List Building & Retention

How to Combat Supporter Fatigue

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How to Combat Supporter Fatigue

Don’t wait for supporter fatigue to set in before creating a plan to mitigate it. Nice idea, right? Most of us only recognize the threat of supporter fatigue after it’s infected our list. By that time, campaign, outreach, and fundraising potential has already taken a hit...

Shift to a proactive mindset. It should be possible to give your supporters a good experience from day one and build a rewarding, sustainable pattern of engagement. Having a solid retention strategy isn’t only good for you, it’s good for all of us. Most supporters subscribe to multiple lists—and fatigue is contagious. Poor engagement in one organization can harm the whole movement. Let’s fix this!

Why are supporters tuning out?

Your digital strategy shouldn’t only be designed to meet your needs; it needs to meet your supporters’ needs, too. If your supporters are switching off, that could be a sign that their needs are not being met. This symptom is pointing you to an underlying problem:

  • Misalignment of asks to supporters’ interests
  • Over-asking or under-asking
  • Imbalance of action and reward
  • Losing sight of what inspired them to join
  • Lack of connection to the organization or to the movement
  • A sense of hopelessness or poor visibility to impact or progress

The content you send, and the frequency you send it, will either mitigate or exacerbate these problems.

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What it takes to fix (or prevent) an engagement problem

Engagement patterns—good or bad—take time to establish. Trying to course-correct them can feel a bit like steering a cruise ship with a kayak paddle. Be prepared for the need to make shifts in your digital communications strategy from an organization-centric mindset to a supporter-centric mindset. Less ‘take, more ‘give’. You’ll need to embed a near-obsessive level of empathy for your supporters’ experience into every digital touchpoint. A fatigued audience can be revived—but results will require consistency and a bucketload of patience.

Okay, now that I’ve sufficiently dampened your enthusiasm and calibrated your expectations, let’s get to work. Here are 14 time-tested strategies that will boost long-term engagement.

Accept that you will lose some people

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how incredible your retention strategy is, some people are just going to outgrow you. That’s okay. If all attempts to bring them back fail, let them go.

Put thought into your unsubscribe journey. Make it simple, but gracious (the quality of this interaction can increase chances that your supporter will re-join in future). Seek optional feedback from exiting subscribers to calibrate your assumptions. Pro-actively purge the ‘dead’ parts of your list to cut digital waste, safeguard deliverability, and maintain accurate engagement metrics. A solid list-building strategy will more than make up for the loss.

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Karen Nilsen

Hi there! I’m Karen. I’m on a mission to reach my former self. Had I known 10 years ago what I know today, I could have achieved more good, made fewer mistakes, and had more weekends. Every time we share what works, we win faster. Let’s create digital experiences that move people — that grow our base and fuel our movements. Are you with me? Please share this with someone you know who wants to up their digital game!

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