The right way to win back lapsed donors

It’s less expensive to reactivate lapsed donors than to get new donors. And on average, reactivated donors are more valuable than new donors — they give larger gifts, and better retention rates than new donors.

A lapsed donor is anyone who has ever given in the past, but has not given in the last 12 months (LYBNTs) or more (SYBNTs). Reactivating these donors is an important part of any fundraising program, but not all reactivation attempts are effective.

The best way to reactivate a lapsed donor is to send them your best fundraising.

It’s a pretty common practice to have a special lapsed donor appeal that goes out once a year. In most cases, this is not a good way to get those lapsed donors back, because they typically do some key things wrong:

  • They are sent at “off” times of year. They should be sent in your best giving times. Lapsed donors have the same giving patterns as others.
  • They focus on “we miss you” language. This is not effective. Most lapsed donors have no idea they have lapsed. And few care. It’s pointless language that doesn’t motivate action. Focus on great fundraising instead.
  • They have weak offers. The topic of the letter is not “Here’s a wonderful way to make the world a better place,” but “You abandoned us! Please come back!” That’s not really fundraising.

Instead, send those donors your best appeal(s) of the year. That’s likely your year-end or Holiday appeal.

If you have a direct mail new donor acquisition program, include lapsed donors in it. Your acquisition control, after all, is a proven winner.

Here are two additional things you can do to improve your lapsed donor reactivation:

  1. Lower the ask amounts for these donors. You have a valuable piece of information on each of then — the amount they gave last. With current donors, we normally ask for amounts around their most recent donation and up. For lapsed donors, ask for their most recent donation and down. That improves response. Better to get them back at a lower level than to lose them!
  2. Be choosy about which donors you try to reactivate. Very low-amount donors who are lapsed may not be worth the cost to regain them. On the other hand, it can be worth it to keep trying longer for those high-dollar donors. You might mail donors who are several years lapsed if their last gift was $100+.

A disciplined approach to regain lapsed donors will pay off in a big way over time.


Comments

Leave a Reply

What this blog is about

The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

Blog policies

Subscribe

Get new posts by email:

About the blogger

Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


Archives

Blogroll

Categories


Search the blog

The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

Recent Comments

About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.