Courting Lapsed Donors Back to the Nonprofit

Fundraising is a major lifeline for nonprofit organizations. Without financial resources, an organization can’t fulfill its mission no matter how noble and impactful the cause will be. Finding donors who can give their money and time to make sure you are successful takes a lot of stewardship and gratitude initiatives.

Unfortunately, sometimes that well thought out marketing and fundraising strategy, beautiful collaterals, and heartwarming stories are not enough to keep them on board. They lapse in their giving and slowly disappear from the roster. Each organization should create their protocol on how to bring back lapsed donors. Looking for best practices by for-profit businesses on how they manage customer churn like investing in warranty management technology can be beneficial.

Why do lapsed donors matter?

fundraisersDonors who have already shown interest and given their hard-earned money are easier and more cost-effective to convince than coming in cold with people who are unaware of the nonprofit’s activities. It takes 18-24 months for organizations to break even on the amount of money they spend to attract a first-time donor. Most gifts on average are 2 to 3 times less than the recruitment cost. It makes more sense to check up on your lapsed donors than spend more money on marketing to new ones.

A study by Adrian Sargeant outlines the common reasons why a donor stops supporting. He found that more than 50% of lapsed donors fade away because of poor donor communications. They felt that the charity didn’t need them anymore or they were never thanked for supporting. Some organizations weren’t also transparent about how the donations were made. Regaining lapsed donors start by mastering the basics of donor retention – gratitude, acknowledgment, and constant valuable communication.

How to bring them back?

Before writing these people off the donor list and continuing as normal, organizations can employ a myriad of initiatives to make lapsed supporters active. First, you should do some housekeeping with your metrics and database. Are you collecting the right data to effectively steward donors and understand why they lapsed? Consider finding out your nonprofit’s rate on first-time donor retention, returning donor retention, and lifetime value of a donor. Additionally, maintaining an up-to-date and clean donor database is a must. Check if the phone numbers, email addresses, and credit card details are correct.

Second, try getting in touch with your lapsed donors. Don’t be afraid to send a survey and ask them straight why they are no longer giving. The data you will collect can give insights that can help improve your donor retention strategy. If you prefer a more subtle way, you can opt to send out a “thank you” message and express your appreciation of their past gifts. Share your latest impact by including photos, stories, and videos of the program beneficiaries. This can help remind donors to give again.

Lastly, don’t forget to be authentic and caring while stewarding your lapsed donors. Personalize your approach either by calling, sending mail or have your board members get in touch with them. Tell them how much you miss them and the value they give to the organization.

Donors have their own reasons for continuing to give as well as choosing to channel their support elsewhere. It is up to the nonprofit to be smart and strategic in how they treat, thank, and steward their donors, especially if they become lapsed.

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