7 Actions to Take When Dealing With Your Lapsed Donors
Where did my lapsed donors go? Why have they left me? They don’t write and tell me why anymore, not even a phone call? Where and why have they deserted my nonprofit? What should I do to get these donors back to an active giving status?
Have you heard these complaints from your development director of late? How do you get these people back? Why did they leave in the first place? There are no simple answers. And, there is hope for you and your organization to re-energize these lapsed donors to return to your community.
- Look at your donor files.
Most nonprofits should have significant data information on file that should offer clues on how one first acquired a donor, what campaign and how much he or she donated to your organization. This individual donor file should also list the unique campaign message that attracted the donor to your mission statement in the first place. How do you re-energize your donor to come back to your foundation? Each time you mail out to your donors, one segment of your mailing should be allocated to your lapsed donors. It should also be a separate and more distinctly different than your other mailings to your current donors.
- Separate out and prepare a distinct direct mail package for your lapsed donors.
A good idea of re-acquiring a lapsed donor would be to use a different format or size envelope that should be highly compelling, as well as highly personalized, to capture his or her donor giving patterns and the campaign they originally gave to when they joined your nonprofit. Mailing this unique package should be conversational in tone and should share a compelling message of your mission to your lapsed donor. The package might contain a short conversational survey that asks the donor why they left, leaving room for the donor to explain to you in their own words why they left your community. This information in itself will reap substantial benefits to how you can better address future donors when they are on the cusp of becoming lapsed donors.
- Utilize a brightly colored return envelope to inform your fulfillment house.
Another suggestion might offer the lapsed donor a brightly colored return envelope that would signal to your fulfillment house—even if it’s just you and a summer intern doing the work—that a lapsed donor has just returned to your active files. One other tool that has been satisfactorily tested with lapsed donor campaigns is to have a picture with a child with a “thank you” card in their hands, which thanks them for their continued giving to your community.
One such nonprofit used a holy card-sized boy in a kayak, having the time of his life at a summer camp, where (normally) his family would never have been able to afford to send him to such a summer recreational facility. Using compelling tools such as this adds an impactful message to your lapsed donor—continued giving helps everyone in the mission statement.
- Distinguish whether you should identify and mail out a special kit to lapsed donors.
Your nonprofit spent a lot of time, money and resources to acquire these donors, and you should include a lapsed donor segment mailing at least every six months to re-capture them to your active donor files. These donors have contributed some or a significant amount of money to your nonprofit, and these donors need to be re-energized to come back into your current donor streams. Having these lapsed donors return to your active file, will be less expensive that acquiring a new donor.
- Prepare a newsletter just for your lapsed donors.
Another successful tool to re-attract a lapsed donor is to offer them a newsletter prepared just for them. A specific lapsed donor newsletter will inform the donor that their donations added to the value of the children’s lives and the communities they have both served and helped, as well as to boast a bit about the organization’s success, which they were partly responsible for at the time. The newsletter will help the lapsed donor see the actual path of happiness and success that his or her donations brought to both an underserved and disenfranchised community currently at risk of losing the lapsed donor’s continued support. Emphasize the need for your lapsed donors to continue to help bring back the smiles to the faces of the boys and girls of the community that your foundation proudly serves.
- Never forget a swift and personalized “thank you” note
All donors should receive both a prompt and personalized “thank you” notes swiftly upon the acceptance of their donation. The same should be true with your lapsed donor. In this case, a special card with some sort additional acknowledgement of or a gift of some sort should also be sent out to your returned donor. It could be in the form of a gift tote bag or something out of the ordinary to ensure the lapsed donor is both appreciated, as well as revered to the success of your nonprofit. Maybe something as simple as a case study where the gift emphasized the specific benefit and goodwill impact it had on a member of your community.
- Decide when to let go of your lapsed donor.
It’s always sad to see even one of your donors turn away from you, not respond to any of your offers or cut you off entirely from any of your communications to retrieve them. Sometimes, just letting them go is both the logical and best financial reason to let them go. Cleaning and updating your list should be the priority as some of your donors might have died, moved out of town, moved back to their hometowns or are stationed overseas on deployment. Obituaries are especially important, as you certainly don’t want to send a solicitation to a past donor’s remaining spouse… Do you? Of course not. Conversely, you might also want to send a condolence card to that household to inform them of their concern for them and to thank them for their past contributions.
You can then start with a clean slate in your lapsed files to decide who has not given in the last five years. If you have hundreds or even thousands of donors in your files who have not responded to any of your offers, it’s in your best interest to just let them go. You should still track them, should they respond back to you on their own; just don’t add them to your active mailing files.