Urban legend

I’ve worked with a few charismatic people that have solid reputations in nonprofit fundraising.  Since I am a relative newcomer to the industry (just 12 years of nonprofit experience), as compared with some of my colleagues, I believed what I heard as fact.  Several years ago I heard the term donor fatigue.  It was new to me, but I quickly understood the concept.  For a while.  And then I looked more closely.  This is an example of what I saw.


That’s a count of (our) major gift donor households for fiscal year 2014 that fall into one of 3 categories:  first time donors at the major gift level, first time major gift donors who have donated previously at a lower level, and repeat major gift donors.  Guess what the red color represents?

Correct!  82% of our major gift donor households in 2014 supported us previously at a major gift level.  It is because they are committed to the cause and choose to direct their philanthropic support toward our mission.


I suspect the same is true with your major gift donor population.  But don’t take my word for it.  Check for yourself.  Then re-run the counts every year.  Your committed donors are seeking a way to make a difference and that is why they give to you.  Don’t stop asking them to support a mission that they clearly love.  Don’t believe the urban legend of donor fatigue.


Recently I’ve read some great articles on the topic.  Here’s one by Simone Joyaux.  Here’s one by Maeve Strathy.  In addition, I learned that the consulting group Kimbia is presently conducting a brief survey on opinions pertaining to donor fatigue.  If you’d like to participate, click here.


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