5 Strategies to Combat Donor Fatigue and Attract New Donors

Are your once-enthusiastic donors gradually becoming scarce? It’s a challenge many small nonprofits face. Let’s dive into the current landscape, decode the mystery of donor fatigue, and discover innovative strategies to revive your nonprofit organization’s spark.
A cute, tired-looking pug lays on a stool, illustrating donor fatigue
Sun Tzu once wrote, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

  The Art of War may seem an odd source of inspiration for people in the business of making the world a better place, but there’s absolute truth in Sun Tzu’s statement if we think of donor fatigue as the challenge.

What is Donor Fatigue?

Donor fatigue isn’t just about being tired of donation requests. According to CJ Orr in his NonProfitPro article, Fending Off Donor Fatigue With Innovation, it’s a multifaceted issue – changes in financial situations, a lack of program inspiration, or donors feeling they’ve done their part.

Make sure to check in with your donor base. Are they facing burnout, or as mentioned in this interesting article,experiencing fundraiser fatigue? As you’ll see below, both questions dovetail with Sun Tzu’s advice to seek to understand the challenge and yourself.

5 Strategies to Ignite Your Supporters’ Passion

Number 1

Get personal.

Dive into the individual stories of your donors. Make them feel seen, valued, and purposeful. Building relationships is not just about taking money, it’s about creating a community where both the donors and your nonprofit organization find value and purpose. It’s a two-way street of connection and shared meaning.

In this piece by Chris Barlow, he emphasizes the importance of a vibrant community at the core of a successful nonprofit.

“In the heart of any thriving nonprofit lies a pulsating community. Building and nurturing this community is more than just networking—it’s about creating a collective identity, a shared purpose, and mutual support.”

There are many ways to establish a personal connection and community among your donors. Build gratitude programs, establish a donor relationship strategy, and send out donor surveys to get to know them better. This is also where segmenting your donor base and creating donor journeys come in. We’ll go into both in more depth in future articles, but for now, here are a couple of resources—Nonprofit Storytelling to Grow your Donor Community by Rachel Seiler and our own Robert Friend’s webinar on donor journeys and nonprofit storytelling.

Number 2

Inspire with non-fundraising community outreach events.

Extending a helping hand brings a sense of fulfillment, and that positive emotion grows when you contribute to a cause important to you (it’s science!). Take inspiration from one of Eventgroove’s conservation customers, Trout Unlimited. As part of their programming, Trout Unlimited hosts educational conservation hikes, waterway cleanups, kids’ fishing days, fly tying and intro to fly fishing classes, and tree planting/tailgate events. These events are run by members with relevant expertise and help the organization introduce itself to new donors. If your nonprofit doesn’t offer such programs, consider creative partnerships for sponsored classes. Perhaps you could collaborate with a yoga/meditation studio, cooking school to host a sponsored class and extend invitations to new supporters and to your donors as a gesture of appreciation.

Number 3

Thank your donor base and illustrate their impact.

Frequent asks can be demoralizing. The Catholic Funding Guide stresses the importance of expressing gratitude and showcasing specific impacts.

“From the donor’s perspective, frequent asks can be demoralizing. When they receive repeated requests for money without hearing about the difference their gift makes, they may begin to feel that their gifts do not make a difference and are not appreciated.”

Make donors feel appreciated and highlight how their gifts make a positive impact. Remember to be specific so that the impact is relatable!

Number 4

Activate donors as advocates.

Those who have supported your cause believe in its mission. Rather than solely seeking donations, include them as co-fundraisers through peer-to-peer initiatives. This approach, where supporters raise funds for your cause, includes activities like “walk for a cure” events, which is essentially an “a-thon” fundraising campaign with a peer-to-peer component. Participants use social media to promote their involvement and seek donations.

Examples of peer-to-peer events can include partnering with a local gym for a treadmill relay or playing video games to challenges like FebFast, in which participants give up junk food to support disadvantaged youth.

The benefits of this fundraising approach are significant—your organization can simultaneously expand its reach through existing member networks while engaging with potential donors where they are! Doug Agee, Online Community Manager of Trout Unlimited, agrees:

“The Eventgroove peer-to-peer tool provides TU Chapters a much broader audience reach and potential for new members than our chapter websites and social media pages alone. With this tool, participating members become chapter advocates by asking their friends and family for support, collecting donations virtually, and sharing the story of local TU in their community and all the good we do.”

Learn about peer-to-peer and how to get started in our article , Peer-To-Peer Fundraising: Everything You Need To Know.

Number 5

Galvanize your donor base through volunteer opportunities.

This tactic comes from Amy Eisenstein’s timeless advice – volunteering is a top engagement and cultivation tool. Despite the challenges of supervising volunteers, the effort is well worth it. Hands-on opportunities rekindle enthusiasm and introduce your organization to a wider audience.

By its very hands-on nature, inviting donors to volunteer rekindles enthusiasm for your organization’s work. Not to mention, volunteer opportunities are a great way to introduce your cause to people beyond its network. Get more great ideas in Amy’s article, 27 Ways to Cultivate Donors and Build Deep, Lasting Relationships.

Is donor fatigue a real concern, or is it just a myth? Regardless of the label you give it, as you can see in the above strategies, the path you may take to address the issue leads to a similar answer. To alleviate donor fatigue, charitable organizations should develop new ways to re-engage with supporters, cultivate relationships, and look for where you’re not speaking to their needs. If your donors are tired of being asked for donations or unable to contribute money, invite them to participate in other ways. Utilize tools such as hybrid fundraising and peer-to-peer events to engage and re-inspire them. In short, arm yourself with knowledge of your donors, evaluate and take action to make change (where you can—it’s not easy!) and meet donors where they are.

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