Strategies for Lapsed Donor Appeals

Nonprofits aren’t the only ones with recapturing issues. We’ve all had experience with this, in fact. Perhaps you signed up for an online newsletter at a store you like. The store notices you haven’t made a purchase in a while. Then, all of the sudden, there’s a “We’ve Missed You” email in your inbox inviting you to come back and shop—usually with some incentive attached.

Every nonprofit has their version of lapsed shoppers—called lapsed donors in this case—who are those that used to contribute to your nonprofit in some way but have since gone dormant for whatever reason.

The definition of a lapsed donor changes from nonprofit to nonprofit. Maybe for you, it’s someone who has been inactive for six months, while for others it’s 12 months or several years. However, regardless of your definition of what qualifies someone as lapsed, the focus on how to re engaged lapsed donors is inviting them back into the fold—especially if all other areas of your nonprofit fundraising, such as donor retention and donor acquisition, look good.

Being intentional about a lapsed donor campaign is imperative to effective fundraising for nonprofits. Plus, these are all individuals who have proven and confirmed to have cared about your mission at one point—so why wouldn’t they want to be give again? Here are some top strategies to reinvigorate your lapsed donors:

Reactivating lapsed donors requires personal communication

Just like no two donors are the same, your lapsed donors likely have different reasons for jumping off the bandwagon. You can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach in your communications. In other words, this is not the time for a mass lapsed donor email.

Let lapsed donors know that you miss them…you REALLY miss them.

Everyone can agree it feels good to be wanted. Now is the time to let your lapsed donors know all the reasons their missing presence is noticed. Here are some sample ways of expressing this through an email or letter to lapsed donors:

  • We miss having you as part of the [insert nonprofit’s name] family.
  • It’s been a while since we last heard from you, but your [donation of $XYZ; or other contribution they made to your organization] still matters to us.
  • Your last gift of $XYZ has made an impact on [insert nonprofit’s name] by providing [include specific, positive result of their donation].
  • I know it’s been since [insert date of last activity] since we last heard from you, but your support for our [insert upcoming annual appeal or capital campaign name] would be greatly appreciated.

Overall, the goal is to express interest in their well-being, show gratitude for past activities and get them excited about making a difference in the world once again.

Invite your lapsed donors to rejoin the family

When reaching out to donors to softly acknowledge their inactivity, you’ll inevitably remind them that they were part of something authentic and positive and that they’ll want to become involved again—so give them a range of easy ways to do just that.

As you pave the road to reconnection, be sure to give them actionable next steps. For instance, if the extent of their involvement was golfing at your charity event, provide them with the information to sign up for the next one. If your lapsed donor was most commonly known for their monetary donations to your annual appeal, include a link to make a pledge online. You can even use an ask string with an amount they’ve given in the past, and include steeper asks to encourage them to make up for lost time.

As always, no matter what you chose to say in your donor communication, be sure to you’re communicating with them in the way that they prefer—some prefer emails, some prefer direct mail and some a telephone call. Customizing each effort for each person will go a long way in being effective with your recapture strategy and overall nonprofit fundraising.

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