Are You Bothering Your Donors Or Inspiring Them?

By | October 29, 2015


“Let’s not send too many emails. We don’t want to turn them off.”

Why are so many fundraisers  deathly afraid that they’re “bothering” their donors?

Make it meaningful.

It’s less a question of frequency and more one of content and relevance. When someone receives your letter or email, are you one more thing to get done in the rush? Or does she eagerly read, happy to confirm what she wants to know: that she’s a good and generous person who can make someone else’s life better? Does she click or write a check, eager for the wonderful feeling of warmth she knows is coming?

If what you’re sending is a message about your organization and its need, chances are you’re a bother. Whether you send one or many appeals, they’ll all be met with the same unenthusiastic response.

But if your message is all about your donor – celebrating how generous she is, what great things you know she can do – then your messages won’t be a burden, but a gift.

If you tell a gripping story – with your donor as the hero, because someone needs her help – that’s inspiring. If reading what you send makes her feel empowered, she won’t mind feeling wonderful again. And then one of your messages will come at just the right time. The time when she needs to make a gift.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to send too many appeals. Of course, it’s possible. But most people I talk to worry about sending several emails between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Or two letters. That’s not going to be too much, if those appeals are worth reading.

Make it easy.

Once you’ve moved your donor to act, there’s another hurdle. Be sure you make giving easy. Don’t ask your donor to click multiple links in response to an email. Don’t ask for her life history. Every step you ask her to take moves her away from that warm feeling. Keep it emotional and simple.

If you’re sending mail, have the response form all but filled in. Print her information on it. You know her address – don’t ask your donor to fill it all out again. Include a picture that reinforces your story. Use a great headline, filled with emotion. Underline the urgent message of why she’s needed. Consider using a whole piece of paper for the response form so you can print in a font large enough to be read easily.

Boring is a burden. Inspiring is not.

Here’s a quick guide:


  • Your budget
  • Your fundraising goals
  • A chance to be an extra in your drama


  • Her kindness
  • Her generosity
  • A chance to star in the story
  • A chance to change someone’s life

Remember: your organization is simply a means to an end. Step back a little. Focus on connecting the donor and the person who needs her. Make that connection as seamless as possible and you may have some happy year-end news to celebrate yourself.