Conference Roundup: Wooing Lapsed Donors
Organizations never want to say goodbye to a donor. And they don’t have to, says Nicole Titus, director of client services for the Washington, D.C.-based fundraising and communications agency OMP Direct.
During the session “Baby Come Back! Wooing Lapsed Donors” at the 2008 New York Nonprofit Conference last month, Titus said wooing back donors comes down to four things: strategy, message, channel and technique.
Strategy is based on what you know about your lapsed donors.
* What has the biggest impact on your donor’s long-term value? Is it channel, gift or something else? “Target your most valuable donors first,” Titus said.
* Look at the donor information you have and ask yourself: Do I have donors who have given multiple gifts or are they single or lifetime givers? Do they respond to telemarketing? Is there seasonality to their giving? How old are they?
* Continue to learn as much as you can. Are your donors giving to other organizations? Do your lapsed donors look like your current universe?
Message, of course, is what you say to donors based on the information you have about them.
Organizations need to “sweet talk” donors and ask themselves these questions:
* Do [lapsed donors] actually know they’ve lapsed? Titus suggested trying a straight renewal or reminding donors how long it’s been by sending something that indicates the date and amount of their last gift.
* Do they need to be reintroduced to the organization? Try starting the reintroduction with a prospect package that includes a special offer for current members.
* Have you tried using what works best with your current file? Is your year-end appeal the strongest? Or is it the first renewal that’s the most powerful?
Channel is the way or — preferably — ways you communicate with lapsed donors. Titus suggested “taking every path,” though, she added, direct mail is a great place to start.
“Don’t just use your appeal or renewal stream,” Titus said. “Try adding your [lapsed donor] names to prospecting to reduce costs.”
She also recommended using telemarketing and e-mail: “Collect e-mail addresses on all of your reinstatement pieces. Try an e-mail stream, mirror your activist-conversion stream.”
Technique, finally, relies on determining the best way to elicit a response.
Titus said fundraisers need to figure out things like what prospect package lapsed donors came in on and what types of efforts their organization has a history of success using, for example: “Invoice them,” she said. “Make it look like a bill, and personalize it with their gift history.”
When all is said and done, Titus said, fundraisers must ask themselves, “Can you ever really walk away (from these donors)?”
Instead of giving up, “go deeper.”
“Remember, a reinstated donor traditionally has a higher lifetime value than a newly acquired donor,” she said.
But it’s not just about getting donors to come back. Graham Hunter, session co-presenter and senior vice president of Greenwich, Conn.-based agency May Development Services, a division of Direct Media, said it’s about getting the most value from them. To that end, he suggested, fundraisers needs to define exactly what constitutes a lapsed donor, lay out an objective for each appeal, and compare lapsed-donor strategy to acquisition, traditional segmentation and modeling.
“There is a difference in who you talk to as a lapsed donor and who you treat as a lapsed [donor] through your segmentation,” Hunter said, suggesting organizations use their data to pinpoint where the biggest drop in response occurs and measure it in six-month increments.
In defining the objective for an appeal, he said, the major question is whether the goal is net income or reaching deeper into your lapsed files. He also advised nonprofits to use RFM (recency, frequency, monetary value) aggressively.
Fundraisers should be modeling transactional data to go deeper into their lapsed-donor files. Hunter added that before giving up, fundraisers should evaluate whether they have exhausted all of their lapsed-donor renewal strategies.