Identify & Combat Donor Fatigue to Build Long-Term Donor Relationships

donor fatigue

Ever wondered if Donor Fatigue is real? Spoiler alert: the answer is yes! In fact,  it can majorly obstruct the development of long-term relationships. Every nonprofit advancement team aims to create long-term engagement among donors. Engagement that sets donors on the path to major gifts, recurring donations, or even planned giving. In any long-term strategy, nonprofits have to be able to identify this phenomenon.

To that end, let’s analyze what it is and how you can combat it.

What is Donor Fatigue?

Donor fatigue is a phenomenon where your donors may gradually stop giving to your organization. They may also stop giving altogether. This may be due to a feeling of indifference or desensitization caused by too many asks.

Although the loss of connection may be temporary, if you don’t take the right steps, you may end up losing a valued donor forever.

The first step is to identify the causes of this phenomenon.

Top 6 Causes of Donor Fatigue

Donor fatigue results in desensitization or a feeling of being tapped out among your donor base. One or more of the following 6 factors can cause this:

1. Too Many Requests

One of the primary causes of donor loss through fatigue is receiving too many fundraising requests. Nonprofits believe in donor retention. Past behavior is usually a great indicator, so the instinct is to ask again.

When donors have already donated to your cause, and they continue to receive requests, they may begin to feel tapped out.

2. Poor Understanding of Propensity and Interests

Understanding donor propensity and interests should be one of the primary steps in your prospect research plan. For instance, a donor may have contributed to a disaster relief fund. This is an indicator that they are interested in humanitarian aid. However, it is best to proceed while being better informed.

They may have been inclined to give to that disaster because of the affected area. If they have lived in the affected area before and still know people that live there, that may have served as a motivator.

3. Generic Asks

Like poor understanding, sending generic asks can cause irreparable damage to the donor relationship. Asks can be generic in many ways. The actual cause may not be the right fit. Further, the ask can be a mismatch with donor capacity.

Even your chosen medium or message appear generic when you do not personalize communications.

4. Ill-Timed Asks

Your request’s timing can be a mismatch just as the medium or nature of the ask can be.

Recency is an issue: when you send requests soon after a donor gives, fatigue can set in. Furthermore, life stages are constantly changing. If your donors are paying college tuition or medical bills for family members, they might be less inclined to make a contribution.

5.  A False Sense of Urgency

When natural disasters occur, nonprofits send messages with a sense of urgency. This is expected.  However, over time, receiving such messages dilute the impact of your ask on donors.

Donors will feel less inclined to give if the actions required by them seem cumbersome.

6. Lack of Transparency in Communication

Another cause of donor fatigue is ambiguity. Sometimes messages do not clearly communicate the purpose and the impact of donations. In these instances, the lack of transparency hinders long-term relationship building.

Solutions to Combat Donor Fatigue

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid this phenomenon. Understanding your donor base and personalizing your outreach is paramount.

1. Regular Screenings

To understand your donors well, you need a holistic view of them. This means you have to look beyond their wealth. Wealth screening can show you your donor demographics, lifestyle, interests, and affinities.

Further, when you screen regularly, you can ensure that you are keeping up with important changes in donor wealth and life stages. This means that your asks are based not only gift capacity but also interest and inclination.

Brian Bishop, Director of Development at TurningPoint Ministries has said,

“(Screening)… allowed us to shift from relying solely on capacity-driven prospecting to become much more inclination-driven. Unless you’re paying attention and using a tool like WealthEngine, you’re going to miss people”

Therefore, regular screenings mean that you don’t overlook donors who are ready to give. Moreover, you don’t induce disinterest through ill-timed or generic asks.

You can automate your screening process through API integration. This way, every time a donor comes into contact with a touchpoint, screening data on them can be refreshed.

2. Donor Segmentation

Segmentation can also help you combat donor fatigue. Use a wealth score such as the P2G Score. This score can help you measure not only propensity but also capacity.

An understanding of propensity and capacity can help you segment donors into lists for your annual fund, major gift program and other types of fundraising.

When you approach the right donors for the right programs, results can be vastly different. For instance, a WealthEngine client found that asking for an extra $50 to their top 1% would generate $200,000 more in a year. That’s $1M in 5 yrs!

3. Actionable Insights

Your screening data can provide valuable insights. Analyze this data to find macro patterns in your donor base. For example, you may find that all your major gift donors share 4 common traits. They all live within 50 miles of your organization, they are all over 50, they all own luxury cars, and are all interested in reading.

