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Lapsed Donor

What Is A Lapsed Donor?

A lapsed donor is a donor who used to contribute to an organization but who has not donated within a specified amount of time. Usually, that time period is twelve months. However, some organizations consider a donor lapsed after two or three years. The time period is usually informed by a nonprofit’s fundraising plan and the key metrics they track.

Why Do Donors Lapse?

According to the 2018 Fundraising Effectiveness Report, for every 100 donors gained in 2017, 99 donors were lost. Numbers like these may be startling to organizations looking to expand their donor base and improve retention, but being aware of the likelihood of donor lapse is the first step in preventing it. Nonprofits need to be aware of lapsed donors in order to formulate a plan to win them back or at least prevent more donors from lapsing in the future.

Lapsed donors stop giving for a variety of reasons—some within your control and some not. For example, donors’ financial situations change. They also move and find local causes to support in their new hometowns. Other top reasons donors lapse include finding causes they find “more worthy,” not receiving recognition for their gift, not understanding how their gift is being used, and feeling offended by your donor communication (or lack thereof).

No matter the reason, organizations are bound to see some donor attrition. The important thing is to be aware of lapsed donors so you can identify ways to prevent other donors from lapsing.

How Can Nonprofits Prevent Donor Lapse?

Understanding why your donors stopped giving will be key in learning how to win them back. You may want to start by sending a survey collecting feedback from donors to better understand where your organization missed the mark. You can ask questions like, “How was your donation experience?” and “What feedback can you provide about our level of communication following your donation?”

Once you’ve identified a donor as lapsed, you have many options for ways to re-engage them. You may want to consider making things personal by reaching out to them directly through a lapsed donor letter.

A lapsed donor letter is a letter an organization sends to a lapsed donor in hopes of compelling them to give again. When writing a lapsed donor letter, it’s important to think about how you can make the donor feel important. Start by addressing them by their name instead of with a generic greeting like “To Whom It May Concern.” Next, remind them of their previous donation and the impact their generosity had on your mission. Once you’ve shown how crucial their support is, make an ask with a clear call to action. This could mean inviting them to go to your website and make another donation.

When writing your letter, think about a specific campaign you want them to contribute to or a specific impact you want them to make. Donors are more likely to give when they have a reason and can see the impact their donation will have.

Bottom Line

Lapsed donors are donors who previously gave to your organization but who have not given within a predetermined period of time. All organizations will experience some donor lapse, but when you are aware of who is lapsing and why, you can craft a plan to reduce the number of lapsed donors.

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