Try These 8 Ideas to Reconnect With A Lapsed Donor

6 min read
September 24, 2021
Jessica Barrett Halcom headshot
Jessica Barrett Halcom
reconnect with a lapsed donor

Finding donors takes a lot of effort, and keeping them is a critical part of the overall success of your organization. When a donor becomes lapsed, it’s important to first understand why then craft a strategy for reconnecting with them.

One major key to reconnecting with a lapsed donor is to handle them differently than you do your current or potential new donors. Oftentimes, lapsed donors are receiving the same communication as current donors, or stop hearing from you all together. This is especially important given that the Fundraising Effectiveness Project finds that over 50% of previous givers to your organization will not give this year. 

If you use a constituent relationship management system (CRM) ensure that you have a process in place for properly tagging donors who lapse so that they are removed from automated communications that don’t make sense for them anymore. That way, you have all lapsed donors in one place and can better tailor your outreach.

Reconnecting with past donors is more cost-effective than trying to find new donors, as you know that they are already invested in your cause. Let’s look at some of the ways that you can reconnect with this crucial base of support.

8 ways to reconnect with a lapsed donor

1. Let Your Lapsed Donor Know How Important They Are

Donors need to be reminded that you’re not able to do your work without them. They need to understand that their contributions are making a difference. 

Communicate to them how their donations are being used, what work still needs to be done, and what will happen to your cause should the funds not be raised. Get as visual or tactile as possible when demonstrating where their money goes — donors who lapse may not have felt the impact of their money.

2. Differentiate Their Experiences

Before you classify a donor as lapsed in your CRM or elsewhere, be clear about how you define lapsed. It’s up to you to decide when it’s worth targeting a lapsed donor based upon things like how long it’s been since their last donation, how frequently they gave, and how much they typically gave. Segment and target your donor list based on those criteria so that you’re not spending too much time on those donors you’re less likely to win back.

3. Gather Data

Perhaps one of the worst things you can do is to assume the reasons a donor has lapsed. Instead, gather factual data, to help make clear decisions regarding how to move forward. Maybe a donor felt unappreciated, that not much progress was being made on your mission, or that there was a lack of communication regarding what was going on with your initiative. 

Perhaps your donor could no longer afford to contribute but wished they could. Surveys provide a great deal of valuable information. You can use your CRM to automate the sending of a survey and to organize the data from respondents.

If you have the capacity, you may even want to add a personal touch by reaching out via phone to have a one-on-one conversation about why their donations fell off.

4. Go Back To Their Beginning

Donors are motivated to give for different reasons. Try to understand where their motivation originally came from. 

What is the timeline of interaction they’ve had with your organization? When did they start to volunteer, donate, or sign up for your email list? Was it after a particular campaign or event? Your approach to re-engaging them should be based upon their history with your organization. If using a segmented list, tailor your message in such a way that it appeals to them directly.

5. Share Your Progress

Include your lapsed donors in the successes your organization is having. Even if their dollars are no longer a part of the progress, showing them what impact donations are having will remind them why they donated in the first place and make them want to be part of that movement.

When outlining progress, focus on the individualized impact your organization is making toward the reason that the donor came to support you in the first place. Big numbers often have the opposite effect in our donation engagement, so creating small moments of victory will help create a meaningful reason for a donor to come back.

6. Tell An Impactful Story

Storytelling is the oldest and most effective way to engage people. Lapsed donors likely still feel a connection to your cause because they’ve been a part of it in the past. You need to bring those emotions back to the surface. 

Share a personal story about how your work is changing lives and making a difference. Perhaps try showcasing the story in a video, or even have someone affected by your organization’s work author an email or letter.

7. Connect With A Lapsed Donor In A New Way

Insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Shake things up. 

If you’ve always reached out to your donors via email, try a phone call, social media post, or direct mail. Even if you don’t switch up the medium, you can change the scope. 

Do a Facebook live event instead of a static post, email a visually stunning newsletter instead of a text email, or mail a handwritten letter instead of a preprinted piece. Trying something different will catch your lapsed donors’ eyes.

8. Give Your Lapsed Donor New Options

Lives change. And though a lapsed donor may still be passionate about your mission, their capacity to donate may have changed. Provide more options without any guilt. 

Ensure you talk about how every dollar makes a difference, and make it easy to donate in smaller amounts or over time. You may even consider re-engaging them with volunteer opportunities that call for their time, versus money. It’s a great way to keep donors engaged so that when they’re able to contribute monetarily again, they’ll think of you first.

Reconnecting with lapsed donors is a cost-effective and less time-consuming way to bring in funding than going after brand new donors. Plus, the more long-term supporters you have, the further your message will spread — there is nothing quite like a passionate, dedicated donor base to share word-of-mouth about your mission and bring more supporters to the table.

For more ideas on communicating with different types of donors, take a look at our in-depth guide to moves management:

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