Many organizations have experienced a once active donor become stagnant over the years. This phenomenon, known as donor fatigue, can be experienced when individuals who once donated to a charitable organization no longer do so. While there can be a number of personal reasons why someone decides to stop giving, there are other controllable factors in the works. Things such as a lack of transparency, added pressure to donate, or unclear organizational goals can all negatively impact the amount of donations coming in. Luckily, there are a handful of things your organization can do in order to retain your donors for many years to come.
One common reason people stop giving to a charity or organization is simply because they’re worried how their gifts will be used. Make sure to address their concerns by clearly stating how their donations will be utilized. In your appeal, state how their contributions will directly help address a problem or concern the organization is currently facing (the more tangible the problem, the better- but more on that later).
It’s also a good idea to highlight the growth you’ve made through other donations. Make sure to continue reporting future progress to your donor base in order to maintain transparency. Also, including any endorsements or ratings in your fundraising appeals and related materials will reassure your donors that your organization is reputable. If this option doesn’t fit with the “feel” of your outreach strategies, make sure your organizational ratings and applicable financial information are easily accessible through your organization’s website as well as any 3rd-party sites you may be associated with.
While you may think your organization’s needs and issues are important topics, your donors may not agree. Many people need to feel connected to the cause they’re donating towards, not necessarily just the organization itself. Sure, some donors may feel connected to your organization as a part of their community (and will subsequently donate more towards projects that will have an effect closer to home), but they may feel reluctant to give if they simply don’t feel connected to what you do. This is why selling your cause rather than your business is essential to an effective fundraising campaign.
Above all, you want to highlight why your cause is meaningful to your audience, and this may only be possible through better familiarizing yourself with your donor base. Figure out the specifics of why people are giving to you, and try to highlight that aspect for renewals or potential new donors. If the money being raised is going towards a larger, overarching goal such as your next season of productions or events, try to highlight a more identifiable subject such as a standout production, special guest performer, high-profile exhibit, etc. People tend to do more to help one particular person or event than many at once, so make sure to include a powerful message highlighting a particular production or individual in order to give your appeal more punch.
On a side note, people tend to give less if they think they’re contributing more than their fair share. Sure, there may be a standalone donor that gives out of proportion for personal reasons, but for the most part people want to feel like the responsibility of donating is a shared one. In order to combat this mentality, make sure to share stories of other donors giving and getting involved with your organization. This will create a sense of “giving responsibility” in each individual donor while reinforcing that they’re not alone.
More and more, people are reluctant to give out their information or even donate out of fear of future solicitation. While it’s understandable why your donors don’t want to be put on a solicitation list, your appeals shouldn’t feel like blanket solicitations. Yes, it’s imperative to follow up with a donor immediately or shortly after you receive a donation with a standard set of correspondence, but future contact should be methodical. Only send correspondence that appeals to your donor’s specific interests. Bombarding them weekly with updates can agitate them enough to discourage them from donating in the future (and remember, it only takes one click to unsubscribe).
In the vein of transparency, it’s also a good idea to let people know the type and frequency of communication once they donate. In the immediate correspondence following their donation, make sure to include information on how you will be contacting them in the future. If they’re contacted too frequently, they may feel too much pressure to give and may subsequently stop. On the other hand, some donors like to be coddled and will feel neglected if not contacted regularly. Remember, every person has a unique relationship with your organization, so make a plan for managing each donor and stick to it!
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