Avoid Donor Fatigue by Asking Less Frequently, More Strategically
In these columns I address real-life obstacles and challenges that nonprofits face in creating sustainable funding to deliver their missions and achieve their goals. Readers write via email to receive a quick consultation and perhaps have their particular problems addressed in these columns.
As a thank-you to my readers, from now through the end of the year, I am sending a complimentary copy of my book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising," to the reader whose situation is used in each week's article.
This week I want to address the concerns of the superintendent of a K-12 school who emailed me the other day asking for guidance regarding solicitation. Her challenge, although commonly found in education, also rears its head in multiprogram social-service and youth organizations.
Simply stated, the difficulty she is encountering is the fallout from asking donors too often. With year-end looming, the number of solicitations from various groups within the school accelerates to a mind-numbing total.
Typical of organizations with multiple programs or cost centers, this school has everyone from the art teacher, football booster, and various sundry activities and curriculum groups all reaching out to the same donor base, often at the same time. What she has noticed — and what caused her to write — is a very disturbing trend.
Over the six years she has served as superintendent, she has seen the number of these solicitations grow even as the total raised by the school has slightly declined each year. That's right — actually bring in less overall than the previous year.
Every organization has a fundraising "tipping point." Most never actually reach it, but many find their revenue totals plateauing with miniscule increases from year to year. It's the same demon causing the disruption in either case — donor fatigue.