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How to Reengage Lapsed Donors

How to Reengage Lapsed Donors

Win back donors who have stopped giving and improve fundraising success

Donor retention rates are on the decline. Recent studies show that donor retention has fallen below the 50th percentile. Financially, that means for every $100 raised by an NPO, $92 is lost because existing donors gave less or stopped giving entirely.

Yet lapsed donors are better prospects for your nonprofit than brand new ones. To get a brand new donor, you must cultivate them, educate them, determine interest, make an ask, and hope they write a check.

However, a lapsed donor already knows and supports your organization and they’ve backed that support with a check, which is a great indicator that they may do so again in the future. So how do you reactive supporters who are no longer engaged with a cause for which they’ve already shown support?

First, determine whether they really have lapsed or if they just have a very long giving cycle

For most nonprofits, a donor is considered lapsed when they do not mail a gift for over 12 months. For example, if a donor contributed to your cause in December 2015, they shouldn’t be considered lapsed come August 2016. This ensures that you’re not considering supporters who make annual, end-of-year contributions as lapsed when that is their usual habit.

A simple way to determine whether a donor has lapsed is to track their giving activity through management software. This can give you a high-level overview of how many lapsed donors you have and help you keep tabs on higher-value constituents. Once you understand who is lapsing, you can determine why and develop marketing strategies that encourage them to reactivate.

Then reach out personally

Yes, you can send email campaigns that share impact stories and suggest other ways to get involved, but those are just shots in the dark. You’ll never truly understand why they’ve lapsed—and rebuild the relationship—unless you speak to them personally.

If possible, schedule an in-person visit or meeting (especially if it is a high-value donor who has lapsed). If that is simply not possible, a phone call or video conference can work. For other donors, you may want to consider snail mail or a targeted email campaign.

Regardless of how you communicate with a lapsed donor, the messaging should be the same:

  • Thank them for their past support
  • Tell them you miss and want them back them in simple, straightforward language
  • Remind them why they should care and/or share the impact their support has made on the cause so far
  • Offer to communicate in the way that’s most comfortable for them—in-person, over the phone, through a video conference, snail mail or email
  • Listen to their response. Don’t just listen to respond. Listen to understand. What are they telling you?
  • Make the ask. It doesn’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) be for a donation. Instead, invite them to a non-ask event or another cultivation opportunity.
  • If they still seem lukewarm, ask them what it will take to win them back and DO IT

Remember, lapsed donors are excellent prospects, but they probably won’t come back unless you ask. Not sure why your donors are lapsing? Want a better way to keep track of their gifting habits? Try our online fundraising software, which helps you track and communicate with donors and volunteers so you can maximize your fundraising success. 

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