How To Combat Donor Fatigue


We are four days to Dec. 31, and if you’re like me, the requests for year-end donations are pouring in via Internet and other media, snail mail, and phone. During the holidays even shopping trips Overflowing mailboxare accompanied by ringing bells, giving trees, small donations at the register and donation jars. Admittedly, Good Neighbor Stories is part of the onslaught, with our own virtual food drive.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the face of so many requests for help. “Donor fatigue” is a real condition that charities are well aware of. The Mercury News posted a story on Christmas that describes just how worn out people feel this holiday season after hearing so many pleas.

There are ways to cope and not feel so burned out. Here are are few suggestions. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

  • Decide what causes you are most passionate about. What stirs your heart the most? Children? Hunger? Animals? The environment? A particular part of the world like Africa or Asia? A religious institution? Figure our what you care about and then narrow your giving focus to those specific causes.
  • Set a budget for your donations and stick to it. Decide how much you are able to donate for the year. Pick a percentage of your income, or settle on an amount you feel just slightly uncomfortable about. Yes, I did say you should be slightly uncomfortable about it. Don’t give an amount that will put your finances in jeopardy, but do stretch yourself just a little more than you think you can. Cut back on coffees, eating out, downloading music, or other little luxuries, and set aside what you would have spent for donating. Keep track of your donations, and when you hit your limit, stop. Conversely, if you get to the end of the year and find you didn’t reach your limit, make some year-end donations.
  • Pick just a few organizations you know you can trust. My advice would be to pick just a few nonprofit groups, with no more than 10 total. For peace of mind, do a little homework on each group, so you will have some confidence that the money will be used wisely. Use websites like those of Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau. Think about giving larger amounts to just a few organizations, rather than sending out small amounts to a large array of groups. Your money will have more of an impact.
  • Consider setting aside an amount out of your budget for unexpected giving opportunities. Natural disasters, a friend asking you to donate to a charity or school, someone you know who just needs a lending hand, unexpected opportunities are going to present themselves. Be prepared by setting aside some money for those surprises as they arise.
  • Prepare a kind, but firm, response to requests outside of your subject focus and budget. It could be as simple as, “Thank you for asking, but I’m not able to donate at this time.” Or, “That sounds like a wonderful cause, but I’ve already decided on the charities I’m donating to this year/reached my donation limit.” If you mean it, add, “I’ll seriously consider adding your charity to my list next year.”
  • Filter the requests coming in. Prevent overload by limiting what you see and hear. Use caller ID on your phone, and don’t pick up phone numbers you don’t recognize. I go by the motto that if it’s important, the caller will leave a message. If you receive mail from charities you didn’t choose to focus on, send it straight to the recycle bin, or delete emails without opening. Change the channel on the TV when ads asking for money appear.
  • Remind yourself that the success of the charity does not rest on you alone. You stepped up for other charities or fundraising drives, and people with different passions and interests will step up for the ones you said “no” to. Pat yourself on the back for what you were able to do, and let the rest of it go.