift from your donor -- not only will you be able to thank your donor for his generous gift, but it’s another opportunity to make another ask. Your donor is much more likely to make another contribution after being promptly and gratefully acknowledged for his first contribution.
And would your donor remember his $25 or $50 donation in a year? Would waiting several months to acknowledge or remind your donor of his past support keep him inspired and passionate about your cause enough to keep donating? Probably not.
Remember that to your donor, this isn’t about throwing money at this group or this organization -- it’s about being part of a movement and a cause that makes the world better. If your donor truly supports and believes in the work you’re doing -- as they’ve already shown by donating in the past -- they will keep supporting you. In fact, they WANT to keep supporting you.
Have you ever set a budget for gifts at Christmas time only to get to the kids on your list and throw your budget right out the window? Thinking of a bunch of kids falling all over themselves to tear open their mountain of gifts on Christmas morning has sent many a sensible parent over the deep end in the toy store.
Your donors are the same way when it comes to your cause. It doesn’t matter how many asks they receive as long as they see the impact of their support, feel appreciated by your organization, and feel like they’ve helped to make their communities better.