Avoiding Donor Fatigue

“The leech has two daughters.
    ‘Give! Give!’ they cry.

“There are three things that are never satisfied,
    four that never say, ‘Enough!’:
the grave, the barren womb,
    land, which is never satisfied with water,
    and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’

(Proverbs 30:15-16).

Do your donors feel this way about your ministry? Do they see you as a leech crying, “Give! Give!” or a fire that never says, “Enough!” Do they believe the only time you communicate with them is to ask for money? Some ministries mail a total of 25 fundraising touches over 12 months, including 18 appeals and 7 newsletters. Donors grow weary of the never-ending appeals from all sorts of nonprofit organizations who always want more. You can avoid donor fatigue with your ministry partners by adopting three simple attitudes:

Don’t be a “Living Vampire”
Billionaire Ted Leonsis, founder, majority owner, chairman and CEO of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the NHL’s Washington Capitals, NBA’s Washington Wizards, and many other businesses attributes his wealth creation to his master networking skills. His counsel for others seeking to build their networks is, “Don’t be a “living vampire.” Before asking for a favor, Leonsis always seeks to add value to each relationship. He asks himself, “How can I help this person get closer to their goal?” His unselfish approach to business serves as great example for fundraisers.
How can you help your ministry partners get closer to their spiritual goals? Is your donor interested in evangelism? education? feeding the hungry? helping the poor? You add value by treating them as full partners in your life changing ministry. How are you blessing your donors before you ask for their support?

Connect authentically
Leonsis’ second tip for successful networking is to be real, not phony. Business associates seek authenticity, so do donors. A major donor commented to a president, “Please don’t have John contact me again. I think he’s disingenuous.” Evidently this donor rep said or did something the donor thought was insincere and hypocritical. Building trust is a key factor for successful fundraising, you can’t pretend. Donors desire openness and transparency and know when you’re hedging. Authentic people do not say things they do not mean or make promises they cannot keep.

Follow up with a thank-you note
Amazingly, Leonsis’ final tip is to follow up every networking meeting with a thank you note. If it works in business, it definitely works in fundraising. Most people don’t send follow-up correspondence, yet it’s a simple, powerful way to stand out in your donor’s mind. A thank you note is a strong remedy for donor fatigue because it adds a human touch to your ministry partner relationships. Email thank you notes are like a “mist that appears for a little while then vanishes.” On the contrary, most people have difficulty throwing away a handwritten thank you card and often read it more than once.

Think about this: If a billionaire takes time to write a personal thank you note to everyone he networks with, what’s your excuse? Take time today to send a handwritten note to three donors.

Response: Father, forgive me for not adding value to my relationships with my ministry partners. Help me authentically reach out to them and build trust.

Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored three books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising, Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving, and Keep on Asking – Bold, Spirit-Led Fundraising. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for  Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.

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