These patterns can help you in two ways. First, they can give you a deeper understanding of what makes your donors respond. When you communicate in a way that resonates, there is less room for donor fatigue to set in. Second, when you know what kind of donors are likely to give major gifts, you can find more like them and retain them in the long run.

4. Modeling

You can take your insights a step further through modeling. Modeling uses machine learning technology. You can create a custom model that answers a specific question at your nonprofit.

In this instance, you can create a model for early detection of donor fatigue signs. This can help you adjust your strategy with donors who are at risk. For example, your model can assign a high score to anyone who has recently donated to your cause.

This score will indicate that they should not receive any more requests in the near future. By doing this, you avoid frequency and recency issues that result in non-responsiveness.

4. Personalization

When you have segmented your donors and identified those at risk, your engagement strategy can become much more personalized. Personalization can extend to your message, the medium, and frequency.

Using results from your analysis and modeling, you can identify exactly what makes a donor respond. A response means they are interested and engaged. For instance, you can find that some donors don’t mind up to 3 emails a month, but they won’t open emails about organizational news.

These learnings help you tailor your outreach in a way that donors are not put at risk.

5. Authenticity

Personalization drives a connection with your donors. However, it goes beyond addressing them by name in emails. Authenticity is a major factor when it comes to communications. When donors understand where their dollars have made an impact and where they have made a genuine difference, engagement levels are much higher.

When personalizing communication, it is important that the tailoring goes beyond cosmetic aspects. This means using urgency only when appropriate. It also means using a tone of voice that is reflective of your organization’s culture.

6. Donor Involvement

Another key method to maintain interest is to actually involve donors in the activity at your organization. You can seek their advice on projects or fundraising programs.

Furthermore, you can also tap into their inner circle to find their close connections. Donors can help make introductions to their contacts. These contacts, in turn, could become board members or donors themselves. When donors are involved and their counsel is sought, they feel a deeper connection with your organization. This connection is strengthened so they maintain a long-term association with you.

inner circle

How WealthEngine9 Supercharges Your Long-Term Strategy

WealthEngine9 or WE9, our newest release, is transforming the fundraising landscape. Explore how our Engagement Science™ speeds up the way you screen, analyze, find insights and predict outcomes through modeling.

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Learn More

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Keeping in Touch with Your Donors


In times of higher costs and shrinking donor prospects, it’s extremely important to manage your current donor relationships. Your best donors are your current donors. That’s not to say you should let your prospecting go. Instead, it means you need to maintain a high-touch approach with your current donors, while you are out prospecting for new donors. Don’t fall into the common trap of thinking that a regular donor will always be there for you.

How to Keep in Touch

You need a plan. This plan is a nurturing and promotion plan. You want to retain your current donors and encourage them to increase their gifts. You also want them to network on your behalf.

In today’s age of global communications, there are many channels for use to keep in touch. Your organization should use all of them (unless someone has opted out of a particular mode): social media, events, emails, annual funds, newsletters, etc.

But… don’t overdo it. You want to keep a donor interested; you don’t want to end up deleted before read or marked as spam. Keep in mind – most of these communications should not be asks. That’s right. Timing is everything. If you ask your donor at every chance, it dilutes their interest. You want your donors excited about your work.

If a donor, no matter their level of giving, asks a question or makes a suggestion, have someone from staff personally reach out to address their concern. Your donors will feel closer to your organization. Think about how much you appreciate an actual person on the phone in this age of computer response. Your donors feel the same way.

A Personal Touch

Rather than a one-size fits all, consider a multi-class approach. You want your donors to continue to give to your organization. You also want a donor, when they are able, to increase their gift. This can be a simple process, by grouping your donors by Low, Middle, High and having a development plan for each class of donor.

Be truly donor-centered. If you treat people, no matter their level of giving, as an integral part of your mission, they will respond in kind.

For more ways to manage your donors and increase their gifts check out Growing Individual Gifts: An Analytic Approach to Data-Driven Success.

Three Keys to Creating a Sustainable Fundraising Program: Planning to Excel


WealthEngine works with nonprofits across the spectrum, from the largest universities, hospitals, and international aid organizations to local and regional arts and social service agencies.  Many of those who reach out to us are startups who have a passion, a vision and willing hands, but lack fundraising expertise and have few or no resources to hire trained staff members. In this three part blog series we offer three keys to help make your fundraising program more sustainable.

