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4 Tips for Reactivating Lapsed Donors (Or Not Losing Them in the First Place)

Posted by Juddee Milito on 8/13/18 8:13 AM
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Let’s face it. You will probably never be 100 percent at retaining online donors.

Even with the best segmented and most-personalized donor communications and stewardship, you will probably lose donors at some point. And by the way, if a donor has not given in two years, the likelihood that they will give again is about 2 percent.

That said, let’s take a look at some tips to increase the likelihood of a lapsed donor resuming their giving plan.

It’s important to understand why donors lapse in the first place, and then, it’s necessary to strategically nurture and encourage your lost donors to continue giving again.

1. Audit what led to the donor to lapse. You can do this by digging into the data and see how the gift was acquired and if and how the donor was thanked.

  • Did they give once but never again?
  • Did they give an annual gift for years and years and then they stopped?
  • Did they give you a monthly gift and then cancelled that recurring gift?

Note: Each type of lapsing situation will require a different stewardship plan. That plan should ALWAYS include reaching out directly by phone.

2. Verify the donor’s contact information because it’s possible that they just lost touch with you and would have otherwise continued their giving.

  • Do a 48-month National Change of Address and ask for the information back.
  • Phone scrub annually and ask for the newly found information back.
  • Do a deceased suppression scrub. You can ask you direct mail partner to do this for you.
  • Do an email append and verification scrub once a year. Again, your direct mail company can provide you with this service or lead you to a trusted vendor to do it.

3. Express your sincere gratitude for their past giving.

  • Call them to just say thank you for their past support (and note that it’s okay to leave a message).
  • Send them a special mailing or email that talks about all the great things their gift has done in the past and thank them again for their consideration of a NEW gift.
  • Send a lapsed donor survey and ask “Did we do something wrong?”
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a lower amount than their last gift.

4. If at all possible, involve the original fundraiser in the next communication and use the same channel used for when the donor first came to the file to bring them back. 

  • If they came on the file via direct mail, mail them.
  • If they came on through telephone fundraising, then call them.
  • If they came on through social media or events or board work or volunteerism, then use that channel again.
  • And call, call, call. Only give up if their last gift was peer-to-peer (gave because they were asked by a friend and have NO connection to mission or if the gift was a memorial)

Let’s look at Juddee’s stats:

After 21 years of doing lapsed and deeply lapsed telephone fundraising, my experience is this:

If you did your job and thanked your donors properly, communicated with them properly, and were persistent and consistent with your touch points, then a gentle ask over the phone will reap between 20-50 percent renewals on a two-year lapsed file. More deeply lapsed donors (those who haven’t given in 5 years) will be less.

Telephone calls are truly the best ways to help you find out why your donors stopped giving. And most of the time their reasoning is this simple: They moved, they passed away, or they don’t like you anymore because they perceive you don’t like them. Making that initial phone call will prevent that perception from happening.

What do you have to lose by doing nothing? Donors.

Who do you have to gain by picking up the phone? Reactivated donors and improved retention rates.

I think it’s obvious which outcome your organization would prefer!

Learn more about improving retention rates by attending Juddee Milito's presentation at the 50th Annual NCDC Conference and Exposition September 15-18 in Chicacgo, IL.

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Juddee Milito

Written by Juddee Milito

Juddee Milito, CFRE, President of J. Milito & Associates, Inc. has been serving and coaching clients for more than 21 years, specializing in telephone fundraising and follow up. Her company works with religious, private and independent schools, health and human services, community and arts organizations, throughout the United States. With her professional and personable calling team, Juddee has developed and executed thousands of direct response campaigns, grossing millions of dollars for her clients.