New Year’s Fundraising Resolution: Reconnect with lapsed donors

One way to start 2020 off right is to reactivate lapsed donors. They’re not a lost cause. But you have to be strategic about winning them back.

First, realize that they’re not sitting around thinking, “Wow, I haven’t given to Save the Gooney Bird League in a while. I should do that.” You have to keep in touch.

But don’t just keep them in your regular mail stream, and don’t mail them your newsletters. That’s too expensive.

Second, not all lapsed donors are worth reactivating. Not much point in going after a donor who gave $5 a year and a half ago. The lifetime value isn’t there. Sometimes you just have to let them go and focus on the higher-dollar supporters with a higher lifetime value.

Once you’ve determined which lapsed donors to contact, one approach is simply to version a successful appeal with wording like “We miss you” and “We need you back.”

If that seems to work, another approach is to go even further with the lapsed language. Make a big deal about how much their last gift did, and make an even bigger deal about what their returning gift will do. Go overboard talking about how much you want them back.

Yet another way to go is to try a different format altogether. Maybe a handwritten card with a personal-sounding note about losing touch and how much their support is needed. Including the amount of their last gift can help, too.

Problem is, though, that many donors who haven’t given in the past 12 months might not think of themselves as lapsed. And all your “we miss you” talk might rub them the wrong way. Maybe they just haven’t gotten around to giving but still thinking of themselves as supporters. Imagine their surprise when you accuse them of cutting things off.

The reality is that you can’t know why donors have lapsed. Maybe they’ve moved on to other causes. Maybe they didn’t feel their gift did any good. Maybe their situation changed and they’re not donating anymore. Maybe they were acquired with a freeium or a premium and are waiting for another free gift to give again.

So, yes, it’s a bit of a guessing game. But considering the cost of acquisition, it’s almost always  a good idea to try to reclaim lapsed donors. The subsequent support will likely make it worthwhile. They’ve given before, so they’re more likely to give again. If they’re asked the right way.

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