It’s a new year, and you might be wondering about your lapsed donors. You probably spent many hours pouring over reports of “LYBUNT” donors the end of last year, fighting to renew a few donors before that horrible fate when the ball drops on the 31st: a donor lapsing.
But despite your best efforts, a few donors didn’t renew. The ball dropped in New York City and, even as the tail end of direct mail returns stop trickling in, a few donors have now officially become lapsed donors.
So what happens now? Once a donor lapses, how much time and thought are you giving them? Too often the answer is, “not much.” Most fundraising departments have some meagre reactivation strategies. You might include your lapsed donors in the mail file at select times throughout the year. You might try to get them back through an email campaign later. Maybe you’ll even assign some lapsed donors to the new junior gifts officer to see how they fare on renewals or even upgrades.
That’s all well and good, but there’s more you can do.
Before pursuing lapsed donor reactivation strategies, though, it pays to ask some questions. And the most important question is the simplest: why did they stop giving?
I encounter many attitudes toward lapsed donors in nonprofit organizations, the most common of which include:
Of course, none of these beliefs are wrong or right per se (though #4 rarely has much explanatory power in my experience). In any given donor file, there are probably some donors that would fall under each description.
But think about what a difference it would make to know! What a difference it could make to our reactivation strategies if we knew why exactly they fell into the lapsed pile to begin with. In some cases, the lapsed donors might be easily brought back on board, if you fix elements of your fundraising operation. In other scenarios investing in reactivation might seem like a lost cause, or at least a suboptimal investment of your limited time and resources for building up the donor base.
That’s why American Philanthropic set out to ask the donors what they think. We partnered with 10 nonprofits to survey their lapsed donors, receiving responses from over 4,200 individual donors.
Sometimes when we take the opportunity to truly listen to donors—and not just the small portion of donors we meet face to face—we learn amazing and unexpected things. And our survey of lapsed donors was no exception.
You can soon download our initial brief on the study, and sign up to receive updates on the full report when it becomes available soon. In the meantime and to sign up for these updates, you can join our webinar discussing the findings by registering here.
To encourage you to dig deeper, though, I’ll leave you with one key finding from the study that needs to be the lynchpin of any lapsed donor efforts: a majority of lapsed donors do not know that they are lapsed.
49% of respondents told us that they continue to support the organization. In their minds, they are still current supporters, even though we only surveyed donors who had not given in at least 24 months. Another 16% said they did not remember ever making a gift at all. That leaves just 34% who have a memory of consciously choosing not to give.
So why do they stop giving? One big part of the answer is that for many donors, they can’t answer the question any better than you can.
Do you want to understand your lapsed donors better—and what you can do to prevent that terrible fate? Join our webinar "Why They Stopped Giving" on Wednesday, March 9th at 1:00pm Eastern time. Register for free here and get the inside scoop based on our study of over 4,000 lapsed donors!