Wait, Wait--Come Back! – Reengaging Lapsed Donors

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Do you know off the top of your head, at this minute, what your donor retention rate is? You should! Don’t let donors slip through the cracks or fall off the radar when there are plenty of tools out there to assist in keeping them engaged and continuing their giving habits.

This begins with making donor retention a priority in your organization. The amount of time and money you spend acquiring a new donor compared to what you will spend with an existing donor is significant. Take a look at the number of donors you lose each year with your LYBUNT (Last Year But Unfortunately Not This) and SYBUNT (Some Year But Unfortunately Not This) reports. Analyze that data for trends and think about what it would have taken to make them want to give again. Is your stewardship plan effective enough to make them feel appreciated and that their gift made an impact? Did they give through a Peer to Peer fundraiser in support of one of your constituents? Figure out where things might have gone wrong so you can make adjustments now.

So you’ve lost them—now what?

Now that you have your results, you need to create a strategy for reconnecting with them.

  • Create a targeted appeal – I used to always begin the fiscal year with an appeal that stated how much they gave last year and an ask to increase that number by a certain percentage—but you can do this at any time for lapsed donors. Show how much that gift made an impact (provide an example based on how much they gave) and share the initiatives you are striving to achieve this year.
  • Make the call – Depending on the donor level, this could be a great way to engage your volunteers. Pick up the phone and learn if they still plan to give this year or why they have decided not to give. This could be a great insight to learn if your stewardship is effective, if they wish something different was being pursued in your organization, or if it just wasn’t in the budget this year. Express how much participation at any level makes an impact. If your donor was at a major gift level, this will require an in-person conversation. There may have been some miscommunication—or not enough!

Phew—they made the gift! Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen again:

  • Be sure to execute a thoughtful and timely stewardship plan. This means an acknowledgement goes out at least within the week—if not that day. Depending on the level, definitely give have a director phone call.
  • Make these donors more engaged so they won’t forget to give! When you have your initial “lapsed donor call” try to pick up on where there may be opportunities for getting involved or seeing their impact first-hand. Maybe they really enjoy a specific event—have them work the check-in table!
  • Remind them of upcoming renewals/pledges. Make a habit of running a list of all of your upcoming renewals/pledges on the 1st of the month and the 15th of the month. Send out a reminder on the 1st for anyone who needs to renew, and on the 15th make a phone call to anyone who has not renewed yet.

Now you have some tools—let’s go bring up that retention rate!


Written by Samantha Shirley, Lead Product Manager