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How to Prevent Donor Fatigue: Forefront Interview (Part 3)

In our first Forefront article, we introduced you to a conversation we had with Delia and Marlee from Forefront (formerly known as Donors Forum) on how to build successful nonprofit-donor relationships.

We followed up on that topic with an article on what to ask when creating your ask.  In this article, we’ll address an issue nonprofits are all too familiar with:  Donor fatigue or donor exhaustion.

By definition, Donor Fatigue is:

 “A generic term for the unwillingness to contribute to charitable causes on an ongoing basis because the donor has been asked for donations too often and is now tired of giving.” 

Based out of Illinois, Forefront is the nation’s only statewide membership association for nonprofits and philanthropy (among other groups).  Their staff consists of some of the top experts in nonprofit fundraising and the overall success of nonprofits.

We asked Delia and Marlee how they would advise nonprofits to prevent exhausting their donors with too many emails.  Delia started off by saying:

Marlee “If you’re an organization, you need to try to give a gift to your own organization and experience what a typical donor experiences.  That, number one, is the best lesson ever.  If it takes you too long, if the instructions aren’t clear, if you have 25 fields…if it takes a longer time for you to give a donation than to order shoes from Zappos, then there’s a problem with your donation page!”


As a nonprofit, have you ever made a donation to your own organization via your website?  If not, how do you know what your donor experience is like and whether or not it needs improvement?  Marlee elaborated on this:

download (1)“An even better test is to give your closest friends each a dollar and have them donate for you and give you their honest feedback.  Particularly if you know people or if they know people who are not in the sector who can give honest, unbiased feedback.”  

Making the donation process quick and easy removes a major potential barrier between your donors and your organization. But what about the frequency of requesting donations or gifts from your donors?  How much asking is too much?  You don’t want to ask so much that your donors get tired of you, but you also don’t want to miss out on properly targeting them in a way that will lead to more donations.  The following was their advice:

Don’t be afraid to ask multiple times, until you’re able to get what you need…We’re friends with some of the people who started Obama’s campaign and they were successful because they just kept asking until they got what they needed.  I think a lot of times nonprofits don’t, even though they say they’re doing the most important work, I think sometimes they don’t believe it…Make it very clear in the ask that this is the most important thing.”

For any nonprofit to be successful, you need to show how important your cause is by letting your supporters know when you need more donations and exactly how much you need to meet your organization’s goals.  Plus, you need to do this on a regular basis.  Staying engaged with your donors and giving them regular updates on what’s going on within your organization helps to sustain your relationships with them.

Although we don’t suggest you contact your donors daily, weekly contact is more than acceptable.  As long as your strategy is accommodating to them, you’ll be much less likely to create frustration.  If your donation process is quick and easy and your asks are accommodating to your donors, then donor fatigue doesn’t stand a chance!


See More Tips From Forefront!