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3 Methods to Reactivate Lapsed Donors

Given that the average donor retention rate for nonprofit organizations is about 40-45%, your organization will have lapsed donors. Don’t take it personally. At the same time, don’t be complacent.

With regular stewardship and strategic communication plans, you can decrease the likelihood of donors lapsing and increase the likelihood of re-engaging those that have stopped giving.

Re-engaging Lapsed Donors

The first step to creating a strong stewardship and re-engagement plan for lapsed donors is to understand the reasons donors might have for not continuing their support.

They may be facing financial changes like a job loss, divorce, or the death of a spouse. They may move and shift their focus to nonprofit organizations in their local community. They may experience a life-altering event like the adoption of a rescue animal, a health crisis, or a change in family circumstances that shifts their interests to a different cause or solution. These reasons have nothing to do with you.

Other donors stop giving because they aren’t certain their donations are having a real impact, they feel under- or unappreciated, they were asked for support too often, or the organization did something to offend them.

While you can’t do anything to avoid many of the factors influencing a donor’s decision, you can take steps to better understand your donors and keep them engaged. Instead of trying to avoid things you can’t control, focus on what you can. Do your best to prevent a donor from lapsing.

This begins when the donor makes their first donation, or even before their first gift, when they sign up for your e-newsletter, become a volunteer, or attend an event.

3 Ways to Capture Lapsed Donors

  1.       If you have the ability to call them individually, do that. Have a conversation. As you thank them for joining your community, learn more about them. If they are a donor, ask them what inspired their giving.
  2.       Communicate with them regularly. Share what impact their gift is having. Tell stories of those impacted. Ask board members, volunteers, donors, and program participants or beneficiaries to offer testimonials about why your organization is important to them. Check out our e-guide for tips on how to turn your board members into fundraisers.
  3.       Thank the donor again – when they least expect it. Everyone expects a transactional thank you after sending a gift. Don’t forget to share your appreciation for their support several times over the next 6-12 months. If you know their birthday or any holidays that are important to them, be sure to send a celebratory card.

Practice the ask –> thank –> report impact –> repeat pattern of communication so that before you ask for a second gift, the donor knows they are appreciated and the difference their gift has made.

If a donor does lapse, create a communications plan directed to these lapsed donors.

Constructing a Communication Plan

Decide the best way to engage the donor: individual phone call or video message, a personal email or handwritten note, an email blast or direct mail letter?

In the new year, if you haven’t received a gift of support from someone who gave at a high level or someone who gave consistently, personal outreach is appropriate. If someone on the leadership team has a personal connection, ask them to reach out to the donor. If you have a large group of lapsed donors who you cannot reach out to individually, use mass communication tools like a group video, email blast, or personalized form letter.

In the one-to-one situations, prepare first to ask after their well-being. Be open to hearing them share something that might explain why they have stopped giving. Don’t be too intent on asking for their support that you miss an important message about their lives that may have impacted their support.

For one-time donors, small gift donors, or those you may not know well, communications should emphasize that their support was missed and that their donation would be appreciated and have an important impact. Help them understand how and why their gift will make a difference. Share one or two tangible and intangible results of a gift. For example, “your $20 gift will provide a week of afterschool literacy class and hours of encouragement and hope for a child struggling to read.”

If you have experienced an increase in need or an expansion in programming, let them know. If you’ve lost a significant funding source due to program changes, from the loss of a grant, or a canceled fundraising event, don’t be afraid to let them know that, too.

Remember, a lapsed donor had a reason they donated to your organization and a reason they stopped giving. The more you can do to build a relationship with your donors to help them truly understand your mission, your monetary need, and the impact of their gift the more likely you are to have a higher donor retention rate. Try to better understand them and show appreciation for their previous support. Help them understand the important impact they can have by making another gift.

And, most importantly, when a donor stops giving, don’t take it as the end of your relationship.

Published: January 25, 2022

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