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How Often is Too Often To Ask For Donations?

I get this question all the time from growing nonprofit organizational staff.

“We send one appeal letter and a few e-mails at year end asking for gifts, is this enough?”

“If we send more appeals, will we upset our loyal donors and turn them off?”

“How do we know if we are asking too often or too infrequently?”

The answer is, “it depends.”  There is no magic formula.

Every organization is unique in their mission and where they are in their life cycle, and every donor base is unique, too.  Testing is key, and so is looking at the past performance of your solicitation methods – mail and e-mail, timing, and the results of each effort.

For example, you might have a spring appeal campaign centered around your “cause” month, and then another closer to year end that you call your “annual holiday appeal.”  Both have been performing well – meaning the cost of the campaigns, both mailed and through email – cover the costs of the campaign plus much more, and the checks and online gifts are coming in at a really good level, if not increasing each year.  You have had consistent success with both for a few years.

In this case, I would advise another appeal in mid-year, perhaps with a “summer” theme that is related to the work of your nonprofit and the beneficiaries of your work, with more email “updates” throughout the year that don’t necessarily include an ask so your nonprofit stays “top of mind” and you are reporting back on the impact of recent gifts.  Test it and see what happens.  I actually did this years ago, and was pleasantly surprised when the third mailing brought in just over half of what each of the other two mailings brought in!  This means our donors were ready and willing to support us again through a third mailing.

Of course, you should have a system in place of major donor cultivation strategies that is separate from this question, but that’s for another post!

Veteran fundraising colleague Claire Axelrad of Clarification.com wrote a thorough blog post on the subject of asking frequency that made me say ‘YES’ when I read it!

She says some amazing things., like this – and I quote…

“People may not read every mailing you send, but this doesn’t mean they don’t like receiving them. In a way, it reassures them that you are still a healthy, vibrant organization that is out there in the community doing good things.”

To read Claire’s full blog post, click here.

Wishing you greater nonprofit abundance and success,