The myth of donor fatigue

Here’s a career-salvaging tip for lame and unsuccessful fundraisers:

When your fundraising numbers are down (and they are, aren’t they?), all you have to do is blame some force outside of your control for the problem. That’s so much easier than looking at what you’re doing and finding ways to fix it.

And here’s your go-to outside force: donor fatigue. Donors are just tired out by all that compassion and changing the world. Hey, its not our fault!

The brilliant thing about this is that there’s no such thing as donor fatigue. That means nobody can prove that it’s not causing the problem.

Donor fatigue is a myth that fundraisers use to absolve themselves from responsibility for their unsuccessful work.

Simone Joyaux, writing in Nonprofit Quarterly (“Donor Fatigue” an Excuse for Poor Fundraising Practices, says what we call donor fatigue is actually donors getting tired of our bad fundraising practices:

… it is an excuse that fundraisers and bosses and boards use to compensate for poor fundraising. And it’s a cheap excuse! I think lousy fundraising and poorly informed fundraisers make donors frustrated, angry, and fatigued by that particular organization.

“Donor fatigue” is really fundraiser fatigue.

They just get tired of the same old message month in and month out. They get so tired of doing their job, they think the donors must be tired too. That’s pretty much like your waiter at your favorite restaurant who’s getting tired of waiting tables night after night deciding that you’re tired of coming to the restaurant — and thus doing you a huge favor by not serving you.

We all face downturns from time to time. Sometimes we simply can’t figure out what’s causing it. Sometimes it really is forces beyond our control. But much more often, it’s mistakes we’re making.

The good fundraisers go into search mode and figure out what they need to fix, and they fix it. The lame fundraisers? There’s always donor fatigue!


Comments

4 responses to “The myth of donor fatigue”

  1. Amen! Jeff Brooks + Simone Joyaux = I’m swooning. Nothing against Tom, of course. 🙂

  2. Amen! Jeff Brooks + Simone Joyaux = I’m swooning. Nothing against Tom, of course. 🙂

  3. Dear Jeff , Simone ,
    Delighted to see that across the Atlantic and the pacific oceans we are thinking likewise … here is my post from last year about the ‘donor fatigue’ situation in Asia.
    Cheers
    Usha

  4. Dear Jeff , Simone ,
    Delighted to see that across the Atlantic and the pacific oceans we are thinking likewise … here is my post from last year about the ‘donor fatigue’ situation in Asia.
    Cheers
    Usha

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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