There’s a lot of chatter about donor fatigue out in the marketplace. So, I thought I would Google it. I asked for the signs that donor fatigue is occurring. Google said:

  • Reduced frequency of donations.
  • Smaller donation amounts.
  • Unresponsiveness to calls, emails, and letters.

I then searched, “What causes donor fatigue?” The answer, from the Catholic Funding Guide:

“When a donor receives repeated requests for money without hearing about the difference their gift makes, they may begin to feel that their gifts do not make a difference and are not appreciated. They may even become desensitized to the real, important needs of your organization.”

Both answers (signs and causes) perfectly align to what Jeff and I, and our team here at Veritus, believe about donor fatigue. But what about that word “fatigue”? What is it that your donor is tired of? Well, it could be the donor is tired of hearing from you all the time. Tired of all the asks without recognition of their past giving. Tired of not being appreciated and acknowledged, etc.

The donor is tired of the way you’re treating them. They’re worn out, and it makes them feel indifferent to your messages. 

But are they tired of your cause? Have they suddenly stopped caring about what you are doing? Probably not. They are just tired of how you are treating them. So, if they’re passionate about animal care and you are an animal rescue organization, they might choose to move away from you and give to another group that does similar work. That happens a lot. I’ve done that myself.

So, it’s not that I am changing what I care about. I am just changing who I work with because I don’t like how I am being treated. 

If, when you are doing your donor analysis – you are doing it, right? – if you are analyzing your donor file and you notice your donor giving less, or giving less frequently, or not giving at all, then ask yourself what you are doing wrong with that donor. Some of the time, the donor’s financial situation has changed. Maybe they’re just not able to give right now, or they can’t give as much as they had been. But that is usually the exception, not the rule. 

They might just be tired of you and your treatment of them. And that is the thing to fix. Here’s how:

  1. Dig into what your donor is passionate about – this is that whole thing we are always talking about. Find that out.
  2. Now, gather information and human and emotional stories that you can send to the donor that tell him his giving has made a tremendous difference.
  3. Then wait 10 days and repeat #2 again, but this time, share a short video from you to the donor that you made on your phone. New info and new human and emotional stories on how the donor’s gift has made a difference. And add a thank you. A big thank you. And mean it!
  4. Then repeat #2 again three to four weeks after you did the YMAD (You Made A Difference) communication in #2.
  5. Then call the donor a week or so after #4 above and thank them again and apologize for not giving them enough information about their giving in the past and that you are going to change that. Ask if there is any information that they need and anything else you could do. Be sincere about this, and do not be in a hurry. Your only objective is to repair that prior poor treatment of this good donor. Also, in this call, ask how the donor wants to receive information on what else needs to be done in their area of interest. Your objective is to find out how to tailor your asks to this person’s unique passions and interests.
  6. Follow all the advice you received in #5 and purpose to be way more proactive and assertive on thanking and telling this donor they made a difference. And then follow up using their preferred method of communication with asks that will be meaningful based on what you know about their passions. 

If you do this right, you will have reset the relationship.

Now, follow the process you have set up with this donor. And always remember that this is a human being who deeply cares about something specific that you are doing – something you have identified and something the donor has confirmed with you.

Now you are set to move into the future with this new relationship. Try this and you will see that fatigue just melt away. It really does work. Not because it’s a manipulation. No. It works because all your actions align to what the donor cares about. And that is what matters.