Welcome back to the final part of our 3-part series on creating a sustainable fundraising program. We started with discussing board members and their impact on fundraising in our first post, Who’s on Board? Last week, we covered fundraising lists in Your Most Valuable Asset

As you grow your list, it is important to have a communication plan in place to maintain with these new and prospective donors.  There is no point in collecting names unless you have a solid plan to steward your donors and cultivate your prospects.  This is, by no means a full plan, but instead a starting point for the board to develop a working plan:

  • Stewardship – When a donation is received it should be acknowledged as soon as possible – industry standard would suggest within 48 hours.  Any sizable donations could be acknowledged with a thank you phone call from a board member and a written note. Donors want to know how their donation is helping, so be sure your acknowledgement cites how the donation will be used.  Later communications should assure the donor that the donation was indeed used in that way. Sharing results goes a long way.  
  • Communications – Donors like to be kept in the loop and consistent communications are a best practice.  Some communications may be appeals for additional support or to upgrade support, and others should be educational or informational.  I would recommend no fewer than 6-8 communications per year, with 4 being appeals for support.  You may give people an opportunity to say they only want one appeal per year, and honor that.  You may also suppress individuals from appeals depending on what their response has been. Asking for multiple gifts in one year is a best practice, however, and increases the likelihood that you will retain that donor the second year.
  • Recurring Gifts – Make it a priority to upgrade donors to recurring giving.  These “sustainers” are a source of steady support that is easily renewed. Telephone is a good method for converting one-time donors to sustaining donors, although if you have limited staff and volunteer time, you may make this one of your written appeals.
  • Diversification of Communication Channels and Consistency of Message – Use a combination of media to communicate, including direct mail, telephone, email and social media.  If you have sent a direct mail appeal, amplify it with the same theme, ask, and story on social media, through email, and on your website.
  • Collect Information – Determine the key pieces of contact information that you need to collect, and make every communication a chance for the recipient to provide more of it. Response slips should have blank spaces for name, address, telephone, and email. Landing pages on the website should also allow (but not require) individuals to provide more information.

These are a few rules of thumb to consider when planning your annual activities, but you and your board should spend a working session planning a yearly communications calendar to include mailings and other appeals, newsletters, blog posts, special events, invitations, and more.  You can use this Activities Calendar template for your planning session.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this 3-part series on how to create a sustainable fundraising program.  While these ideas are industry best practices and tried and true methods, every nonprofit and every nonprofit board is unique.  WealthEngine consultants have decades of experience working with nonprofits of all types, and can easily do a Quick Audit for your organization.  This two-day process will result in an affordable and actionable plan to guide you towards sustained, consistent fundraising revenue.  

Do you have a story to share about creating a sustainable fundraising program? Share in the comments below.




3 Keys for Creating a Sustainable Fundraising Program: Your Most Valuable Asset


WealthEngine works with nonprofits across the spectrum, from the largest universities, hospitals, and international aid organizations to local and regional arts and social service agencies.  Many of those who reach out to us are startups who have a passion, a vision and willing hands, but lack fundraising expertise and have few or no resources to hire trained staff members. In this three part blog series we offer three keys to help make your fundraising program more sustainable.

Welcome to the second of our 3-part series on creating a sustainable fundraising program. In last week’s blog post, Who’s on Board? we addressed the impact board members can have on fundraising.  While addressing board expansion is critical to future success, there are other considerations of nonprofit governance and fundraising for a young board to consider when developing plans to expand or develop a sustainable organization.  This post will focus on one of the most important considerations, which also happens to be your most valuable asset – your fundraising list.

Some organizations have a natural constituency ideal for fundraising.  Colleges and universities have alumni, theaters have ticket buyers, and hospitals have patients.  However, many nonprofits fill niches in our social fabric that serve many that don’t have a large, affluent natural constituency.  For these organizations, the need to build a strong house list for fundraising purposes is critical.  Without a list of donors and a consistent inflow of unrestricted dollars, they will not be able to achieve a sustainable source of monthly giving.  

In today’s digital world, there are two important channels in which to grow your list:

Website:  Your website is the hub of all your activity. The majority of your outreach will drive individuals to visit your website. Therefore, it must have the ability to capture attention, make a good impression, and most importantly, capture information from your visitors so you can communicate with them in some way.

Some ideas for website optimization could include:

  • Add a ‘Donate’ or button to each page and make sure it’s easily found to increase list signup and donations.
  • Capture email signups on each page of your site; add an offer to each of these links to increase the likelihood that people convert.
  • Create premium gated content, such as a white paper or e-book, on your site that gives more information about your cause, clients, or success stories. Collect email addresses to allow users to download.

Do you notice a theme here? You are including calls to action throughout your website to make it easy to capture information. Don’t make your visitors search around on your website to donate or subscribe to your content. Your website should be easy to navigate so visitors can find what they are looking for in as few clicks as possible. After all, you’re looking to gain advocates – not lose them!

