Simple 4-Step Process to Reactivate Lapsed Nonprofit Donors

Donor Communication, Featured Donor Communication, Intermediate

By Jeremy Reis

Lapsed donors have an advantage over acquiring new donors: they’ve already made the decision once to give to your organization. A lapsed donor is someone who hasn’t given in a defined period of time, most organizations set the criteria to 12+ months without a donation. Reactivating a lapsed donor is often cheaper than acquiring a new donor and you already have information about the donor, the potential to build a relationship quicker, and the donor has familiarity with you.

Unfortunately, many organizations don’t understand why donors stop giving and they don’t treat lapsed donors any differently than current donors.

Why Do Donors Stop Giving?

  • They weren’t thanked
  • They didn’t understand the impact their donation made
  • They suffered a life change
  • They didn’t feel connected to your organization
  • They weren’t asked
  • They start giving elsewhere, to other interests
  • They became upset at something

Why is it Important to Reactivate Lapsed Donors?

  • They’ve already demonstrated interest
  • Lower cost of acquisition
  • They may not even know they are lapsed

Organizations that understand why lapsed donors behave the way they do can put in campaigns to help reactivate lapsed donors. Here are four simple steps to reactivate lapsed donors through an appeal:

1. Thank the Donor for Their Support

First, thank the donor for their past support. It’s crucial to show your gratitude to donors. When reaching out to the donor, avoid using mass marketing language or messaging. Donors will be able to tell if they are part of a mass email campaign. Personalize your communication by using their name, remind them of past projects or programs they supported, and ask for donations in the range of that they had previously given. You can even let the donor know that the organization has missed them. Be sure to use language that lets the donor know that their support, passion for the mission, and like-mindedness are missed — not just their financial gifts.

2. Demonstrate the Great Work Your Nonprofit Has Accomplished with Beneficiaries

Second, demonstrate the great work you’re doing by telling a story of success, especially if it’s tied to the donor’s interest. For example, if a donor is interested in clean water, tell the donor a story about a new well your organization installed. In addition to sharing stories of impact, you should also lay out your vision for the future. Let the donor know what goals the organization is working toward and how their past donation made this work possible. Sharing your success and showing you have a plan set for the future will give the donor confidence in your work.

3. Show How Their Donation Made an Impact

Third, tell a story about how their donation has made an impact in the life of a beneficiary. Donors often receive communications from nonprofits that share about the success of their programs through yearly statistics and large numbers. For example, most organizations will let donors know the total number of beneficiaries helped within a given time period or in a certain program. Depending on the size of your organization, this number can be in the millions. It can be challenging for a donor to see the direct impact their gift is making when looking at such a large number. There is a lack of connection between their compassion and a real-life person being helped. That’s why it’s important to share a story of how their gift made an impact in one person’s life.

4. Ask for a Donation — Be Direct!

Finally, be direct with what you’re asking the donor to do: give again.

Lapsed donors can be a renewed source of income for your organization. After reconnecting with your lapsed donor in a personalized way, you are in the perfect position to invite them to join the cause of your organization again.

The best way to do this is to provide your lapsed donor with simple, actionable steps of how they can rejoin your organization. List out the different ways they can get involved. Or research their past giving behavior. If your donor was a monthly giver, let the know they can easily be added back to your monthly giving program by selecting a new amount they’d like to start giving. If your donor volunteered or attended fundraising events, let them know about upcoming events they may be interested in.

The bottom line? Give your lapsed donors a diverse range of opportunities for re-engagement. And provide specific calls to action in your communication.



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