When it comes to donor management, many nonprofits overlook their lapsed donors. Most focus on finding and securing new donors and nurturing relationships with existing donors to increase loyalty and upgrade donations. Both emphases are crucial. Executing a fundraising plan that aims to recruit and retain donors is a great way to build a healthy organization.
Obviously, the more donors you can prevent from lapsing through strong donor retention efforts, the better. Once a donor does lapse, however, you shouldn’t expect to win them back by lumping them in with your active donors. You also shouldn’t leave them in the dust, though.
To turn lapsed donors back into active donors, you need a plan beyond leaving them on your outreach lists. We’ll share the reasons why this matters, and then share five areas for your team to consider as you make a plan for how to reach your lapsed donors.
- Define A Lapsed Donor
- Dig Into Your Data
- Reach Out As Personally As You Can
- Ask Your Lapsed Donors To Update Their Preferences
- Craft Your Message
Why Try To Re-Engage Lapsed Donors?
Lapsed donors may seem like a lost cause. These donors haven’t given to your nonprofit in a while – why would you spend money to try to get them to give again? Well, two reasons.
- They’ve already given to your nonprofit once which means that at one point they agreed with your mission. Lapsed donors can be easier to convert than prospective donors. Just because they’ve lapsed doesn’t mean they still aren’t interested in your cause. There are a variety of reasons why donors lapse. Many lapsed donors do not realize they have lapsed.
- It’s cheaper than acquiring new donors. You already have their contact information and know what they’ve given to in the past. This means you don’t have to spend money on buying lists or sending mass appeals hoping that your offer will resonate with someone.
1. Define A Lapsed Donor & Set Your Tone
Who qualifies as a lapsed donor for you nonprofit? Is it someone who hasn’t given in over 12 months? Once you define this subset, you’ll want to generate the right reports to create a list of your lapsed donors. This will set you up to communicate directly to your lapsed donors. When you do so, keep in mind that many lapsed donors don’t think of themselves as lapsed donors.
They may still see themselves as important contributors to the cause. If you reach out with a guilt-inducing or mock-scolding tone, you’ll probably immediately turn them off of giving again. Remember that they are donors and treat them with the same respect you treat your most active donors.
2. Dig Into Your Data
Use the data you have on your lapsed donors to try to determine what motivated their gift and what precipitated their lapsing. If you know which of your lapsed donors gave because they attended an event or gave for a specific fundraising goal of yours, you’ll have ideas on the best way to reengage them.
Your data can also help you see trends around when in the donor lifecycle donors tend to fall off. Look into the timeline of your donor churn rate so you can better prepare for those moments and prevent donor lapsing in the first place.
3. Reach Out As Personally As You Can
Ideally, you would engage in one-on-one conversations with each of your lapsed donors by meeting face-to-face, making phone calls, or sending personalized emails. But there are ways to connect with your donors without meeting in person too. Here are some ideas to get started.
- Handwritten card. Write a personal note explaining that you miss them and let them know about the work your nonprofit accomplished since they’ve last given. Handwriting a message shows your donors that you truly value their support.
- Get on the phone. A great way to re-engage your donors is by getting on the phone and talking to them. Start with a thank you call and organizational update. You can also ask them if there’s any way you can improve their experience. Then, when it feels appropriate, you can ask for a donation.
- Grab a cup of coffee. Finally, if you have a personal relationship with this donor, set up a face-to-face meeting. Share in person about your programs and ask them why they haven’t given in a while and how you can improve their experience. You can also take this time to personally invite them to an event or see your nonprofit’s work in action.
Of course, this kind of one-on-one encounter takes immense time and effort. While it may be worth it to have these individual conversations, it’s not always feasible for your team. As an alternative, think of other ways to get as personal as you can. What information do you know about your lapsed donors? For example, if you know some of them donated after attending your biggest annual event, mention that event in your outreach.
4. Ask Your Lapsed Donors To Update Their Preferences
The phrase “you don’t ask, you don’t get” is certainly true for fundraising, but sometimes it’s about the right way and correct amount of times you ask them. Maybe they prefer to hear from you 4x a year. Maybe they just like getting your email newsletter.
Surveys are a great way to re-engage with your donors. Send these out digitally and ask your supporters what types of communications they prefer. Or, you can hop on the phone and chat with your donors about their preferences. Either way you choose, it shows your supporters that you care about providing them with the best experience possible. Plus, it helps to prevent your supporters from unsubscribing to your emails (Make sure you update these preferences in your database!).
5. Invite Your Lapsed Donors To Give Again
It’s time to write your donor letter or donor email. But where’s the best place to start? We recommend you start with gratitude. Thank your donors honestly and earnestly for their contributions to your team. Only after you’ve properly acknowledged their gifts, tell them you miss them. You loved having them as a part of your team, so make sure that’s the message you’re sending, not one of guilt.
Next, fill them in on what’s been going on at your organization and your vision for the future. Remember not to speak to them as if they don’t know anything, but as though they’re vital team members who need an update. Include stories and positive impact numbers and speak clearly about your upcoming plans and strategy.
Finally, make an ask. Sometimes your ask will be for a donation, but often, it’s best to bring them back into the organization first by asking them to an event or asking them to take an advocacy action. Be open to new ways for them to contribute as well. Perhaps they can no longer donate, but they can volunteer.
Lapsed donors are great fundraising prospects who will react positively to the right outreach. Now’s a great time to get your team together to create a specific lapsed donor plan so you have ways to reengage as many people as possible.
Schedule a live demo with our partner Bloomerang, and we’ll show you how easy it is to create and automate reports, utilize online and offline fundraising tools, quickly integrate and access all your data, and ultimately create more time to engage your donors.