Donor fatigue. Is it real?
I don’t buy it. To me, it’s a cop-out. An excuse for bad fundraising.
Look, I’m sure many donors are tired of the solicitations they receive. But that’s because so much of what they get is irrelevant to them.
Sending fewer appeals doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. You’ll just raise even less money.
Chances are you can communicate more – if you communicate better.
What does that take? You must be:
We call them appeals, not arguments. We’re appealing to donors as human beings. We need to be emotional to be effective.
And let’s be clear: our job is not to educate donors.
Seriously. Stop and think about how patronizing that is. Would you like someone to say they need to educate you?
It’s not on donors to be better informed or less fatigued. It’s on us to be more relevant.
Instead, grab them with a story.
Even if your organization does scientific research, there’s a story. And it’s far more powerful than any research paper.
So tell it. How does the problem affect a particular person? How does it feel? How can the donor solve the problem?
Paint a picture for the donor. Show her someone who needs her. Then show her why her gift will help.
And while the problem isn’t solved until the donor acts, you can tell her how it will feel to act. That’s the promised benefit to the donor – with a simple gift, she can help someone and feel great about it.
To be relevant, communicate in feelings. We’re not robots. Logical arguments don’t have the same impact.
Clear and Urgent
If the problem isn’t urgent, you’re inviting the donor to ignore you.
And truly, meeting your annual fund goal isn’t urgent.
Before you ask for money, you need to be able to answer: “Why is this important?” “Why now?”
Remember emotional triggers? Here’s where you need them. Review the list and put them to work.
Be sure your message is meaningful to your donors right now. Unless your appeal feels urgent, it will be easy to ignore. And perhaps tiresome. (Those appeals you get from purchased mailing lists – for causes that mean nothing to you? Tiresome, right?)
The urgency of the problem is tied to the donor’s opportunity to solve it. Be clear about what you’re asking the donor to do.
That includes being precise about:
What you’re asking: “Please send $35 today to feed a hungry child for a month.”
What you want the donor to do: “I’ve enclosed a simple form for you. All you need to do is write your check and return it to me in the enclosed envelope.”
And by when: “The situation is critical. People like Jimmy need you. And I need to hear from you by September 30th so October isn’t another hungry month.”
It’s human nature. If someone else can handle it, it’s no longer as pressing for us.
So make sure your donor is the hero of this story, not your organization.
Why does your reader’s involvement matter? Why are you asking them?
You probably can’t create individual appeals for every donor. But you can do your homework. So create a persona of your organization’s donor.
Use all the data you have to create a picture of the person you’re asking to step in and save the day. Then let the donor know you know them.
Use warm, personal language. Remember this is not one-to-many communication – your aim is always to make it feel one-to-one. Don’t – please – write from an organization. Choose a person to make the appeal. And make it personal.
First, get your data right. And then yes, use your donor’s name. But don’t stop there. Personalization can also help you use social proof. “We’ve heard from many others in [your neighborhood]. But we need you.”
Don’t want tired donors? Share what matters to them. Be emotional. Treat them like people.
And make sure they know how much they matter!
Still not convinced?
Sean Triner offers you some concrete proof that it’s not your frequency tiring donors.
Photo: another great image from Ryan McGuire at Gratisography.