Avoiding Donor Boredom

The always interesting Eloqui Tip of the Week  recently talked about the bored octopus. “Octopi,” the newsletter asserts, “will cause themselves harm, and even death to escape octopusboredom.”  And while I won’t go quite that far, I get the magnitude of the problem.

For nonprofit, harm and yes, worse, often occurs because no one wants to do the boring fundraising tasks that must be done.  They want to try to new, the shiny, the thing that some nonprofit used to raise millions.  Which, of course, will happen to them if they just jump on the bandwagon.  Never mind the actual work it takes to get to the point where the new, shiny, etc will work—or the connections.

Fundraising can be a slog.  So many things to do all the time. Success depends on consistency.  And not all of it is fun or even interesting.

Much is, of course.  But you don’t get to do the fun stuff until and unless you have set the stage.

Setting the stage means starting at the top:  Identifying and learning about who you know who might make a great donor for this donor, this organization, at this time?  This means that you are looking at your data—regularly, obsessively.  What are you looking for?

  • Who has recently made a large gift?
  • Who is giving regularly and might give more if you approached a little more personally?
  • Who recently stopped giving?
  • Who increased their regular giving?

More than that, you should know things about your donors.

What does this person give to?  Do they respond best to an end of the year appeal, a phone call, a special call to action such as a match?  Do they only respond or respond more generously when the appeal touches on a specific project or program?  Do they give every single time you ask?

How is this person connected?  Yes, yes.  They are a donor.  Are they friends with anyone on your board or staff?  Do they or their family benefit from your services now?  In the past?

Do they come to events?  Which ones?  If fundraising ones, are they sponsor-level or simply one or two ticket buyers?  If you have educational sessions, do they come?  Is there a topic or type of topic that seems to appeal to them?

Digging deeply and learning about your donors is an activity that pays off handsomely.  It gives Diggingyou a window into your donor’s world.  That matters because they, too, get bored.  While you need to be consistent with your fundraising, individual donors may get stuck doing what they do because that’s the way you ask them to contribute. To keep their octopi from becoming bored and potentially wreaking havoc, Eloqui reports that aquarium staff worldwide design ingenious tasks to keep their octopi entertained.  Entertaining your donors may not be high on your list, but keeping them interested and involved with you is.  The more you can engage your donors, the more they will be invested in you and your work.  And invested donors are exactly what you are looking for.



Janet Levine works with nonprofits, moving them from mired to inspired and helping them to raise more money. Find out more at www.janetlevineconsulting.com. While there, sign up for the monthly newsletter. And now, buy Janet’s new book, Compelling Conversations for Fundraisers, available at Amazon.