Did you know your donors can experience fatigue before they even make their first gift? Most donors support several organizations, so they can be experiencing fatigue at the sector level or with the channel before you even make your first ask.
Since you don’t have a relationship with the prospective donor yet to track her preferences, let alone steward her, it is difficult to combat donor fatigue at the point of acquisition. Our experts put their heads together to come up with three no-fail tactics to stop donor fatigue before your donor even makes her first gift.
1. Keep acquiring donors.
100% donor retention isn’t realistic. Even the strongest nonprofits will experience attrition. Donors might have a change in their financial situations or a readjustment in their philanthropic priorities. Since donors will move in and out of their commitment over time, you always need to be replenishing your donor pool.
Chris Griffin, Senior Strategic Planner, has a theory on how donor acquisition can keep your current donors from experiencing fatigue: “When charities stop acquiring donors and replenishing their donor file, they’ll try to fill the gap by asking too much of the existing donor base. The charity will start to contact current donors more frequently or become more aggressive with upgrades. You can fatigue your best current donors when you stop investing in acquisition.”
It’s also important to acquire the right kind of donors from the start. Kurt Worrell, Senior Vice President of Donor Engagement Team, encourages nonprofits to look for “sticky” donors that will retain and upgrade. Seek out those supporters who are philanthropic, not one-time transactional donors. Donor fatigue can be circumnavigated by seeking out the right kind of donors from the start.
Jamie Veltri, Vice President of Acquisition and Media, says to be on the lookout for tippers. Usually, tippers are donors who give less than $10 for their first gift and never give again. They’re not interested in building a transformational relationship with your charity. When you acquire donors, look at their first gift amount and their second gift conversion to make sure that they do flow into the file and really help offset attrition, rather than contribute to it.
2. Test your fundraising creative packages.
For donor acquisition to be a success, fundraisers have to take the approach of the commercial world — always testing new things. Over the years, we’ve done hundreds of direct-response fundraising tests, including acquisition packages, channels, digital retargeting, offers, and impact stories, just to name a few.
But here's the catch: Most charities have a long-standing direct-mail acquisition control package that is difficult to beat.
“If donor fatigue begins to affect your acquisition results, don’t immediately scrap your control package,” warns Jamie. Here's why: Donor fatigue might be at the sector level. In this case, your control creative is going to do better than something new. On the other hand, if the acquisition creative package is the cause of donor fatigue, brand new creative will perform better than the long-standing control.
Angie MacAlpine, Creative Director, notes that some charities update every single one of their packages so frequently — adding in the most up-to-date statistics or new stories — that they do not have a standard control package. While not having a control package can be effective for donor retention, it’s not a great strategy for donor acquisition. Ultimately, it’s important to test your donor acquisition strategies to determine the best way to combat donor fatigue.
3. Try other channels for donor acquisition.
As the number of nonprofits continues to increase, your best donors and prospects will receive more mail pieces from other charities trying to acquire them as donors. Charities need to move to a multichannel fundraising system in order to be successful long-term. Direct mail continues to be the tried and true channel — you send X and you get Y. But as other channels mature, they are beginning to have similarly predictable results.
Sustainer donors, those who commit to support their organization at a certain frequency, are a great example of why you should consider channels beyond direct mail for donor acquisition. “Organizations that have huge sustainer programs acquire less than one percent of those sustainers from direct mail. That’s where channels such as door-to-door, face-to-face, telephone, and direct TV are much more effective,” says Jamie. Mimi Natz, Senior Vice President of Client Services explains: “These channels necessitate that fundraisers immediately expand their communication channels to donors after that acquisition.” You’re not going to continue to communicate with your donor through the channel where she made her first gift.”
Kurt adds that our clients are six times more successful in acquiring a new donor as a sustainer over the phone than they are by using the phone to convert an existing multi-year donor into a sustainer.
This is the third post in a four-part series about Donor Fatigue.
Our fundraising experts met to discuss how to identify and stop donor fatigue. The panel included Mimi Natz, Senior Vice President of Client Development; Kurt Worrell, Senior Vice President of Donor Engagement Team; Jason Wood, Vice President of Digital Business Development; Jamie Veltri, Vice President of Acquisition and Media; Chris Griffin, Senior Strategic Planner; and Angie MacAlpine, Creative Director.
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