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Russia invaded Ukraine February 24th and since then an outpouring of support and goodwill has flooded both the war-torn nation and the millions of refugees that have fled the bombings, rapes, and torture. As with most catastrophic human suffering, unfortunately, the stories fall off the front-page and interest eventually wanes. Charitable contributions decrease. Yet the refugees, war, suffering, continues. On this World Refugee Day we took a look at how organizations can combat donor fatigue.

Donor fatigue is well known in fundraising circles and is essentially a “lessening of public willingness to respond generously to charitable appeals, resulting from the frequency of such appeals.” Pledges for Syria experienced a $2 billion dollar downturn because of donor fatigue and the pandemic, and charitable organizations funding relief for Ukraine have also reported slowing contributions.

donors don’t want to be harassed constantly for money

Donors begin to feel fatigue particularly when they feel unneeded, unwanted, and unappreciated. From feeling that their donation doesn’t make a difference, to feeling like a number in your database, when donors do not feel they matter, donations decrease.

So how can organizations nurture support beyond the initial flood of support?

  1. Donors need more than requests for more.

I recently donated to a children’s hospital – a hefty sum to purchase teddy bears for the kids in time for Christmas. The next day I received another request for money for these same kids. Not that I didn’t care about the kids, but the timing was terrible. According to the Champion Group, donors don’t want to be constantly harassed for money. While organizations must mount campaigns to fundraise, they recommend hosting events that do not have fundraising as the focal point. Volunteer opportunities, networking events, and other activities that help build the community around a like goal, but are not always hammering for money.

  1. Show donors the impact they make – and THANK them.

Winspire, a company that helps non-profits raise money through fundraisers, suggests charitable organizations share how donors are impacting the cause, and recognize donations with sincere gratitude. Photos, videos, written stories are all ways to show donors how their contributions are supporting the cause. The rise of Meta/Facebook, TikTok and various other social media outlets provide organizations with the platforms to share real-time their efforts on the ground. They also offer the perfect opportunity to say “thank you” and express gratitude. No one HAS to give anything to anyone!

  1. Build a community through communication, nurturing, and making donors feel as though they are part of the cause.

Expanding engagement efforts to provide different types of communications – video, blog posts, and written communications, in addition to switching up the timing of your emails makes a tremendous difference for donors. Short videos that show your work, introduce the people you are helping, and bering the donor to the cause go a long way to connect your supporters to the mission.

“Meeting people where they are” leads to better engagement, and puts donors in a better position to donate. Experiment with the timing of your communications and track your open rates. Use the analytics provided by online marketing programs to hone your communications to those with interest in your work by tracking clicks within your email, and in open rates. Re-engineer your marketing to target individuals who have expressed interest through these metrics.

Every crisis is urgent.

Leveraging the numerous free social media outlets available is also key. Groups like Ukrainians in Minnesota — Stand with Ukraine, a Meta/Facebook group for supporters of Ukraine in Minnesota, WOLONTARIUSZE_UKRAINA_CW_KRAKÓW, a volunteer group for COMBATING DONOR FATIGUE: HELPING REFUGEES IN THE LONG RUN Homeland Security Todayraising funds and serving refugees in Krakow, Poland, and World Hope International, all share information, provide updates, photos and interviews with their community and foster a “team feeling” with their donors.

Four. Too much, too often, too soon.

Every crisis is urgent. Every day that passes results in further suffering and even death. Hosting too much too often, however, contributes significantly to donor fatigue as people simply get “tapped out” and your efforts can actually be counterproductive. According to Mighty Cause, organizations sometimes do not consider that while they are raising for a cause – so is everyone else. Donors are getting your email, along with dozens of others asking for money and it can be exhausting. Be judicious with urgent requests, fundraising requests, and even hosting too many fundraisers. Often, organizing well, focusing on one event or campaign, and providing the time and preparation necessary lead to greater success AND better donor response.

Around the world millions of refugees will need assistance today, tomorrow, and for many years. Developing plans to keep your donors engaged, active, and DONATING will benefit all in the long run!

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