The Goldie Company

Three Tips: How to Deal with Donor Fatigue

October 2013

How does a vigilant fundraiser keep donors energized about the cause rather than exhausted by asks?

Checkout donations in the grocery line. A knapsack full of school-supporting chocolate almonds. An email asking for an online donation for your uncle’s cousin’s girlfriend’s son’s grandma’s indie film.

As these quick bursts of fundraising become more frequent and more visible, it’s easy to see why people get tired of being asked for their money. Charities are facing increasing danger of becoming white noise, so it is the vigilant fundraiser’s tough job to cut through the static and make himself heard.

“People are beginning to feel there are too many charities from which to choose,” says John Russell, executive director of the Campbellford Memorial Hospital Foundation. “While we have a strong donor base that will support the hospital almost every time we ask them, we have to have a strategy, otherwise we risk tiring them out.”

How does Russell achieve a high success rate with his asks? We asked him for tips, and here’s what he suggested.

  1. Be energetic. It seems like obvious advice, but you’d be surprised. Nothing impedes a campaign more than a fundraiser who seems worn out. “Even a little energy goes a long way,” Russell says. “I’m passionate about my hospital. When I share that enthusiasm with our donors, it spreads.” When preparing a campaign, try going internal—start by asking yourself why you would support your cause. What makes you excited about what you’re doing? Build upon that message and, when approaching donors, tell them why you think it’s great.

  2. Be strategic and knowledgeable. “When we’re approaching our donor base for support, we have to be strategic. We have to try to be careful that we’re not asking too often, and we have a good case when we do,” Russell says. A good case for support is the backbone of a successful campaign—when donors ask about where their money will go, nothing can replace a fundraiser who knows the angles of the ask and the cause inside and out.

  3. Keep donors informed. “Donors want to see accountability and they want to be engaged,” Russell says. Posting audited statements and reporting campaign results in newsletters and online is vital. “We also get out and talk with our donors and potential supporters face-to-face,” he adds. Nothing replaces sharing the great achievements made possible with donations.

Fatigue is out there, Russell admits. “If they feel overwhelmed, people may cut back on donations and some of the fringe charities they support when they have the extra dollar.” To keep your core donor audience energized and engaged, it’s important to listen, build solid relationships, and share success stories. Keep the conversation alive and kicking—ask donors why they support your cause, incorporate their feedback, and make your next campaign rise above the competing noise at the checkout.