Social Media:  Using social channels is a great way to build community. Some options include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and many more. While the channels may differ, your strategy should be similar. The posts and content that you share should invite dialogue and feedback. Including calls to action in your posts to drive people to your website to capture names and addresses will be a good way to potentially increase your list. 

Examples posts could include: 

  • Do you think it’s harder to be a teen today than in the past? Why or why not?  Do you have a story to share?  How did you find your way out of a difficult situation?
  • Have you or a friend or loved one been in need of family services only to be told “there’s a two week waiting list,” or “We don’t have room?”.  What services do you think our area is lacking?  How would you address those needs if you could?
  • Did you know: One in ten teens in our area lives in fear of abuse from a parent or guardian? Find out more (link to your website)
  • We’re filling a gap in mental health services in our community.  If you believe that every teen deserves the chance to find peace and faith in a safe, secure and professionally run home, join our mailing list to receive updates and opportunities to become involved.
  • How does a house become a home? LOVE.  Follow along as we transform House of Hope into a home for troubled teens.  Visit our website for photos and progress updates!

Use images wisely throughout your social posts. While text contains the content that your visitors will engage with, pictures help draw them in and get your initial clicks.

Web and Social tactics aren’t the only ways to build a list. There are some other things you can do to increase the size of your audience: 

  • Your board members can contribute. They may include some of their personal contacts, but the purpose is to build your major program/prospect list. 
  • Events can be an excellent way to get attention for your mission and cause. They can also work to grow your list and bring in substantial funds as well. At your events, think of mechanisms that will allow you to collect the names and addresses (email or physical) such as ticket purchases or sign-ups for a giveaway/raffle.  
  • Partnerships with organizations that have complementary missions, civic groups, or corporate sponsors can help provide additional names to your list. In addition, you could also obtain budgetary support, speaking opportunities to share your story directly with their members of employees, volunteers, or advocates for the mission within the larger community.
  • WealthEngine has a unique prospecting tool called WE Prospect. You can build a custom audience with criteria such as geography, net worth, charitable interests, and more. Check out this exceptional list-building tool.

Finally, you should define what you think your “perfect” supporter looks like.  Are there different types? Can you develop several personas to help describe the audience you want to reach?  This could help as you write fundraising letters or newsletter articles, and also as you develop ideas for special events, advertising, and other list-building activities. Discover how to create personas in five simple steps. 

Building a solid list of supporters and potential supporters is essential for any nonprofit.  In fact, many would argue that your list is your most valuable asset. But building a list without having a plan in place to communicate with your new friends, steward them, and involve and educate them is a wasted effort.  

Do you have a story to share about how you’ve grown your list? Share in the comments below.

Tune in next week for the final post in our series, Planning to Excel. We will share the tools you need to develop a solid donor communications plan.





Give More Together


Here’s a guest post from our friends at Eventbrite.  They are offering nonprofits a pretty cool incentive to engage constituents in a #GivingTuesday promotion.  Read on to learn how Give More Together can help your nonprofit raise funds and awareness.

We’re continually amazed by the diversity of causes that nonprofit events support.  From therapeutic horseback riding to environmentally sound landscaping, many specific needs would otherwise go unaddressed without the care of a nonprofit.

In case you’re not familiar, #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving back following Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.  Last year, thousands of nonprofits mobilized on #GivingTuesday to fundraise and generate awareness.

This #GivingTuesday, we’re launching Give More Together to thank nonprofits — and help drive even more dollars to their cause.  Any nonprofit who creates a #GivingTuesday week event (12/1 – 12/6) through Give More Together will be able to sell fundraising tickets free of event fees, as well as receive the opportunity to win technology from our partners that will help them hold events even more easily and effectively.

Here’s a look at some of the amazing giveaways participants will be able to receive:

  • Branded mobile event app by DoubleDutch, allowing you to engage attendees in a private social network for your event. (1 winner)
  • Email marketing with Mad Mimi, giving you the ability to create beautiful email invitations for your events, with built-in analytics and list management (5 winners)
  • Custom surveys with SurveyMonkey, granting you the capability to easily collect unlimited event feedback or donor research with the SurveyMonkey Select Annual plan (5 winners)
  • A Full-service Tweetwall for your next event, helping to engage your audience AT your event with real-time displays of your hashtag and social leaderboards (5 winners)  

Eventbrite has ticketed over 75,000 nonprofit events worldwide.  Through this initiative, we hope to enable more nonprofits to easily fundraise through live events, with an easy-to-use ticketing and registration solution.

Are you a nonprofit, or know a nonprofit fundraising for #GivingTuesday?  Sign up or share Give More Together! To see more, click here