Frightfully Good Fundraising, Part 4: Don’t Bleed Your Donors Dry

Knowledge

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There it is. Another email from an organization I gave to a few months ago. I know it’s going to be another ask, filled with depressing images and heart-wrenching stories, totally devoid of any uplifting news or updates about what my last donation accomplished. I’m started to feel a little drained here…

Are you bleeding your donors dry without providing anything in return? Don’t be a monetary or emotional vampire! Here are a few things to avoid.

Asking Without Updating

Guess what? Frequent asks are okay! A problem arises when you fail to tell donors what happened to their last donation. That problem is donor fatigue… and it sucks. Did you build a new kitchen for life-skills training? Did a campaign fund a spay/neuter initiative at your animal shelter? Did your donors provide Thanksgiving dinner for 100 home-bound seniors? Tell your donors!

Sharing the impact of donations in between asks will increase the likelihood that donors will give again! When your supporters can see the specific impact they make, it excites and recharges them… and you know what? That can improve your donor retention—yay!

  • Get out your calendar and plan your appeals and updates. Make sure you’re placing an update email after each and every appeal!
  • Do before and after photo stories on social media.

Emotional Vampirism

There’s plenty of research that supports including sad imagery and language that will arouse negative emotions in your donors, encouraging them to give to alleviate a problem… and there’s just as much research about including joyful, hopeful imagery and language encouraging donors to give to maintain the happiness brought on by viewing those very images. You’re perfectly justified in using images and language that conveys distress, but only using this type of appeal can—you guessed it—emotionally drain your donors.

This doesn’t just apply to your appeals. This could be on your social media, in your marketing, and through images you use at events.

  • Mix it up! Try the ole’ sandwich method of positive, negative, positive. Send one appeal that contains emotional language and imagery that appeals to negative emotions that’s sandwiched by appeals that contain positive imagery and language.
  • If you’re using images and language that arouse negative emotions, be sure you follow up and let your donors know the happy ending. If you send out photos of a severely underweight puppy with mange, send out an update showing how that happy, wiggly ball of fluff gained 10 pounds and grew back all of his fur!

Lack of Appreciation

Do you thank your donors? Of course! But do you ever thank them without asking for anything? You should! It’s important to let donors know you’re not just interested in draining their (blood) bank. Find reasons to contact your donors without asking for money. It works wonders. I received a thank-you call from a large animal welfare organization, and wouldn’t you know it, I immediately gave again, even though they hadn’t asked. That one little phone call made me feel incredibly valued and appreciated.

  • Call a donor just to say thank you
  • Host a donor appreciation event. It can be something as simple as coffee, donuts, and a tour of your building.
  • Celebrate your donors by sending birthday and donor-versary cards.

To make a long story short, give back to your donors. It’s like giving someone a cookie every time they donate blood. You’ve got to recharge your donors! (Okay, that was a stretch, but I’ve run out of puns.)

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