Reengage Your Lapsed Donors

“How do we get our donors back?”  

It’s a common yet distressing question. And it’s one that I regularly hear from fundraisers and executives at nonprofits of all sizes — ranging from large national hospital systems to local food banks. 

 While it seems difficult to win back donors who have chosen to stop supporting your nonprofit, it’s important to resist the temptation to simply focus on closing new gifts. Ignoring your lapsed donor file is cost ineffective and jeopardizes relationships that took time and care to develop.  

Often, these lapsed donors are devoted supporters of your cause who have simply been ignored. 

It takes some homework — and an honest look at how you’ve been treating them — before you can win some of them back. 

 The process starts with asking three simple questions: 

  • Do you know why they stopped giving?  

  • Have you shared the impact of their gift?  

  • Did you thank them in a way that got their attention?  

If you’re not sure, it’s time to investigate. Once you get answers, you can then develop a strategy for winning them back. 

Of course, not all of them will come back. Don’t get discouraged. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth a thoughtful effort to try. In fact, donor retention rates for nonprofits range from 40 to 45%.  

I will be talking in depth about this subject on tomorrow’s 11 a.m. LAPA Fundraising webinar. Won’t you join me? Register now.  

Until then, here are four tips you can use to re-engage lapsed donors. 


Get Organized  

Not all lapsed donors are the same! A re-engagement strategy for a donor who made a one-time major gift several years ago will be different from your strategy for reconnecting with a lapsed donor who gave $250 annually, year over year.  

With that in mind, it’s important to get organized and segment your lapsed donors 

 To effectively re-engage them, you need to make sure your message is landing appropriately based on their giving history. One lapsed major donor that I reached out to told me that she had been able to make such a large gift only because she used proceeds from her aunt’s estate after the aunt had passed away. That was good to know, and I recorded it in our donor data base. She clearly told me that she did not anticipate being able to repeat that size of a gift, but that she would come back as a smaller donor. 


Conduct Consistent Outreach 

An effective donor re-engagement plan includes both mass communication, and personal touchpoints with the donors. It is critical to ensure your donors receive a quarterly touchpoint at a minimum.  

You need to demonstrate your impact. Our recent post, “7 Key Touchpoints to Keep Donors Engaged,” provides the details on what to do. 


Make It Personal 

Donors often stop giving because they no longer feel a personal connection to your organization. With that in mind, it’s important to go the extra mile and reach out to them personally. You can do that by picking up the phone and talking to them. You can also consider sending handwritten personal notes. 

 In your personal outreach, be direct and tell them you miss them. Are they a few thousand dollars away from an important giving milestone? Mention it. Have they supported your organization for 25 years? Tell them how meaningful that relationship is. Adding a personal touch will serve as an important foundation for the next steps when making the next ask.  

Most of all, listen! Take time to learn about them and what’s going on in their world. 


Send a Survey 

Do you know why your donors stopped giving?  

 You can make assumptions, but until you ask them directly, you won’t really know. By sending a survey to your lapsed donors, you can learn key information to drive your re-engagement strategy.  

For tips on sending effective donor surveys, check out a recent LAPA webinar — Let’s Talk Donor Surveys  

What’s your experience with bringing back lapsed donors? Let us know below, and please forward this blog post to a colleague who may appreciate it.

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