Yes, of course, a donor who hasn’t given in a while. But how do you define that period? How long do you consider a donor active?
Experts tell us that after a first gift, you need to thank donors, report back on the impact of their gift and ask again within 8 weeks if you want to keep them involved. So you could argue that a first-time donor is “lapsed” after that window.
I won’t argue that. But I do think you need to look at more than just a time period to get a sense of which donors you may be losing.
Of course, the best way to reconnect with lapsed donors is to keep them engaged in the first place. Do you track your retention rate? Can you tell which donors might be in danger of fading away?
Remember, donors don’t “lapse”. Usually, we lapse in our efforts to keep them engaged.
So why do donors leave?
There are reasons you can fix. And there are a few outside your control. (Death, relocation, big change in economic status…)
So let’s focus on the reasons you can address. Here are some big problems. Are they your problems?
Communication issues are the heart of so many fundraising problems!
Let’s start with an obvious fix: thank your donors – all your donors – emotionally, promptly and personally. Need some help with that? Read here, and here and here. Or check out the Thank You Letter Clinic on SOFII from Lisa Sargent.
Focus on donors in your communications and work to make it feel two-way. Don’t talk at them, talk with them. Credit donors for your organization’s achievements. Ask them for feedback at every opportunity. Call new donors or those in danger of lapsing and ask about why they give.
Be available. Don’t depend on an impersonal contact form on your website. If I donor bothers to call you, that’s important and deserves a response from a human being.
Communicate often enough. Some donors stop giving because they don’t even remember they gave! Don’t harass them with unnecessary email newsletters. Instead, work to get them the information they want.
What donors want to know: Did my gift make a difference? Do I matter to you? Are we making progress? Do you still need my support?
Try to answer those questions all the time.
We’ve all seen the splashy news reports about organizations in trouble. But it’s not just the organizations who make national news that need to think about trust.
Apologize when you goof. Honesty and a plan to do better will encourage donors to trust you.
Be as open as possible about your work. Are you doing what you say you will do?
And on an individual level, use a donor’s gift for what they give for. And if you cannot, communicate personally about that. Don’t make promises you cannot keep.
Remember you’re in the customer service business
Yup. You are. If you work for a nonprofit, one of your jobs is to serve your donors well. We’ve talked about communications, but let’s talk about what happens at your office. Do you find people talking about donors in a disparaging way? Do you find yourself doing that?
I know sometimes we all need to blow off steam. And sometimes, a donor can be difficult. But be careful about getting too cynical and negative. It WILL start to bleed into your donor relationships!
Those are some big issues. But I promised you some ideas to win donors back.
Try these ideas to re-engage lapsed donors
1. Find out why she gave and ask again.
If one aspect of your work is what attracted a donor before, send a similar request. Remind them about their passion for that particular aspect of your work. If they stopped giving, perhaps it’s as simple as repeating what persuaded them last time.
2. Let her know you’ve missed her.
People like to feel important. Let your donor know she’s been missed. Repeat every great thing that happened because of her support. And ask her to continue doing great things.
3. Call or write and ask why his giving hasn’t continued.
Be careful here. It’s entirely possible that your donor hasn’t noticed he’s “lapsed”. Chances are, you just haven’t been as important as other things. But if a formerly loyal donor suddenly stops giving, try to find out why. You may not re-engage them. But you may learn something important.
4. Ask for something else.
Your immediate goal is reconnecting. You want to pour a little water on that parched relationship. So ask for something other than money. Could they participate in a survey? Sign a petition? Write a testimonial? Call their election official? Make sure instructions are clear and the ask is easy to do. Then be sure you thank them well.
5. Invite them over.
If your organization’s work lends itself, set up a special tour and invite the donors who appear in danger of disappearing. Let them know you care about their involvement and want them to see the work up close.
One big don’t
Do NOT send a “invoice” or a “final notice”. Don’t try to scare donors into giving again by making them think they owe you. That’s a nasty and too prevalent tactic we could use a whole lot less of.
Are you losing donors faster than you can find them? Are your donor communications less than engaging? Don’t worry – I can help! Get in touch for your FREE 30-minute consultation.