How to Avoid Donor Fatigue in 2024

January 29, 2024
5 minutes

There's no doubt about it; 2024 is going to try us. We're looking at elections worldwide, war thisclose from breaking out (oop, there it goes...), environmental catastrophes hitting every corner of the globe, and rising costs of living that everyone is feeling. 

And make no mistake; your donor base is going to be feeling pinched every time they get yet another ask for yet another urgent cause. So let's work the problem together. 

What is an example of donor fatigue?

Some examples of donor fatigue are aggressive appeals, fundraising campaigns that run into one another, multiple nonprofits clamoring for donor dollars, and an ongoing false sense of urgency.

All of these forms of donor fatigue result in your donors disengaging with your nonprofit and decreasing their giving. 

Donor fatigue can be the death of a donor relationship and is a serious factor in donor retention—so we better know what we're dealing with!

Our prediction for 2024: Donor fatigue will hit hard

2024 is full of trends—some are exciting, some are inspiring, and we can even have a little fun with some of them. Today, we're talking about a trend that's exhausting resources of all types... including goodwill. 

When we think of traditional donor fatigue, we generally look at it from the perspective of one nonprofit reaching out too often or from the perspective of donors being overwhelmed by asks from multiple nonprofit organizations. In recent years, though, we've seen the rise of a different type of donor fatigue, one that has always been around but intruded less on our daily lives.

This rising type of fatigue is an everything-everwhere-all-at-once type of exhaustion—and it's not going anywhere, so we, the nonprofit sector, need to learn how to spot the signs of donor fatigue and do what we can to combat donor fatigue and maintain (or increase!) giving.

Elections

2024 is a year chock-full of elections all across the globe. And unless you're living under a rock, you've been inundated with news, election ads, and fundraising asks (just because you're a fundraiser doesn't mean you're not a potential donor!)

So you're probably suffering from overwhelm yourself—and it's only gonna get worse as the year progresses. Before making an ask this year, consider how your donors will feel.

Global challenges

Challenges, challenges everywhere we look, and closer than ever, thanks to social media and live streaming. What else is going on that could contribute to your current donors' overwhelm?

Inflation

Rising cost of living got you down? You're not the only one. Your loyal donors are battling inflation, layoffs and a mind-boggling job market, and roller-coaster interest rates. 

Multiple wars

The sobering loss of life due to armed conflicts over the last few years feels breathtaking and neverending. How can my few dollars help? Which cause should I support? And if I choose a cause, will others suffer?

Environmental changes

Did you know that hurricanes alone caused more than $80 billion in damage in the US in 2021? Add other climate-related damage (fires, floods, snow and ice, etc.), and we're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars a year—in the US alone. That's enough to blow even major donors out of the water. 

What Causes Donor Fatigue?

"Donor fatigue is a phenomenon characterized by a decrease in charitable giving or involvement over time. It occurs when individuals or organizations feel overwhelmed by the continuous and often relentless appeals for support from various causes."

Yeah, we know it doesn't sound like us; we asked AI to take over because writing this article has fatigued us. We're back!

Here are some reasons that donors burn out:

Compassion fatigue

Just as you may feel the effects of donor fatigue, nonprofiteers often feel compassion fatigue pretty hard. You definitely know what your individual donors are going through if they experience compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue is the overwhelming emotional and physical exhaustion that results from prolonged exposure to helping others or witnessing trauma. It also happens when your donors are continuously exposed to distressing stories and ongoing fundraising appeals. 

Annoyance with Aggressive Asks

Notice we put Aggressive Asks in title case—it's that annoying. Just as with the other causes of donation fatigue, it's a reason that we're sure you're familiar with. For example, you've fielded persistent sales folks, and look where their doggedness got them. Maybe you listened and took their call, and maybe you decided you had higher priorities. It's a fine line, and one you want to stay on the safe side of.

False sense of urgency

Are you only reaching out to your donors when you nEeD mONeY nOw? Is every mass email, text, call, and social post screaming about an emergency that can't wait? Do you ever just... chat? If your communications are all frantic, building a false sense of urgency, your donors may think you're just crying wolf. 

How Do You Prevent Donor Fatigue?

Preventing donor fatigue, while a matter of careful planning and fundraising strategy, isn't actually difficult. Your best bet to avoiding fatigued donors is to put yourself in your donors' shoes. Provide transparent, consistent communications, sidestep false urgency, and prioritize personal connections.

Tony Sasso, Funraise Co-founder and Chief Product Officer has some sage advice you can use to combat donor fatigue:

Tony suggests that nonprofits"focus your communication on Impact (with a capital I). People want to help, but it’s hard to understand how a single person can help with existential crises occurring all around. Revisit your organization’s story and pitch. Simplify it and make it easy to understand the impact of each gift. Make it unbelievably clear how a supporter is ending a pain or accelerating change with each interaction. This communication should happen both before and after a gift."

Keep your donor database updated

This is our best advice to you, friend. If you want to keep your relationships with donors positive, listen to them. And actions speak louder than words; when your donors churn, give them space.

Make giving a no-brainer with recurring

If keeping your donor database topped the list of our best advice, our next-best advice is to make giving invisible through recurring giving. Turn those one-time donors into recurring supporters by upgrading their gifts. Funraise has an amazing recurring upgrade tool, a card-updater genie, and heck-yeah! reporting to keep tabs on your most die-hard donors.

Don't buy or sell donor lists

Buying or selling donor lists is another top-tier best practice. We know getting a list of leads sounds great, but if these potential donors didn't ask to be connected to you, be very, very wary of reaching out. And even further, consider how often or aggressively you approach them. Put yourself in their shoes—would you want to be pursued for your "generosity" using your online fundraising strategy?

Provide recognition and gratitude

Instead of an ask, put a big ol' thanks out there. You can never go wrong with recognition and gratitude. (Mostly.)

Get creative with donor engagement

What can you do to hearten your donor base and engage with them instead of just talking at them? Think fun events, contests, social media posts, or put a special perk in place for your recurring subcribers. Get some of those creative fundraising ideas going and rejuvenate your donors.

Prioritize connection and community

Whether it's a somber vigil, an empowering protest, or a connection-building community supper, prioritizing your organizations support base isn't about the ask, it's about creating relationships and tangible impact. These go deeper than financial investment and are the right call for your long-term donors.

Show impact

This is great practice for any nonprofit. You know donors want to see the results of their gift, so share the success stories. It's a welcome change from constant asks and provides a positive perception of your work that invites further investment. 

Get on board with personalization

Let's get personal! Another one of these trends we've been talking up is hyperpersonalization. When you can speak directly to specific donor segments, your message will cut through the noise far more easily. 

Set a consistent comms calendar

We've said it again and again: don't overwhelm your donors with shouty messages or aggressive asks, but what should you do? Our suggestion is to set a very consistent content calendar. Donors shouldn't be surprised by outreach from you, and by talking to them regularly, you give yourself the space to talk to them about anything on your agenda.

Resist urgency

We already discussed this one, but yeah, resist the urge to run about with your hair on fire even though the world is burning.

How intelligent technology can help prevent donor fatigue

Automation is the key here! When we're talking breaking your email list into donor segments so no one suffers from compassion fatigue or sending receipts to donors, automations are key. And fun fact, they're another one of those trends we're seeing for 2024.

In addition to automating your processes, data and reporting are going to be great friends of yours. With deep reporting like Funraise's Fundraising Intelligence, you can keep tabs on your LYBUNT, SYBUNT, and recurring donors. And that, friends, is the #1 way you can combat donor fatigue.

And when 2024 funds around, make sure it finds out. You, my nonprofit friend, simply cannot be exhausted. 

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