The hidden fundraising laws about donor fatigue

Brookslaws

You’ve heard about “donor fatigue.” It’s a theoretical state where donors tire of hearing about some specific topic — sometimes philanthropy in general — and they become unresponsive.

There’s a pair of Brooks’ Laws that help clarify the realities of “donor fatigue”:

Donor Fatigue Law #1: A Priori

Anyone who cites “donor fatigue” as a reason not to try to raise funds really means “I’m fatigued.”

We get tired of deploying similar messages repeatedly. It really is fatiguing, and many of us seek ways to relieve the strain.

Cancelling fundraising because of donor fatigue has the obvious advantage of being a self-fulfilling prophecy. The lack of funds raised because you didn’t try to raise funds “proves” the assertion that donors are unresponsive.

Donor responsiveness to anything can rise or fall. Repeating a relevant message is not one of the factors that causes that. Even though it gets really boring.

The other time “donor fatigue” is often cited is after a project has done poorly, which leads us to …

Donor Fatigue Law #2: Ex Post Facto Law

Anyone who cites “donor fatigue” as a reason a fundraising project failed really means “I’m incompetent.”

This is another way for fundraisers to save face and turn lemons into lemonade.

“The campaign failed not because we did a poor job, but because of donor fatigue.” Unprovable, but believable. A brilliant career booster for the ineffective fundraiser.

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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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About the blogger

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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