Dry January Syndrome

Overcoming The Dry January Syndrome - Fundraising While Not Fundraising

Rahul Razdan Rahul Razdan
Jan 2022

Dry January Syndrome
The dry January syndrome is a significant predicament within the nonprofit sector - with the donors lacking interest in events, the staff having some lingering holiday spirit hangover, and the executive team busy with the evaluation of last year’s year-end giving season. Organizations must get their beginning of the year strategies right and get off to a good start on meeting their fundraising goals. Here’s a “killing two birds with one stone” strategy to help nonprofit organizations overcome the dry January syndrome.
Did you know that over half of the new donors acquired by nonprofits, drop off after the first donation?

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The Two Birds
  1. Problem 1: After a sizzling year-end/holiday fundraising season, donation fatigue sets in, and donors lack interest in fundraising events.
  2. Problem 2: Most of the new donors acquired during the last year drop off. As per the Association of Fundraising Professionals , Donor retention is declining, dropping 4.1% in 2020 to only around 43.6%.
The Stone
  1. Solution - Use January to invest in analyzing & improving your donor retention and focus on donor engagement to maximize your long-term fundraising potential, i.e. Fundraise while not fundraising!
It’s important to think about how to increase donor retention as this is one of the most influential factors that determines a nonprofits’ long-term financial sustainability by creating a robust fundraising channel. This is because, simply put, acquiring new donors is much more expensive than retaining existing ones. Before we get into the details of donor engagement and retention strategies, you can read our blog Understanding Your Donors’ LTV to understand what Donor LifeTime Value (LTV) is, how it is calculated, and how donor retention plays a significant role in an organization’s fundraising potential.

Coming back to a few strategies and campaign ideas that you can use early in the year (Jan/Feb) to grow your donor base, retain more donors, and lay the groundwork for a great fundraising year.

Strategy 1: Free Campaigns to Drive Engagement


Nonprofit organizations have an excellent opportunity to rally patrons around the cause they champion. Recognizing the year-end donation fatigue, consider running a few free-to-join awareness campaigns early in the year that educates participants about your cause, bring your community together, and help drive a stronger relationship between your mission and the patrons. Such campaigns drive up the Donor Life Span and thus the Donor LTV.

With these free to participate campaigns, it is important to allow individuals to engage with your organization without feeling compelled to donate, either explicitly or subtly. If you cannot afford a free engagement campaign and need to do some fundraising, consider making such fundraising activity optional and ensure that your communication strategy reflects the “optional giving” aspect of the campaign.

Strategy 2: Fun Campaigns for Growing Your Donor Base


Typically, end-of-year fundraising brings in a lot of first-time donors to a nonprofit organization. In addition to running free engagement and awareness campaigns, request these new donors to participate in a team challenge/campaign with their friends and family members. Such campaigns often have a snowball effect, where a few members join the team, and then the network effects bring in more friends and family members to the fore.

At Charity Footprints, we see 2.5 times higher goal completion rates when an activity commences in a team/group setting instead of it being done individually.

Strategy 3: Spreading Awareness & Brand Building Campaigns


Focusing on your brand is one of the most significant long-term investments you can make. This Forbes article highlights that building a great brand helps invoke images, emotions, and cravings. Although branding is essential for all organizations, it is even more critical for the nonprofit sector as we rely on support from our community, often in a very crowded market space with lots of competing organizations reaching out to the same audience. Remember investing in your brand plays a crucial role in donor retention and driving up the donor LTV.

Whether you decide to run a fundraising event or a free one, make sure that your brand is reflected in all facets of this event. At Charity Footprints, we often encourage our partner organizations to not just think about “A Virtual 5K/10K”, rather about “A Virtual Race For Finding Cure” or “A Virtual Run To Educate Youth”. Additionally, we strongly encourage our partners to customize their campaigns by using their brand colors, by designing custom virtual race routes and giveaways such as eBibs, eCertificates, etc. that are unique to your organization and brand. Check out some of our recent fundraisers and learn how we put a nonprofit’s brand front and center on our virtual races.

Strategy 4: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!


Lack of communication is often recognized as a critical reason new donors lose interest in an organization. At the same time, reaching out to a new donor with another ask too soon is a big turn-off for most. Managing donor communication thus is a delicate balancing act that should be well thought out and handled carefully. Here are some communication ideas to engage/reengage donors in January without explicitly asking for their financial support just yet.
  1. Run awareness campaigns for different segments of donors
  2. Layout your plans for the coming few months or the year
  3. Share the end of year fundraising data and the tangible impact this would allow your organization to drive
  4. Share impact stories from the past year
  5. Recognize individuals and organizations that went above and beyond to support your cause
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