Mathematical proof that “donor fatigue” isn’t real

If you have ever cited “donor fatigue” as something that might be hurting your fundraising results, you need to read this article by Sean Triner at Pareto Fundraising: Donor fatigue fatigue.

I believe donor fatigue is a pretend thing (used by unsuccessful fundraisers to cover their … tracks). If you don’t believe me, listen to Sean. He has mathematical proof that there’s no donor fatigue.

That proof: Good old RFV (recency, frequency, value) often called RFM or (recency, frequency, monetary.) A standard and time-tested tool from commercial direct marketing. Here’s how it plays out for us:


  • Recency: The more recently a donor gave the more likely she is to donate now.
  • Frequency: The more times a person has donated, the more likely they are to donate again.
  • Monetary: Donors tend to give around the same amount each time they give. This tells us what is the right amount to ask any given donor. Make sure it’s about what they’ve given before.

These are utterly dependable truths in fundraising. And they are exactly counter to the donor fatigue hypothesis, which says that you’ll get more if you ask less. That never happens. If you are pursuing that strategy, you are losing revenue and causing more of your donors to lapse.

Discarding the donor fatigue myth is a quick and easy change you can make to bring quick and meaningful improvements to your fundraising program.


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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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