Why is it Important to Reactivate Lapsed Donors?

Take a look at the quarterly and fiscal year-end goals of most nonprofit marketing departments, and you’ll find that new donor acquisition is at the top of the list. For many organizations, new donors are crucial for survival. They help offset the number of donors lost in any given time period. But beware of the pitfall charities often fall into — only focusing on bright, shiny new donors. While it is always important to reach out to new prospects and build relationships with current donors, there is an untapped resource sitting at your fingertips — your lapsed donor file.

Some charities forget about these individuals and believe that a donor who has stopped giving is unlikely to give again. What most organizations don’t realize is that most lapsed donors don’t even realize they’ve lapsed. There are several reasons why it is so important to reactivate lapsed donors, such as:

  • They have already demonstrated an interest in your organization in the past
  • You already have their contact information, so the cost of acquisition is much lower than gaining a new donor
  • Your lapsed donor will have a brand familiarity with your organization and would be more likely to read your email or open your letter over an organization they have never heard of
  • Lapsed donors will often give a higher gift than newly acquired donors

How to Reactivate Lapsed Donors

Reactivating lapsed donors is crucial to any organization’s overall success. Since these individuals have already expressed an affinity with your organization and even supported it financially in the past, they are incredibly important to your ongoing fundraising success. The best way to approach lapsed donors is to have a plan. Below are five simple steps you can easily implement to reach out to and rebuild relationships with your lapsed donors.

What Do You Define as Lapsed Donors?

For most organizations, the general rule of thumb in identifying a lapsed donor is to find those who haven’t given in a defined period of time. The criteria is typically set to 12+ months without a donation.

1. Thank the Donor

First, when reaching out to a lapsed donor, one of the first things you should do is to thank them for the support they have given your organization in the past. Tell them how much their support meant to you and what their friendship meant and that you miss them being a part of your nonprofit family.

2. Show What the Organization has Accomplished Through Donors

Second, share about the work your organization has accomplished because of the support of generous friends like them. If your lapsed donor gave to a specific cause in the past, let them know about the impact their past donations had. Share a beneficiary impact story about that cause. Let them know these stories wouldn’t be possible without their help.

3. Demonstrate a Need

Third, refamiliarize your donor with the work you are currently doing and what the need is. Let them know that their support is still crucially needed to make a difference. Share about as specific need and back it up with current statistics or with a story about the situation. Bottom line, let them know they are needed now more than ever. 

4. Ask for a Donation

Fourth, now that you have reconnected with your donor in a personalized way, don’t be afraid to make an ask. Invite the donor to re-engage with your organization through a donation. Make it as simple as possible for them to give. Since you have their giving history and past interactions in your files, opt for a donation amount in the range that they gave before. Just remember, lapsed donors will never come back if they are not asked.

5. Thank the Donor

Fifth, and most important — thank your donor. Showing your gratitude to a donor is one of the most powerful things you can do as a successful fundraiser. When donors feel appreciated, they are likely to give a second time, third time, fourth time, and so on. You have already thanked them for their past support, so if they have reactivated by donating again, be sure to thank them for their current support. A well-thanked donor is a happy donor.