The most common concern shared among all small to mid-sized nonprofits is the issue of donor fatigue, or having your donors lose interest in a cause due to a perceived lack of progress. Donor fatigue can cause your donors to no longer engage with your organization or donate money.
The typical knee-jerk response to donor fatigue is to ask for more donations, but this often increases donor fatigue due to donors having a harder time dealing with solicitation for money from a cause they may no longer believe in.
According to the 2018 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report, “the average donor retention rate in 2017 was 45.5 percent, and the gift or dollar retention rate was 48 percent. Over the last 10 years, donor and gift or dollar retention rates have consistently been weak — averaging below 50 percent.”
Most nonprofits work with very tight budgets, so they can’t afford to ignore donor fatigue and the donors it might claim. Below are four tips on how to be strategic about donor fatigue.
1. A Proper Fundraising Event = An Engaging One
People enjoy going to events – even fu that will capture the attention of your attendees.
Check out this article, which offers some great ideas on fundraising. Holiday parties, game nights, or merchandise and food sales are great ways to raise money without the event feeling like a giant solicitation. If you’re pressed for money, then simply throwing a meet up where people can socialize with one another and meet new people can be an effective way for your attendees to have a good time without breaking the bank trying to entertain them.
Not all of your events have to be fundraising ones either. If you do a mixture of events where only some of them make an ask for donations, this can create a low pressure environment where your donors or attendees can become fully engaged in your organization and in your message. Encourage your attendees to invite friends, which can spread your message to prospects.
Don’t be afraid to give your donors at your events preferential treatment – offer them a VIP table at your dinners, or make other gestures that make them feel special and allow non-donors to look on and feel like they want to be included in the group.
2. Repair The Disconnection To Your Nonprofit’s Message
Donors give money because they want to make a difference in the world. If they’re giving money to your organization without any updates on what is happening to that money, they might feel like they’re just throwing their hard-earned cash into a dark hole. Donors should feel included in the organization’s efforts so they see the real, tangible effects their money has on the organization and ultimately the community.
Does your organization have a newsletter it sends out on a regular basis, which details what your organization has been doing? Only sending asks for money at the end of the year won’t create that relationship between donor and nonprofit that is so important, and nobody likes only hearing from someone when that someone only needs money.
How did your nonprofit make a difference in someone’s life? Share your success stories in blog articles and newsletters so your donors can feel like they’re making a difference in the world. Videos and other visual media are incredibly effective at getting these messages across.
3. Don’t Let Your Donors Disappear Without You Knowing
While you should be tracking the metrics at your fundraising events, when you accept money from donors, you should be tracking their metrics as well to include in your CRM database. This information isn’t just about how much money they’ve given you either. You should be able to track particular goals for each donor, channels through which donors wish to be engaged, as well as create updates about the nonprofit’s impact with custom messages based on donor interests. Check out this article that goes into detail the kind of metrics you can use to track donors.
Tracking in a database that one donor feels a personal connection to the job training program and another feels more of a connection with the housing program can allow that nonprofit to send out more specific updates related to the work that matters most to a particular donor.
It also helps ensure a donor doesn’t unsubscribe from updates when they see a bunch of emails on a program they don’t feel as strongly about.
This is why it’s important you keep track of your donors’ preferences and motivations—if you can target communications to them, you’re less likely to overwhelm them with content that turns them off rather than drawing them in.
Also, make sure you are using proper nonprofit accounting software that lets you do proper reporting for your donations. The easier this process is and the less time you have to dedicate to reporting the money flowing into your organization, the better you can track your donors.
4. Ask Your Departing Donors Why They’re Leaving
Your organization is going to lose some of its donors; this is something you just won’t be able to get around. What you can do to minimize future losses though is to ask, in a courteous and nonintrusive way, why your donors decided to leave. This can provide important information to prevent others from leaving in the future.
Donors who have left will feel valued for having their opinions appreciated, and will leave with a more positive perception of the nonprofit. They may even decide to stay, though don’t invest too much into this outcome, as it may affect how you ask the donor these questions.
Gaining information on why someone experiences donor fatigue can help create positive change in your organization, and prevent others from taking their money to a different nonprofit.
Taking Down Donor Fatigue: Conclusion
You now have the tools to combat the most common causes of donor fatigue. So as a recap, keep these tips in mind if you want to hold onto your recurring donors:
- Make sure your fundraising events are engaging and entertaining, and don’t let them feel like an elaborate ploy to ask people for money.
- Communicate with your donors regularly with messages showing how their money is being spent and stories about how your organization is making a difference.
- Track your donors’ information in a nonprofit CRM system (with a good accounting software to accompany it!).
- Talk to your departing donors about why they’re leaving and make any necessary changes to your organization to reduce further losses.
And remember, one of the primary causes of donor fatigue is asking for donations too frequently. Make sure you’re mixing asks with other content so that you form a relationship with your donors. Your donors are your partners, and they deserve to be treated as such!
Clay Harmon writes content for nonprofits and churches at Aplos Software by day and makes up novel-sized stories by night. When doing neither, his Kindle e-reader is close at hand. Raised at the gateway to Yosemite, he takes occasional trips into the Sierras to get a quick fix for his addiction to mountain air.