The Top 5 Reasons Donors Lapse & How to Prevent Them

Successful donor retention is an important part of all fundraising strategies. Finding and acquiring new donors is vital and also hard. Every nonprofit has donors who lapse, discontinuing their support of their organization.

Yet, even though it’s going to happen, the more you can minimize donors lapsing, the more you’ll be able to build strong relationships with your donors, turning them into lifelong supporters.

Why do donors lapse? There are many reasons and luckily, most of them can be prevented. Here are the top five reasons donors lapse and what you can do to stop it from happening so often.

Miscellaneous reasons out of your control.

Every year you’re going to lose some donors for a variety of reasons you can’t prevent. People’s financial situations change, making it impossible to continue donating. Donors also move, finding new local causes to support. These lapsed donors are an inevitability, so you can never expect to ever have perfect donor retention. Control as much as you can control and understand there are things you can’t.

The donor finds another cause to be “more worthy.”

The nonprofit market is very busy for donors. Every day there are new crises that need support and new issues becoming more urgent at different times. A donors’ passions may change or they may become educated on a new issue they now want to support. While it’s great when any nonprofit finds support, ideally you don’t want to lose the donors you’ve worked so hard to acquire.

Some of this “worthiness” problem is inevitable, but building strong donor relationships is the best prevention. When donors feel connected to your organization, your work, and even better to your team and the beneficiaries of your work, they remain more loyal.

Build trust with your donors, providing exemplary service to both the beneficiaries of your work and to your donors. Always treat your donors with respect and appreciation. Increase your donors’ involvement with your organization—inviting them to events, recruiting them to volunteer, and sharing updates and stories regularly.

Donors don’t receive (or don’t remember receiving) recognition for their gift.

Thanking your donors is the first, most crucial step, of successful donor management. You absolutely must thank your donors, and often.

Make sure that when someone donates to your organization online, they automatically receive a thank you email. Use your donor management platform to set up a heartfelt and sincere auto-reply thank you right now. Then, find a creative way to say thank you offline for the larger donations you receive.

Continue to thank your donors regularly, even when making another ask. You may need another gift, but you’re still grateful for their first one—make sure they know that.

You never told your donors how you’re spending their donation.

Of course, you may not know exactly where that $25 you just received will be spent and often, donations are used to pay for boring, unsexy things like electricity or trash service. Yet, donors want to feel like their gift is accomplishing something for the cause they care about.

Through every step of the fundraising process, be transparent with your donors about what their donations are supporting—the type of programs you’re able to run, the people you’re able to help, the effective staff you’re able to hire. Put names and faces to the people they’re helping by telling stories about your work and its effects.

A donor feels offended by your communication.

There are a variety of communication mistakes, perceived or actual, you might make that may seem like no big deal, but could cause your donor to lapse. You might accidentally get a donors’ name wrong or thank them for a smaller amount of money than they donated. Bigger mistakes might include asking a 19-year-old supporter to chip in with $500 when they’ve never given more than $10 at a time or acting as the donor hasn’t given as much as they should have.

First, make sure you have a good donor management platform that can keep track of all the data you need and then make sure your information is up to date. This attention to detail can prevent so many errors.

Then, make sure you segment your outreach. Segmentation, the process of categorizing your donors based on similar characteristics and using those segments to tailor your outreach, helps you use the right messenger, make the right ask, and get the most out of your outreach and it helps you avoid negative interactions with your donors.

Through taking these preventative measures, all of which prevent donors from lapsing, you’ll be building stronger relationships with your donors. Relationships help build donor loyalty and retention, ensuring you have your donors’ support for years to come.


Wanting to learn how to reengage your lapsed donors? Here’s more info!