The Constant Ask: A Cold Shower for Donors

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In my last article I talked about the National World War II Museum and how to keep donors engaged. In this post we will touch on things that lead to donor fatigue and "turned off" donors.

First and foremost, there is nothing wrong with asking for donations. And, certainly, just about every one of your publications and communications should do so, if merely by providing a link to your online donation portal or a short blurb like, “We are a registered 501(c)3 charitable organization. Your gift is deductible to the extent provided by law. Please consult your tax advisor. Make checks payable to [our organization]. Checks may be mailed to: [our address]. Or visit us online at”

What you don't want to do is make all of your communications such a constant ask for money that your donors become fatigued. You have to provide your donors with content that speaks to their interests and passion for your organization. Provide timely information about upcoming events. Share news, research from the field, and testimonials that allow donors to feel connected and well informed about your work.

A nearby organization uses a membership model of fundraising. I can’t tell you how tired I became of hearing about "upcoming" events that had already happened by the time I received my newsletter. The newsletter seldom mentioned events coming up in the weeks between when I received my newsletter and when the next issue would arrive. Publications always included some large write up about new items for sale or very expensive add-ons for my annual membership and of course, every single communication centered around asking for contributions. But rarely did I see anything in their communications informing me about the benefits of my annual membership or content that nurtured my affinity for their site. (As a historic site, there was plenty of opportunity to share interesting stories about its history.)

Bottom line, they did nothing to keep my interest. I was never made to feel "special" as a regular donor. And I was constantly bombarded with requests for more money. When I wanted to give feedback about my experience and suggest how they might improve it, I was totally blown off and told to send an email. When I did send an email with feedback about my experience, the organization did not even acknowledge my email.

So, here are some suggestions for meaningful engagement with your donors:
● If your donors take the time to email or call you, listen and take the time to get back to them.
● Put yourself in your donors’ shoes. Share interesting information and remember to nurture their affinity for whatever you do.
● Think of the little things that you can do to go the extra mile in thanking/recognizing them. You should thank each donor at least 7 times. Do not include an ask for additional contributions alongside your gratitude.

It can make all the difference in retention or not.

Scott Clark
Experience Specialist
"It's not the message, it's how you experience it."

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