The Reality of Donor Fatigue and Strategies to Overcome It
As a nonprofit leader, have you noticed that donor fatigue is increasing within your organization? If not, you're fortunate. Since the pandemic, social norms have changed, and there seems to be an overall weariness — including by donors. Donor fatigue is a real phenomenon, and it occurs when supporters just get tired and pull back on their giving. Let’s explore donor fatigue and how fundraisers can overcome it.
Understanding Donor Fatigue
It wasn’t too long ago when good fundraising suggested nonprofits should repeatedly email and communicate with their donors every month. Remarkably, email is still a top method for marketing a brand. I don’t know about you, but my email inbox is overflowing, and many people just take a second or two to read an email and move on. Let's dig into understanding why donor fatigue exists some more.
1. Too Many Requests
When email was about all that donors had to contend with in the digital world, it was one thing. But once social media came into the picture — and now the speed at which information is shared and at the volume it's shared — it's simply too much. People are tired of the daily firehose of information. So, if your nonprofit is pitching the need for money each week to donors, the chances are that you're contributing to the sense of overwhelm they feel.
2. Targeting the Same Donors — Repeatedly
Another reason donor fatigue exists is because the most loyal donors are getting targeted repeatedly. The fact is that many fundraisers look at a gift as a reason to ask again. The reality is that when donors are asked constantly to save the day, it's tiring. Moreover, many nonprofits don't use the personal touch and customization that tech platforms can offer them to make an appeal much more meaningful to supporters.
3. Emotional Burnout
Has your fundraising team fallen into the fundraising trap that causes them to send emotional appeals that always ask for urgent support with no resolution or win in sight? If so, don't worry. You're not the only one. Unfortunately, many nonprofits continually appeal to donors with the urgency of giving now. These repeated asks lead to emotional burnout if there's never a fix or a win. And it's one of the reasons why demonstrating positive metrics is so important.
4. Lack of Transparency
Many nonprofits say they’re doing great things, but there’s little in the way of transparency to build on donor trust, which lowers engagement. Again, solid metrics and demonstrating impact are key to transparency. But so are the financials of your nonprofit, board governance and policies. We live at a time where there’s a lot less trust in the institutions of the past — including nonprofits. In short, donors need verifiable proof that nonprofits are doing the right thing.
Quick Tips for Overcoming Nonprofit Donor Fatigue
Again, donor fatigue is a real thing. As you can see, the public, which doesn't believe a lot of what's in front of them, drives that. In fact, you can no longer believe your eyes. As we know, it used to be that you could believe what you see, but that's no longer true. All of this leads to distrust, disenchantment and ultimately donor fatigue — and even annoyance if organizations seem to be bugging donors with appeals. What to do?
1. Diversify Your Income Stream
If you’ve been in the nonprofit sector for a while, then you know the wisdom of diversifying your income stream. But are you doing it? You need to supercharge your fundraising by innovating new ways to raise funds. Ask yourself if you’ve looked into new income streams, like planned giving, nonprofit fundraising partnerships and new ways to raise funds that your organization hasn’t tried yet Want to beat donor fatigue? Change up the script.
2. Tailor Your Message to Individuals and Not Segments
Messaging everyone in the same way is very yesterday. Think of it this way: Would you like to see messages from your favorite cause about a program that doesn't interest you or would you prefer to see messaging based on your preferences? Of course, you'd choose the latter. Fortunately, you could lean into technology and get messaging and communication explicitly tailored to individuals instead of broad segments.
3. Build a Real Community
Everyone speaks about community-building, but in this fractured world where donor preferences are all over the place, it's hard to build a real community. So, think about going old school. What's one common thing regarding your mission that you could gather people around? For example, a health nonprofit might motivate a community of people to join the organization on fitness and health. Then, along the way, let that community know about your work? By offering a genuine community, you can re-engage donors.
4. Promote Sustainable Giving and Make Fewer Asks
A great way to mitigate donor fatigue is to shift as many of your donors as possible into monthly or quarterly automated giving models. Create a campaign to get people to select the right subscription donation program for them. Once you do that, move them off your appeal list and steward them instead. This approach is a win for them because they get to hear about the impact — not continual requests for money — and you get reliable sustaining income.
5. Emphasize Transparency and Impact
Be transparent and show the impact your nonprofit is making in success stories, 990 reporting, as well as concrete data and info. Again, thanks to general distrust and tech, like deepfake technology, distrust is now the default position of many people. That means that nonprofits that lead with transparency about their organization will be better positioned to get the continued support of donors.
Donor fatigue is the real deal. With the daily firehose of stuff people get exposed to, constant requests for giving and general distrust, it's easy for nonprofit donors to fall into a malaise. But here's the deal: People need hope.
As a nonprofit, your organization is well-positioned to provide hope — not only to the people you serve — but also to your donors. So, if you feel or hear from your donors that they're tired or need a break from giving, take it seriously and then reset your fundraising efforts.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Related story: How to Respond to Donors’ Resistance to Your Ask
Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Funds2Orgs, a social enterprise that helps nonprofits, schools, churches, civic groups, individuals and others raise funds, while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations and the environment.
You can learn more about Wayne and obtain free resources, including his books on his blog, Not Your Father’s Charity.