Fundraising is key for for any social enterprise, but how do you handle donor fatigue? That question was asked on Social Edge, with thoughts on how “Social Entrepreneurs Can Avoid It.” I shared a few thoughts of my own, below.
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It’s sometimes hard to hear about donor fatigue because we all need donors. We appreciate them and need their sincere and strategic help. At the same time, we need to be very careful about repeated asks.
Building relationships with donors is about long-term relationships. That means sincerely caring about the individual and understanding about them holistically. To fundraise with true sincerity, it’s about listening to the individual and gradually getting to know who they are. What issues are they interested in, even if not related to you? Do they have family, hobbies, classes they are taking? What is important to them? It is not only being willing, but wanting to develop a longstanding relationship.
To be candid, we don’t always face this on the purely forprofit social enterprise side, because we don’t have “Make Money Fatigue.” For the most part people would like to make money. So even if investors are wornout in general by working a lot or reviewing a lot of deals, they most likely will hear another one because of the value add of a potential financial return.
On the other hand, if you’ve been burned numerous times in investing or made poor choices, you might soon get “Tired of Risky Investment” Fatigue or “Tired of Losing Money” Fatigue.
It’s certainly interesting to compare the two: fatigue of giving, fatigue of investing?
Back to the donors. Here, we need to understand what inspires them and hopefully keep them engaged in those areas. I remember once I fundraised from a gentleman with significant funds. He supported two new team members to help bring them on board. Next year, thinking he might want a creative change, I presented an aggressive marketing plan which could take UniversalGiving to exciting new awareness. He turned me down not funding a $1. He didn’t like marketing, and he didn’t like how hard it was to be measured.
But he liked supporting people. He would give money to pay for salaries, benefits — anything to keep good people. He was a multiple-time entrepreneur and understood good people make everything run! Next year I presented two key personnel and how they would achieve our objectives. I received the funding.
Key, however, is that my relationship with this gentleman didn’t change over those years, whether he funded me or not. I came to him for advice, insight and engagement. Keep the relationship, value the person, whether or not an investment is made.
So find what interests the donors, and stick with that long-term relationship. Part of your return to them is producing inspiring and compelling results. It makes them feel a part of something larger, and more likely to stay. For many donors, that is their return on investment.
Allow the relationship to move and change. You might keep in touch with someone for 10 years and they might fund you on and off for 6. That’s a good record! Keep the relationship, keep the sincerity, and always, always express appreciation for their involvement, no matter the form it takes.