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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Donor Fatigue

I have 'donor fatigue.' I donate quite a bit of money to a variety of human, environmental and animal welfare charities every year. But this year, I feel anything but generous.

I attribute this to a couple of factors. First, I am facing some major home repair bills, including a new roof for my house and restuccoing of the house and the wall that surrounds my large back yard. Cost for this work probably will exceed $40,000. Second, I am really tired of being hit up for money on a daily basis. I started receiving Thanksgiving appeals in the mail more than three months before Thanksgiving. I realize that the need for feeding and housing the homeless doesn't stop during the summer, and I wouldn't have been put off had the appeals been based on that fact. But really, hitting me up, not once but repeatedly, for donations for Thanksgiving three months in advance? I have asked FIVE times to be removed from this group's mailing list, but I continue to receive mailings, the most recent one just yesterday.

My Facebook news feed, and my e-mail inbox, are filled with appeals for funds, many of them marked 'urgent' or 'emergency.' I have unsubscribed from several organizations' e-mails (which I never signed up for to begin with), and I have 'unliked' a lot of groups on Facebook. I simply cannot donate to every worthy cause.

Feeling overwhelmed by the number and intensity of demands for donations can lead to something dubbed 'donor fatigue,' described by as "a general weariness and diminished public response to requests for aid to needy people or donations to charitable causes."

I first heard about donor fatigue years ago when the news was filled with on-going reports about starvation in Africa. At first, people stepped up and donated, but when the problem continued without any seeming improvement, donor fatigue set in. This is one reason for donor fatigue -- a perceived lack of progress. For example, despite major advances in treating various cancers, there is no 'cure' and millions die from this horrid disease every year.

Fat salaries and compensation packages paid to executives of mega-charities are another reason for donor fatigue, as are a high level of 'administrative expenses' and reports of misuse of funds. Some so-called charities seem to exist only to raise funds. Years ago, I donated to CARE. However, I stopped donating, and have not given a dime since then, after I received weekly appeals for donations from this group. One day, I received TWO different appeals from CARE on the same day! It seemed that whatever money was raised was used simply to produce more demands for money.

I still plan to donate to my favorite organizations, but only when I want to donate, not in response to incessant requests for money. Donor fatigue has definitely taken hold. One of my favorite organizations, Memphis Area Golden Retriever Rescue (, has a large holiday fundraiser every year. It's done online, and I always make a generous donation in memory of my adopted golden, Gage. I never receive appeals for money from this group during the year, not even in its e-mailed newsletter. I wish more organizations would follow MAGRR's model. In the several years since I adopted Gage, MAGRR has always met and exceeded its fundraising goal. So this approach obviously is very successful.

So, non-profits of the world, give a thought to how donor fatigue is impacting your donors. While I may support your cause, I -- and many others -- don't appreciate being hounded for still more donations. We also don't like to see the money wasted on incessant mailings that could be put to use helping those you claim to help.