Curing Donor Fatigue

Measures organizations can use to ensure donors continue to contribute


At some point, every non-profit has experienced donor fatigue. Generosity becomes scarce or redistributed and philanthropic support is harder to come by.

People innately want to give and be helpful and every non-profit has its own worthy cause (for which they rely, probably heavily, on regular contributions to operate). Naturally, when money is tight post-holiday spending, or the media inundates all electronic devices with incoming messages of compelling calls-to-action, the public’s focus shifts away from organizations they would otherwise passionately be championing.

The holidays will come every year; catastrophic events will occur. The solution is for an organization to put itself in the best position to maneuver through these times. Even better? Implement a few simple, preventative measures that guard against the potential loss in revenue streams.

Automatic Giving

Frequent donors should be set up on prearranged, automatic contributions. It’s savvy from all perspectives. Administratively, the benefits are clear. More so, by securing predetermined monthly/quarterly/yearly donations from people, it prevents the possibility of them redistributing those funds.

It’s much easier for a donor to know that a certain amount of money is already going toward the non-profit they support; they can budget for it and give additionally to other causes if they so choose. Plus, it becomes more complicated and unlikely for them to contact an organization and stop an upcoming payment.

Illustrate the Success

Show donors a current direction or goal that is being achieved with their financial assistance. Tell them the story, starring their donations as the twist in the plot. Be specific, descriptive, and transparent.

This is always a good practice, but it becomes even more critical when resources are divided or stretched. Make it tangible by animating the direct result. If donors can visualize their money in action, they are more inclined to continue encouraging the goal.

Dan Linn writes on Solutions Link, "What better way is there to make someone understand the importance and fruitfulness of their presence than telling them? One of the causes of donor fatigue is being blind to the result of your support. In the same way that you acknowledge that people respond to ‘need’, acknowledge also that they respond to ‘success’. Your donors were hooked by the need to assist in something great, now it is time to convince them that their assistance is improving the situation."

Refresh the Message

People become desensitized to a message. They begin to discredit it, tune it out, or both. Everything can’t be labeled as ‘urgent’ and shrouded in desperation. This gets stale and immunity builds. Keep messaging sincere and crisp while being original, persuasive, and clear.   

Ian Lauth writes on Winspire, "Avoid overly dramatic language that may communicate pressure unnecessarily. Every fundraiser is not “the most critical, vital, and important event of the year!” Save your dramatic statements for if and when it REALLY IS necessary."

Recruit Influence

If a donor simply can’t or doesn’t want to give, be kind and understanding. Never be bullish or use shame or guilt. Circumstances and situations change, and someone’s last interaction with an organization will be the freshest in their memory. They must be left with a positive impression.

Thank them for their time and past contributions and kindly request that they share the need with others through their network. There are plenty of alternative ways to assemble support. By encouraging people to help with spreading the message on social media, a non-profit can quickly broaden their reach.

By taking a few protective and reactive measures, every organization can ensure they continue to receive the contributions they need to keep fighting the good fight. Review and optimize your operations, strengthen the message and bring it to life, create new connections, and develop fresh marketing campaigns. And then, much-needed funds will be anchored when the next wave of donor fatigue strikes.



Morty SilberComment
The Stealth Approach

The jewelry store with the sidewalk sign that offers complimentary walk-in jewelry cleaning. The non-profit that serves free coffee (right beside a busy coffee shop with an endless line up). The meatball cooking demonstration at the grocery store, permeating in the noses of hungry shoppers. A souvenir stand in Time Square. These are all examples of alternative and effective forms of advertising.  

Budget estimates vary, however, a good guideline is that businesses should spend 5-6% on advertising and 5-6% on rent. A company that’s located in a high-traffic, target-rich area will likely spend more on rent, but can then spend less on advertising. Because putting a brand in the direct line of sight of consumers is a fantastic form of marketing. The same principle is true in reverse. If a business is off the beaten path, a larger advertising investment is needed to direct clients to their door. 

Additionally, enticing them with something of little cost/value to the business can offer an excellent return. Jewelry cleaning solution is inexpensive, and shining up someone’s sparkler requires minimal effort on the jeweler’s part. Now, while the person is waiting for this lovely service, they will inevitably have a look around at what the store has to offer. 

It’s already been established that this patron likes and wears jewelry. Unbeknownst or inconsequential to them, they strategically become a captive audience while waiting, surrounded by products and choices. The chance of them seeing merchandise they like is high. Couple that with the positive impression already formed by having been given something of perceived value for free, equals a likely buyer, now or later. Best of all, the business has spent very little money or effort to achieve this.  

The same idea is employed when using samples. Allowing people to test a product without any commitment is highly successful. Oftentimes, companies get bogged down and focus on the logistics and initial investment, and they shouldn’t. Samples can be the cheapest form of advertising.  

An article in Post Media states that 81% of people tried a full product after they received a free sample. “Indeed, sampling continues to rank among the most effective tactics in the history of direct marketing, in part because of its ability to do what no other medium can: put a physical product in customers’ hands. Moreover, the practice is finding new adherents even in the digital age." 


Morty SilberComment
Did you just shush me?

There are many times throughout an event where silence from the audience is required. Important instructions are about to be given, a presentation or movie montage is about to start, a speech is about to begin – or worse, is in progress.

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Despite the expectation that people will automatically be respectful and quiet when it seems so apparent that they should be, it happens that they continue to be a distraction that must be muffled for the enjoyment of everyone involved. Regardless, the stark reality is, justified or otherwise, no one likes to be shushed.


But what if there was a gentler, better way to deliver the (albeit) difficult message of “please, shut up”? There is – it’s being tactful in the communication delivery.

We created the above 2 screen video to delicately do just that. We played it at a recent Chai Lifeline Canada event. There was a countdown to provide the warning and then comedy to deliver the message: It’s almost time for the presentation to commence. Please find your seats, turn off your phones and be quiet.  


Grown ups want to be treated like grown ups. Ensuring that people are quiet when they should be, or getting them to line up in a specific format is just a matter of instruction. But the delivery of the command is just as important as receiving their cooperation. As with most directives, conveying a request creatively, politely, and with elegance garners greater enthusiasm and compliance. After all, events are supposed to be enjoyable for everyone, even those that need a little refresher on manners.


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* All images are from our production. Photo credit to Dominic Fuizzotto

Morty SilberComment