In the past few weeks I’ve heard several people speak about “donor fatigue,” or the opinion that the general public is becoming weary of receiving solicitations from non profit organizations. I would like to disagree and instead propose an alternative view, which I’ll call “The Generosity Factor” after a popular book with the same name.

There has undoubtedly been a outpouring of generosity in the past year in response to natural disasters including the tsunami and hurricanes. According to a recent article from Convivo,

…many people giving to disaster-focused nonprofits were first-time donors versus people who routinely give to nonprofits and made a choice to give to relief groups instead of other types of organizations.

The fact that overall donations have increased demonstrates that when motivated toward a cause they believe in people will donate. Hearing the stories and seeing the tear-streaked faces of people displaced by the natural disasters helped the public to identify with them and then contribute financially.

Donating to a good cause and knowing funds will help make a difference ignites the generosity factor which I believe exists in the vast majority of us. First time donors will be more likely to give again to the same organization or groups with a similar purpose.

You may have heard people say they could not donate to your organization because they already gave to support the tsunami or hurricanes, etc. If they do have a strong interest but have just reached their maximum budget for charitable giving for the month or year, do reach out to them again in the future because they will be receptive and willing to donated.

Otherwise rather than being caused by “donor fatigue” I would propose that many of those who declined to donate do not have a strong interest in the cause itself and are therefore not your strongest prospects to begin with.

Gaining support from persons who may not be dedicated advocates for the cause is primarily achieved through product sales and event fundraisers. I am a proponent of using sales and events because when done properly they help an organization cast a wider net and achieve higher donations.

You may also be able to use sales and events in order to find people who are passionate about your cause and will become donors through direct financial gifts. However, since you’re not appealing primarily on the basis of the cause, the product or event itself must be highly motivating for your intended audience.

How to Ignite the Generosity Factor in Your Donors:

1) Objectively consider the appeal of your cause, is it broad or narrow? Understand that “niche” causes will not have as large a donor base as broad appeal causes such as natural disasters or cancer research. Focus on finding those people who do have a strong interest and build relationships with them.
2) Communicate with supporters often through newsletters, news items in the media, thank you letters and permission based email.
3) Tell compelling stories of people your group has helped. First hand accounts, interviews and letters directly from recipients help make the cause real.
4) Engage your donors with multimedia – use photos, videos and audio to enhance your message.
5) Focus on achieving your mission. A quality organization that’s making a difference will ignite the generosity factor in those who care about a cause!

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Posted on 22 November 2005

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