Helping Your Participants Overcome Fear of Donor Fatigue

Posted on September 26, 2012

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Meghan DankovichDonor fatigue. If you’re an event fundraising professional, chances are you’ve come across this problem a time or two (or a thousand). I have some suggestions on how to deal with it.

The fact is, donor fatigue is a legitimate concern for participants — especially those who have been doing your event for awhile. Some participants may feel uncomfortable asking a supporter to give for the sixth year running. Others may be squeamish about approaching someone who is unemployed or underemployed and perhaps struggling financially.

How should you handle participants with worries like these?

First of all, teach them how to “ace the ask,” as I covered in a March blog post, “Preparing Your Participants This Event Season.” Among the tips I shared then:

  • In order to get a donation, you first have to ask.
  • While it’s an understandable fear, you can’t be afraid of rejection.
  • When making an ask, be clear about your connection to the cause and why you support the organization.
  • Never assume you know whether someone will give or how much he/she will give.

To the above points, I’d add this: Be gently persistent. When someone says “No,” “You caught me too late” or “I already gave somewhere else,” reframe the ask and try again. For instance, a logical follow-up might be, “Would you consider giving up Starbucks for the week? That’s $25 right there.”

The fact is, there are all sorts of ways to deal with objections. Educate yourself on how — and then share what you know with participants who seem overly concerned about donor fatigue.

Sitting It Out This Year
A personal story about donor fatigue: I had done one fundraising event a few years in a row before deciding to sit out this year. Much to my surprise, many of my past supporters were disappointed.

What I learned — and what you should share with participants — is that long-time supporters come to anticipate an event each year. They value the cause and respect the participant’s commitment, so they look out for the ask and even budget for it.

In my case, the cause means a lot to my supporters. In years past, I walked the event wearing a hat covered with the names of those who lost their battle with the disease. Many times, I’ve gotten requests for a photo of the hat.

I plan to wear that same hat in next year’s event.

So when participants say they don’t want to go back to their donor base this year, remind them that many supporters really will want to give again. Donor fatigue, as it turns out, isn’t as scary as its reputation implies.

“Meghan’s Strategy Lab” blog posts are featured monthly. Vice president, fundraising strategy Meghan Dankovich serves as the lead for many of Event 360’s consulting engagements, striving to help nonprofits exceed their event fundraising goals. Her expertise includes strategic planning, implementation of qualitative fundraising work and developing successful quantitative approaches for collecting and analyzing event-related data.

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