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

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

June 24, 2019

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.

sample of data visualization provided by wealth engine

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.

picture of mathematical equations

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 realtionship mapping diagram

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.

Request Demo

Learn More

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

Capital Campaigns: Fundraising Strategy for Nonprofits


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