Lapsed Donors are a Fact of Fundraising. Here’s What You Can Do About Them

June 27, 2021
5 minutes

Pop quiz time! How many lapsed donors has your organization had in the last year?

Don’t know that number offhand? Fundraiser, it’s time to loop yourself in because lapsed donors could be costing your organization a lot of potential fundraising dollars. Donors lapse for all kinds of reasons, but many of those reasons—like expired credit cards or unsubscribing from email—are preventable. Other reasons, such as their personal financial situation, may be a little less preventable, but you can keep doing your best to keep the magic alive in the relationship!  

Let’s talk about some ways to identify and prevent significant lapsed donor rates.

Know your “at-risk” segment

If you want to reduce the number of lapsed donors you have this year, your best first step is to identify your “at-risk” segment. For most organizations, a donor whose last gift was 6 to 12 months ago is a donor who is likely at-risk for lapsing. Set up a report in your CRM to keep track of these donors (Fundraising Intelligence, at your service!) Ideally, this report will auto-update so your data is fresh each time you look at it. Periodically look at their activity with your organization. For instance, were they sent an email? Did they open it? Have they responded to a recent appeal? Once you know which donors are in this segment, you can start to make plans for re-engaging them.

Test out re-engagement tactics

You’ve likely received an email or a direct mail letter that includes the copy, “We miss you!” It probably came from a nonprofit you gave to once upon a time but haven’t given to in a while. The “we miss you” message has been done a lot—we know you’re more creative than that when it comes to re-engaging at-risk donors.

Here are a few ideas for cultivating your at-risk segment:

  • Send them an impact story to highlight the power of giving
  • Send them a mission-driven gift that reminds them of the importance of your work
  • Celebrate their milestones: birthdays, donation anniversaries, new jobs

Like all things in fundraising, consistency will win you this long game! Cultivating your at-risk donors is not a one-off task for when you have an hour to spare. Make it a point of regularly giving yourself time to work on the cultivation of at-risk donors... even an hour every other week could make a difference.

Proactively deal with expired credit cards

If your nonprofit has a recurring donor program (which, P.S., you totally should!), you're likely dealing with lapsed recurring donors due to expired credit cards. Bummer!

But listen, you don’t have to wait until after a credit card has expired to reach out to donors. Two or even three months out, run a report to see if you have any recurring donors with credit cards about to expire. Set up an automated email to go out to those recurring donors reminding them to update their payment information. If there’s an easy way for them to do this online, that’s ideal!

Funraise has you covered with our Card Genie so you never miss out on a recurring gift due to expired credit cards.

Update your wealth screenings

You know who your best donor prospects are, right? In a perfect world, you'd use the power of wealth screening to always know who your best donor prospects are and also actively cultivate them. Ahhh, what a dream! Wealth screenings can be another strategy for reducing your lapsed donors. For instance, if a donor has had a decrease in wealth, adjust your ask to reflect that. Conversely, if you’ve had donors with an increase in wealth, adjust your strategy to encourage a larger gift.

Double-check your email subscribers

With more nonprofits using email as a primary communication and fundraising tool, there’s a big blind spot you’ll want to be aware of—donors who unsubscribed from your email list. This can be a huge contributor to lapsed donors... and it’s totally solvable!

First, make sure you have other ways of keeping in touch with donors. Second, try to get donors back on your list. You can go simple by sending them a personal letter asking if they’d like to be added to your email list, or you could do something as complicated as retargeting ads on Facebook.

Reach out via social media

Don't be shy! There's a reason why it's called "social". Use the features on your platform of choice to suggest that at-risk donors follow your nonprofit's account, like a recent post, or even go nuts and ask them to set up a peer-to-peer fundraiser for their birthday or in conjunction with an ongoing campaign.

If you use Funraise's Facebook integration, donor and fundraiser data will automatically sync with Funraise's platform.

Solving the lapsed donor problem at your nonprofit is kinda like plugging a bunch of leaks. Be curious about where you’re losing donors and start finding ways to plug the leaks. With testing and consistent investigation, you can lessen the number of donors you lose each year.

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