Donor Distraction Destroys Fundraising Returns: Here’s What to Do About It.

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

It’s no surprise that we live in very distracting times.

The number of interruptions, tedious processes, and double security verifications is utterly vile.

And those distractions are negatively affecting your fundraising bottom line.

It’s not just the usual distractions either…the stain on your shirt that you didn’t notice until you’re on your way to a meeting, the higher curb that we trip over, the child crying. No, we have to deal with high- level distractions that affect donor behavior.

According to psychologists, distraction is caused by the lack of ability to pay attention; the lack of interest in the object of attention; or the greater intensity, novelty, or attractiveness of something other than the object of attention. Distractions may be triggered by visual, manual, auditory, and cognitive factors, and can include social interactions, music, text messages, and phone calls. Also, hunger, fatigue, illness, worrying, and daydreaming. All interrupt the donor’s focus.

Donors may be distracted from reading and acting on your communication because it reached them at a time when they were focused on something more important—at least for that moment. Or they may be distracted by the content of your communication—if it really moved them, or upset them, or angered them.

Here are a few actions you can take to take to help your donors avoid (or navigate) being distracted by distractions!

  1. Resend Emails

It’s a communication best practice to resend emails to that segment of your email list that has not yet opened your email a few days after you sent it. Once you’ve determined which emails to resend, you’ll need to optimize the timing. When you resend an email, it may have even more influence than the content it contains. Even if they didn’t open recent emails, recipients may recognize the subject line or pre-header. This is more likely if they receive the same email twice within a few days. Resend too soon and contacts may assume that your emails are spam. They may even hit that dreaded unsubscribe button.

Give it time, however, and few donors will realize that they’ve seen certain emails twice. Constant Contact recommends waiting four days before resending. In most cases, four days, they say, will be the sweet spot. Success in resending is all about knowing what you can get away with—and when you should back off. This means adopting a strict policy of resending any given email only once. A single resend is unlikely to bother most recipients, especially if they neglected to open the original version of the email. Keep sending the same email, however, and your campaign is more likely to be perceived as spam.

This link speaks to being creative with your email subject line, something that gets you higher open rates.

  • Make a Phone Call

I can’t believe I have to tell a fundraiser to make a phone call, but I do, because many now think that phoning is impolite! It is not impolite to make a phone call. I realize that you will probably get a voicemail, and that’s fine. Leaving a short, pleasant message is very effective, even if they don’t call back. Hopefully your call will lead to a real conversation and the opportunity to chat and connect. The point is that if you’re serious about fundraising, you have to spend time on the phone.

  • Be Lean of Speech

With so many meaningless communications flying about, we fundraisers must be lean of speech. My dad use to say, “Say what you mean, mean what you say.” Your words don’t have to be clipped or without feeling, but to be lean of speech means thinking in advance about how to convey your message. When I’m not prepared, I risk rambling. Instead, when I jot down a few key talking points before I call, that keeps me on point and effective. Being lean of speech also means your calls will take less time, something everyone likes.

  • Make the Action Step Clear

What do you want the donor to do? What’s the ONE action step you want them to take? Make it clear. State it three times in the communication–at the start, in the middle, and to conclude. If the reader is distracted, they will appreciate being reoriented by the clarity of the action step. Online communication often has a break-out box that you can click on for the action step, and that works well.

  • Use the magic word, “Because.”

I saved the best tip for last. Use the word “because.” Using “because” triggers a reason-why reflex.

Give a good reason to donate, and people respond.

My colleague Steve Thomas explains, “Giving the donor a good reason will increase your response rate. How can you use this strategy? Tell your donors why they should give. Feel free to use “because” in your copy. But this really isn’t a magic word or formula. You don’t have to sprinkle “because” everywhere. It’s as simple as giving the donor the “why.”” For the research details behind this, see this link.

Why will their gift make a difference? Tell them, and they’ll respond.

Please share this post with a colleague who may be interested.

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