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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Recurring Donors: Why you need them and how to get them

Capital Campaigns: Fundraising Strategy for Nonprofits

 

Recurring Donors: Why you need them and how to get them

recurring donor

Salesforce and NextAfter hosted a webinar about the benefits of Recurring Donors. These donors can be a source of great value to nonprofits over time.

Recurring Donors vs. One-Time Donors

The 2018 Benchmark Report presented by NextAfter revealed interesting differences between the two groups. Recurring Donors are worth 5.4% more than One-Time Donors over their lifetime. In fact, in a single year, Recurring Donors give 42% more than One-Time donors. The longer the measurement period, the greater the gap in donations between them.

Your Recurring Donors are most likely those that donate monthly. Some organizations call them members as regular contributions are like a subscription.

Recurring Donors are more likely to stay engaged with you beyond their first year. This means you can expect to build a long-term relationship with them.

Why You Should Invest in Acquiring and Converting Recurring Donors

LTV is the most important metric in fundraising. Yet, it can be overshadowed by the value of a single donation.

According to NextAfter, LTV = amount given x time they keep giving

Development teams dedicate fewer resources to Recurring Donors. This is in spite of the fact that they generate a higher LTV.  The long-term relationship with a Recurring Donor makes planning and forecasting more predictable. Thus, your investment towards Recurring Donors should match the value generated by them.

More Recurring Donors in your database means greater savings. The longevity of their engagement means that you don’t have to keep spending on acquiring new donors. One-Time Donors usually cost more to convert as you have to do it many times over.

Additionally, studies have shown that nonprofits benefit the most from donations in installments. These are more valuable than upfront payments or waiting to accumulate larger sums.

From the donor’s point of view, it can be beneficial in two ways. Firstly, frequent giving lengthens the satisfaction received from the act. Research has shown that higher value contributions don’t always make for greater satisfaction. Secondly, there has been an overtaking of subscription models such as Netflix, Zipcar, etc.  Consumers are used to regular payments going out in smaller installments that seem less burdensome.

This means you can leverage this mutually beneficial arrangement. You can receive predictable payments in installments and provide greater satisfaction in exchange.

What to do Next

WealthEngine solutions help you find Recurring Donors from your database. We understand a person’s capacity to give, as well as propensity and intent. Our Wealth Intelligence comes from wealth data combined with demographics, lifestyle attributes, and affinities. This means you can see what causes your prospects support and how they support them.

WE Analyze can, in fact, help you examine your current Recurring Donors to identify patterns of traits. You can then create a custom model from these patterns. Further, the model helps you find more members using our Look-Alike tool.  This means your existing Recurring Donors can help you find new ones.

How to Acquire or Convert Prospects into Recurring Donors

A Recurring Donor is likely to stay with you if they remain engaged with your organization. The Benchmark Report has found that 38% of nonprofits have the same strategy for Recurring Donors and One-Time Donors. It pays to have a dedicated strategy and dedicated resources for Recurring Donors. Moreover, it is beneficial to have a separate value proposition for Recurring Donors.

You should pair a strong value proposition with a strong CTA (call-to-action). For instance, research has shown that “donate” is the most effective button to have on your website.  Recurring Donors should be able to understand how their contributions make a greater impact on your cause.

NextAfter says that there are other, universal best practices to consider:

  • Optimize your donation form so that it is short
  • Accept several forms of payment
  • Use multiple channels to communicate your message
  • Ask all new donors to become members. The momentum can push them to continue giving
  • Remind existing donors to sign up for a membership. This works even though it may seem counterintuitive

Customize Communication for Recurring Donors

Messaging should be more focused on cultivation rather than solicitation.

WealthEngine solutions can help you with this. We can help you keep existing donors engaged and convert them in real-time through our API. WealthEngine’s API allows you to feature on the spot messaging when a current donor engages with your channel. What’s more, the API integrates with Salesforce. This means you can cultivate Recurring Donors without added investments in technical infrastructure.

Learn More

Learn more about how you can convert your one-time donors into members. Fill the form on the right and a WealthEngine rep will contact you very soon.

Further Reading

WealthEngine Aware

How to Calculate Donor Lifetime Value to Predict Future Donations

Keeping in Touch with Your Donors

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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.

Why Do Donors Give? Eight Ways to Communicate the Right Messages to Your Donors

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As the end of the year approaches and the giving season ramps up, donors find themselves giving more to their favorite charities. As Giving USA reports, charitable giving continues to rise, in part because of growth in several key economic factors, including: personal consumption, personal income, disposable personal income, GDP, and corporate pre-tax profits.

This information can help your organization better target your prospects as the year comes to an end. Proactively identifying and understanding the prospects in your organization’s constituent file can help you craft the right message for all of your prospects. Look for those who have given gifts of appreciated stock in the past, those who have donated larger gifts, those with higher salaries, or those with a higher net worth. If you don’t know who in your file meets these criterion, WealthEngine offers tools and services to let you easily sift through and identify your prospects.

Once you’ve identified the donors in your database who may be ready to give, think about what motivates them. Donors are moved to give by more than just extra income and tax incentives. Donors give to:

  1. Causes that align with their philanthropic goals
    Make sure your communications make clear who you are and outlines your mission.

  2. Causes whose stories resonate with them in a personal and emotional way
    Stories of people impacted by your nonprofit or first-hand witnesses to your nonprofit’s impact are winners.

  3. Organizations they respect and trust
    There are several sites that rate charities. If you have their seal of approval, display it. Testimonials from well-known members in your community also inspire trust.

  4. People they respect and trust
    Make sure your board members, and high level staff, are listed prominently on your website and other communications.

  5. Organizations they believe are having a high impact and are effective in addressing their mission
    Make sure you quantify, to the fullest extent possible, the impact you are having in your field of endeavor.

  6. Organizations that ask for gifts to further their mission
    Make sure to ask for gifts for a mission that the donor wants to give to; mission, not overhead!

  7. Charities that make giving easy by providing multiple ways to give and who send messages via multiple channels
    Make giving as easy as possible, with fewer “clicks,” and streamlined response vehicles.

  8. Charities that make donors feel appreciated and glad they contributed
    Stewardship may be the most important factor of all.  Don’t let any of your donors lapse because you didn’t thank them.  Appreciation is essential.

If your nonprofit is looking to maximize year-end giving, it’s not too late to craft messages that resonate with your supporters and prospects. Target those whose incomes have likely risen due to economic growth, and appeal to both their emotional and rational selves.

For more on data-driven campaigns, download our workbook: Data-Driven Major Gift Campaigns Workbook.

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

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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.