Donor Fatigue and How to Prevent It

Jul 24, 2019Donors, Leadership

Donor-Fatigue Donors Leadership

Is your organization experiencing donor fatigue?

Donor fatigue is when people no longer donate to a charity they once contributed to in the past. When we constantly ask our donors for money, we wear them out. We send them too many mailings and too many emails, while not expressing gratitude in a meaningful way and showing the results of their gift. When the only time we contact donors is when we want money, we disrespect them and lose them as supporters.


Lack of Personal Touch Increases Donor Fatigue

A major donor (let’s call her Tess) asked me, “Are nonprofits in trouble?’

I paused. What is she asking me?

She said that she called her credit card company to ask them to block charges from a list of nonprofit organizations she gave them. The credit card representative said she was the third person this week to receive calls with such a request.

Tess thought she was making one-time, online donations to several favorite charities. She missed the small print that said her donation would be recurring. Tess, I must add, is a highly engaged community citizen who never shies away from a good cause.

However, today Tess is very irritated with all the solicitations crammed into her post office box. She has had enough.

She is inundated with impersonal letters and emails requesting money. Tess says, “They seem desperate. Are they in trouble? What’s going on?”

Without question, Tess is not alone. Donors don’t like the marketing campaigns taking place with nonprofits these days. Therefore, donors are turned off by the lack of connection, personal touch, and professionalism in receiving mailing after mailing.

Tess says, “I feel like I must plant a tree or give to a conservation group to help pay for all the trees lost to mailings!

Consequently, many donors feel the same way and can relate. I am sharing three ways to prevent donor fatigue at your organization.

How to Prevent Donor Fatigue

1.  Show sincere gratitude to combat donor fatigue.

First of all, make your major donors feel appreciated and valued; Because they are!

For example, pick up the phone to check on donors you have not spoken in a while. Your major donors are your organization’s best friends. They become your family.

Additionally, send handwritten notes to say thank you immediately following a gift, volunteering, making an introduction, for instance.

Similarly, send birthday cards and special occasion cards. Let them know you are thinking of them, not only when they contribute. Donors need to feel valued and appreciated by staff and board members.

Last, host a simple drop-in after work gratitude event. Secure a unique venue or ask a board member to host the event at his/her home or office. Make it super special in terms of location, an opportunity to meet a VIP, a behind the scenes showing, for example. Read more here How to Nurture and Retain Major Donors.


2.  Offer opportunities for engagement.

Another way to combat donor fatigue and make your donors feel appreciated is to invite them to engage with your organization in ways uniquely meaningful to them.

For example, we had a donor who asked about helping us with our strategic planning process. He was a very successful businessman and had the background and experience to help us.

Always consider asking a major donor for advice in an area he/she would offer value. Often, they know the circumstance of a community project, the history of a program, or know the background of a donor.

Hence, this will make them feel more connected to the cause.


3.  Share newsworthy events and happenings.

You likely will have updates on new initiatives to share with your major donors. Your donors like to know the latest news, and they want to hear it from you.

Often, we forget how much information we have to share. Your donors don’t hear about your mission’s work like you do every day. They may read your newsletter, but it’s nice to be the first to know of breaking news directly from you.

Also, share a newsletter or magazine article they would find of interest. Print or tear it out and add a note on a card saying you thought they would enjoy this article. Know your donors and what they are passionate about.


Above all, as the chief of development, surprise and delight your donors. Treat your donors with respect, and show sincere gratitude. Remember, you are among hundreds of other nonprofits in your area. Make yourself standout. Do not churn out impersonal mailing after mailing. That is the quickest way to cause donor fatigue.

In other words, make them feel special. 

Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at [email protected].


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