An Unlikely Antidote to Donor Fatigue

Posted by on Jun 20, 2013 in ComLead, Managing Not-For-Profit Organizations

An Unlikely Antidote to Donor Fatigue

Fundraisers will go to great lengths to secure a donation – or even to get us to simply open the envelope. Over time, we’ve weeded out some of the winning and losing fundraising strategies.

One of the most consistently successful approaches is to build a personal connection. Prospective donors most likely want to feel emotionally connected to your cause or organization before they write the Big Check.

One surefire losing strategy is making anonymous, impersonal appeals frequently. We’ve probably all fallen victim to this – you unwittingly submit personal information to an organization, and instantly begin to receive a constant stream of email and mail pleas for support. This strategy – which really amounts to spamming – can make donors feel anonymous, mistreated and tired of your organization. It’s a shortcut to donor fatigue, but it’s a trap that uninventive and heavily-automated fundraising plan can fall into.

A New Strategy

Enter: the Once & Done.┬áIn an interview with Freakonomics radio, charitable economics expert John List describes the “Once and Done” method as an opt-out mailer for donors. Prospects receive a letter requesting support and featuring a box they can check to opt out of all future mailings. They check the box, mail it in alongside a check, and (theoretically) never hear from the organization again.

Why It Works

Sounds like a quick way to eliminate half your prospect list, right? But consider what the opt-out option communicates to a tired, spammed donor like to one above. Allowing her to opt out of future solicitations says, “We value our relationship with you, and we hope you will continue this relationship only if it’s the best choice for YOU.”

The Once and Done reaffirms the personal connection between donor and organization.It works because, in List’s words, it “gives control of the the relationship to the solicitee.”

The actual success of this strategy is surprising. List reports that prospects who receive a Once and Done-syle appeal tend to:

1. maker larger-than-average gifts in that solicitation,

2. leave the opt-out box UNCHECKED,

3. and give more in future campaigns.

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