The Cost of Living Crisis and Donor Fatigue: How we can Overcome the Overwhelm

20 July 2023




Guide Dogs

Ten Two Dollar New Zealand coins grouped together to form a downward pointing arrow.

The fundraising marketplace is more crowded than ever with countless organisations calling on our support.

But during a cost of living crisis, what is the smartest way for the average kiwi to support the charities that matter most to them?

Our Fundraising Manager, Bernadette Murphy made a recent appearance on TVNZ’s Breakfast where she chatted with host Matt McLean about donor fatigue when we’re feeling the pinch, and how we can overcome the overwhelm.

Matt McLean: From supporting a mate during a difficult time to cyclone recovery, there are a lot of fundraisers on our social media feeds. Donation platform Givealittle has seen nearly 12,000 new pages being created in the past 12 months alone. With so many around, it can be hard to know where to put your money. And there’s even a term for it: donor fatigue. To explain what this means, here’s Fundraising Institute of New Zealand’s Bernadette Murphy. Mōrena, Bernadette.

Bernadette Murphy: Morena

MM: You’re also the fundraising manager for Blind Low Vision New Zealand. So you know all about this, right?

BM: Live and breathe it. Yeah.

MM: Donation fatigue is a real thing. Explain this to me.

BM: So basically, it’s when there’s often when there’s a crisis situation happening, which we are in, in New Zealand and globally – tail end of a pandemic. So, the need is very strong in the market. The call to action is everywhere. So, donors become overwhelmed and sometimes desensitised to the fact that there is a massive need right now. So, it’s fatigue. They become fatigued.

MM: But, as you mentioned, that need is massive and it’s not getting any better at the moment either.

BM: No, I think we have a discrepancy between what the government can support and what’s happening in the community, especially with the environmental impacts of the cyclone, the flooding, tail end of the pandemic, cost of living right now. So, the need is huge out there.

MM: I was looking at the stats that we started to mention in our introduction: Givealittle said there were almost 12,000 pages in the past 12 months. It’s about 2,000 more than the year before. $43 million donated. Up quite considerably, again, from the year before as well. So how do you get over that donation fatigue?

BM: I think it’s about transparency, integrity, and accountability. So, with pages and platforms like Givealittle, there is due diligence. And I think as a donor, just make sure that whoever you’re giving to is really clear about what they’re trying to raise funds for, they keep in contact with you, there’s strong communication, and they are transparent about where the money goes.

MM: It can also feel quite overwhelming as someone sitting, you know, a member of the public who wants to do good but sees so many different areas that they could donate to, to understand where should I put my money? Am I doing enough? Could I be doing more? And in a cost of living crisis, it’s really hard for people.

BM: It is. And I think donors just become more strategic about where they are going to give. And that’s about where your linkage is. Where do you feel a connection to? What’s impacted your life and how do you want to impact others? And if you go to a charity, usually they are able to [distribute] that money to where it needs to go, [where this is] the most need. So, I would say the charitable reputation is really important when you’re making those strategic decisions as a donor.

MM: And possibly getting to an understanding as a member of the public that you can’t change the world, you can’t donate to everyone and everything.

BM: You can’t. But a little bit goes a long way. So it can just be $10 every month and it’s just going to change someone’s life in a positive way. And we need that right now from a community perspective.

MM: Yeah. Tell me about how you were finding things personally as a fundraising manager for Blind Low Vision New Zealand.

BM: It’s about diversification and it’s about people [wanting] to be involved in what they’re creating change with. So, we have an event like Pawgust coming up in August, which is to raise money for Guide Dog services. It’s about getting out and walking your dog. Anyone can do it. It’s easy and the smallest amount can make a difference to someone who needs that support in their life. So, it’s about diversifying, thinking differently about how you’re going to raise funds. Keep it more on a basic grassroots level and make people involved.

MM: Have you seen a change in the amount or the level of donations that you’re receiving?

BM: Yeah, I definitely think there’s less people giving, but the people who are giving, are giving more. And that’s about going, okay, where can I put my money? What can I support going forward? And I think that works for us really well as well because we are building a closer relationship with those people, which is where the importance comes in.

MM: Beautiful. Bernadette, thank you so much for coming in. That’s Bernadette Murphy from the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand and Blind Low Vision NZ.


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