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November 20, 2018

The #1 Way to Stop Donor Fatigue


There are many causes of donor fatigue and many metrics with which to measure it. But there is really only one way to combat donor fatigue:

Listen to your donors.

Listen to Your Donor’s Preferred Channels

Nonprofits often assume that the channel in which a gift was sent is the donor’s preferred channel. But that’s not always the case. Jason Wood, TrueSense Vice President of Digital Client Development, points out that digitally acquired or cultivated donors often respond to mail and phone, as well.

“For example, we’ve sent direct-mail messages to digital monthly donors,” said Jason. “These pieces have very clear instructions: ‘If you don’t want to receive direct mail from our charity, please go online and check this box ... We’ll keep you informed of the impact of your gift through emails and social media.”

This full-circle look at channel preference acknowledges the donors’ wishes and is one way you can begin to recognize your donors’ preferences and behaviors around their channel of choice.

“A lot of feedback we hear from ‘single-channel donors’ indicates that they want to start receiving communications and updates via other channels,'” states Jamie Veltri, Vice President of Acquisition and Media. “We’ve seen comments on Facebook posts from direct-mail donors who are engaged in other channels for stewardship, but they just continue to give through the mail.”


Listen to Your Donor’s Preferred Frequency

How often have you heard, “You're sending me too much mail. I just gave last month. I can only do this once a year.”

But it’s dangerous to make assumptions about how frequently your donors want to hear from you, whether with appeals or with non-ask stewardship contacts. “Too much mail” may really mean “too many asks.”

And in fact, stewardship contacts play an important part in combatting donor fatigue, despite increasing the number and frequency of contacts a donor receives.

For example, it might make sense that a monthly donor may want to hear from you monthly — but with stewardship messages, not just monthly statements. How is their regular support making an impact on the issues close to their hearts?

Chris Griffin, Senior Strategic Planner, encourages charities to think from their donor’s perspective: “Look, I’m participating with you every single month. How are you nourishing me each month as a donor?”

Are monthly statements the only contacts your monthly donors receive from you?


Listen to Your Donor’s Preferred Message

Some organizations do a good job learning content preference from their mid-level donors. They ask them, often by phone, “What do you care most about? What inspires you to give? Why do you support us?”

This attention  and listening skill  needs to be applied to all donors.

“This is going to be the next big focus in donor communications  talking to donors about what they want to talk about,” says Kurt Worrell, Senior Vice President of Donor Engagement Team.

Of course, for-profit companies have been doing this kind of listening for years. Check out the 7 For-Profit Best Practices Nonprofits Can Use. Consumer interests are tracked and then consumers are targeted based on who they are and where their interests lie.

“The nonprofit sector tends to be a few years behind commercial industry trends, but we’re catching up,” notes Kurt.

All this information does cause one potential problem: The sheer load of personalized donor data creates a lot of moving parts in the campaign when you’re considering donor preferences. This is where digital channels excel, and the donor data that is accrued can then be integrated across multiple channels.

According to Jason, “If we can determine the donor’s affinity for a cause they’re supporting, we can subsequently tailor messages to her expressed interests. For instance, we can increase a donor’s value if we know she adopted a cat, not a dog, or if she was treated for cancer, not heart disease. The more we know, the stronger we can tie her expressed preferences back to the organizational message we send her.”



This is the second 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.

Other series posts:

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