What is donor fatigue? How can you manage it as a nonprofit? Don’t worry Mightycause has some tips and tricks to help you make donor fatigue a problem of the past!

What is “Donor fatigue? Donor fatigue is a hot topic among nonprofits but is not always completely understood. In order to understand what donor fatigue is, we need to break down common misconceptions of nonprofits often think it is and what the actual definition is.

Donor fatigue – Misconceptions

“Donor fatigue” is the nonprofit boogeyman. Many nonprofits speak of it with hushed fear, as if it’s a creeping terror that threatens to make their donors turn away from their cause for no reason and stop donating.

The causes of donor fatigue are often understood to be asking for donations too often or too aggressively. Nonprofits may try to mitigate the effects of donor fatigue by not asking for donations frequently, or making a very soft ask.

donor fatigue: people laying side by side in the grassDonor fatigue – what is actually is

Donor fatigue by definition is a phenomenon when donors no longer donate to charities they have in the past. The term “donor fatigue” is a little bit of a misnomer because while donors do end up pulling away from a nonprofit, it’s because the nonprofits failed to properly engage them. And the good news here is that by being aware of how you’re engaging donors and the experience you’re giving them, you can prevent donor fatigue… and even turn it around if you’ve noticed donors pulling away.

Donor Fatigue Causes

So, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right? And in order prevent donor fatigue, we need to understand what causes it. These are common reasons nonprofits see the dreaded “donor fatigue.”

1. Sending too many “urgent” requests

Most of us have encountered someone in our professional lives who likes to send emails marked URGENT in all-caps, imploring you to read it now. And then you open the email and it’s… not urgent at all. Nonprofits can do this to their donors, sending one “urgent” request for funding after another.

And this is also something nonprofits can do collectively. Especially during high-stakes fundraising periods, donors can burn out from getting such a high volume of “urgent” requests, even if they’re coming from different nonprofits.

Donor Fatigue Prevention:

Be careful with those “urgent” requests! Only use them when they’re truly appropriate. You don’t want to be The Nonprofit That Cried Wolf. Like that coworker marking every email as “urgent,” the moment an email actually is urgent, people are unlikely to take notice if everything is usually urgent. And it’s important to be judicious with countdowns and “limited time” requests. Creating urgency when it’s not actually there can be stressful and annoying for donors.

2. Failing to Close the Loop

So, we can sometimes think of making a donation as a very simple process. You ask someone for a donation, and then they complete their donation. Done! Right? Well, not exactly.

For donors, making a donation doesn’t end after they completed their transaction. In most cases, they were driven to make their donation in response to an appeal. Maybe you were telling an affecting story, or fundraising for something specific, like fixing your roof. They’re investing in the appeal you sent. So, if a nonprofit uses a campaign to hook a donor, and the donor contributes, they want a resolution to the situation. They want to know what happened with the story you told! They want to make sure you were able to fix your roof. When nonprofits fail to close the loop with donors, and simply move onto the next ask, it can be jarring and frustrating for donors. And that’s when the dreaded “donor fatigue” begins to set in.

And in many cases, nonprofits just bypass doing a personalized thank-you email, phone call, or letter. That’s also frustrating for donors — they want to know that their donation was received, used, and appreciated.

When you fail to give donors a satisfying, fulfilling experience, they are less likely to come back and donate again.

Donor Fatigue Prevention:

Follow up! And this doesn’t mean just sending a thank you letter and calling it a day. What were you fundraising for? Did you hit your goal? Did you do the thing?! Is there an update to share on a story you told during a campaign? Tell your donors! They want to know, and need to know mentally to close the loop and feel satisfied with the donation they made.

And if thanking your donors personally and genuinely is not part of your plan already, make it a priority to put a solid plan in place for acknowledging and following up with donors.

donor fatigue: people wearing masks3. Poor Donor Management

Donors, like most of us, like to be acknowledged as individuals. But sometimes nonprofits get into the habit of just blasting emails out to their donors with generic appeals that do not speak to who the donor is and what kind of relationship they have with the organization. Are they volunteers? Recurring donors? People who signed up for the email list but have never made a donation? Who knows? They all get the same email no matter what.

Donor engagement is all about building relationships with donors. So, sometimes what looks like “donor fatigue” is in fact just a failure to build a relationship with donor. If your nonprofit is sending out one email to all of your supporters, your supporters can start to feel like you’re not seeing them or their contributions. They can tire of being referred to as “Dear Friend” at the beginning of emails. And, in time, they will drift away from your organization.

Donor Fatigue Prevention:

So, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with blast emails! They are quick, easy, and get the word out to a lot of people with the least amount of fuss. But if you’re seeing donors pull away from your organization, consider segmentation.

Email segmentation is splitting your donors into groups that you want to talk to specifically with different language and separate outreach. So, for instance, the volunteers on your mailing list would be one segment. Recurring donors would be another. With those people, you’d want to make sure you acknowledge their vital contributions to your nonprofit. (And since you already know these are tried-and-true supporters, you can adapt your ask to assume they will respond to your appeal.) One-time donors or people on your mailing list who have never made a donation would be other segments, where you’d change up your approach with them to either get the second donation, or get their foot in the door by making their first.

By speaking more directly to who your donors are when you contact them, you not only get them interested in your appeal, you make them feel seen. That, in turn, makes them much more likely to stay invested in your organization.

