Donor Retention

JUMP START the New Year + Avoid the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Donor Fatigue

By Trent Dunham

You’re almost there! The months of hard work that you and your team have put into cultivating relationships, sharing Kingdom impact stories, and keeping the ministry programming going and expanding is about to pay off. We’re just weeks away from watching God work in the hearts of His donors to accomplish His purposes through your ministry.

It’s that good exhausted feeling. You know, like the one you have after a strenuous workout. Now it’s time to trust and wait. We trust in God’s goodness and that we have done all we can to inspire our supporters’ generosity and investment in changed lives through the ministry. I want to be the first to say congratulations on a job well done!

Year end is such an intense time of communicating with our donors and seeing their outpouring of support that we can fall into the trap of believing that we need to go silent with them in January. That logic presumes that we asked so much of them in December that they are fatigued and need a break in the new year.

While that could make some logical sense, it actually doesn’t make practical sense.

Allow me to unpack.

Nearly every year I hear this well-intended comment from a partner client as we begin to plan communications for the next year. “Let’s tread lightly so that we don’t burn out our donors.”

The problem is that virtually every time we’ve tested it, a compelling ask in January has worked better than pulling back. Why?

There are several compelling reasons:

1. By pulling back in our January fundraising appeals we create a self-fulfilling prophecy that income will be softer as a result of a hard December push. That’s not one self-fulfilling prophecy we can afford to be fulfilled!

2. It’s not that we are just returning with another urgent appeal for support in January. It is that we need to both inspire and cast vision for the new year and convey why donors’ partnership is so vital to the mission. When we cast a vision that is clear, impact-driven, and inclusive, we bless people with the opportunity to respond to the Lord’s call and to be directly involved in what He is doing in and through the ministry.

3. In months where we are tempted to pull back, instead I believe we need to put our best foot forward! Oftentimes we turn those “softer” months into some of our stronger months!

I was having breakfast recently with the pastor of a church we work with, and he told me that after two consecutive three-year capital campaigns were successfully fulfilled, he immediately had members enthusiastically asking him what their next giving campaign was going to be. I love that! It’s a great testament that people are motivated by the vision that’s been shared more than anything. Certainly the pastor’s effective vision casting also had a positive impact as well!

My point is this: As you look into January of 2019, I challenge you to present a bold vision with a bold ask to your valued donors. Remember – we call them partners for a reason. We’re in this together. Straight out of the gate in a new year is an excellent opportunity to rally your audience yet again towards the purpose you know God has put in the heart of your ministry. Rick and I and our whole team at Dunham+Company are excited to see your 2019 vision fulfilled through God’s people!


More Insights from Dunham+Company: There’s GOOD NEWS About Millennial Donors

Ready to take the next step? Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters. Contact Bethany Cranfield at 469-454-0100 to get more information. 

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