And this is all made easier with good, efficient donor management. Using a CRM like Mightycause’s Supporters tool can help your nonprofit keep better track of your supporters, who they are, how they give, and the details of their interactions with your nonprofit.

4. Not Changing Up Your “Ask”

Your supporters have more to give than their money! But when a nonprofit hits them with request after request for monetary donations, it can get monotonous and boring for them. And it can start to feel like a one-sided relationship, where you only contact them when you need something. When donors start feeling this way, they will be less responsive to your appeals and may stop giving altogether.

That’s why changing up your “ask” is so important. Always remember donors are part of your organization and need to be made to feel that way.

Donor Fatigue Prevention:

There are a lot of ways people can show up to support your work. Donors can become volunteers, start peer-to-peer fundraisers, participate in events, and even run for board positions. What is your nonprofit offering your donors, besides the opportunity to donate? Are you only contacting them when you need money, or are you trying to get them involved in your work in other ways?

Requests as simple as asking donors to share their feedback with your organization in a survey can go a long way toward making donors feel like their relationship with you is reciprocal. Some nonprofits might offer education, like webinars or informative blog posts, to offer donors additional ways to get involved while furthering their mission.

So, if you’re only reaching out to ask, it’s time to change things up. For example, you could ask for peer-to-peer fundraiser participants, ask for volunteer help running your campaign,  invite supporters to join a Facebook Live stream to learn more about your work, or just ask for shares on social media.

Managing Donor Fatigue

A lot of nonprofits worry that donor fatigue will have a large impact on their long term success as an organization. Making sure you are making a concerted effort to manage donor fatigue as you go and properly engage your donors should be a part of your yearly fundraising plan if it is not already.

Minimizing Donor Fatigue

  • Identify key donors. You must be aware of the donors that are key to your organization and make sure they stay engaged. Your large donors, recurring donors, and donors with the longest history with the organization should always feel appreciated.
  • Host non-fundraising events. Try to schedule some fun events throughout the year that do not revolve around fundraising. This is a great way to reward and engage your donors and volunteers. Allowing your donors to be in a low pressure situation will help you get to know them better and make them feel valued by the organization.
  • Strong monthly newsletter. Keep donors updated on what your organization has accomplished. Provide visuals images/videos (if possible) to show progress your organization is making. Provide schedules and timelines for your coming events this year.
  • Organize and know your donor base. Use a donor management system like Mightycause Supporters tool to track your donor information and donation history. Use mailing segmentation to have targeted communication with specific segments vs only doing blasts to your entire base. Take personal notes when you gain information and schedule outreach to donors (Preferred contact method, birthday, ect).
  • Host a peer to peer fundraising event. Host a peer to peer fundraising event such as a 5k, Gala, Read-a-thon. Engage with a local business to sponsor the event and grow awareness in your local community. Allow your supporters to be ambassadors for your organization by setting up and sharing their own fundraising page created a larger social media reach for your organization. Utilize Mightycause Events for a powerful peer to peer campaign!
  • Grow your recurring donors. Create a stable revenue source that is “immune” to donor fatigue. Run an annual recurring donation campaign to increase your recurring donors. Offer a membership program with different levels of membership (Bronze, Silver, Gold)
  • Use surveys to learn about your donor base. Gather information from donors using surveys to better understand your base. Learn how your donors prefer to be engaged, identify different segments of donors, and tailor your efforts to adjust to your donor base. Mightycause Embeddable Donation Form allows for custom questions to gather info from your donors right in the checkout!

Mightycause Tools that can Help!

With Mightycause events you can build event pages with the capability for peer to peer fundraising, event registration, and sponsorship all connected to one page!

mightycause features - events

Whether you are running a live campaign or virtual our event page is highly customizable allowing for you to elevate your event with participation from teams and individuals in the peer to peer fundraising process. Build camaraderie, bring in new supporters and increase engagement! Provide fundraising templates for those participate, feature sponsors, and connect your event registration through our integration with Eventbrite.

Supporters CRM

Still using spreadsheets for donor lists? Need a donor database to manage and segment your donors easily? Our Supporters CRM system is built with your donors in mind! Easily manage donor data via donor profiles containing comprehensive reports for each donor. Import any offline donors directly into the system to maintain all your donors in one place.

mightycause features - CRM

Supporters allows for segmentation of donors giving organizations the ability to create their own custom lists for easy management of donor segments. This combined with the email capabilities of Supporters allows for easy marketing and messaging to donors.


Need a mobile giving option for you donors? Text-to-Give will give your donors an additional donation method on their mobile devices! Set up custom keywords for your campaigns and collect phone numbers from your donors. Provides an additional donation portal for live campaigns!

Mightycause Advanced

All these powerful mightycause features and more are included in the Advanced subscription. The Advanced subscription is offered at $99 a month for an annual subscription and $119 a month for a monthly subscription which is an incredible value!

Are you interested? Set up a demo here with one of our Team members here to get a demo and discuss which fundraising subscription plan works for you! You can also take advantage of a 2 week free trial for your organization to test out all the tools to see whether Advanced is a good fit for you! You can access your trial while logged in under settings, and plan management.

Want to learn more?

Request a demo and learn more about Mightycause.

Request a Demo


Leave a Reply