Nonprofits: Best Practices for Reclaiming Lapsed Donors


All nonprofits grapple with the issue of lapsed donors. A re-engagement plan is NOT a wasted effort, and sometimes you just need to start from the beginning. Determine why donors give to your mission initially and what ultimately caused them to leave.

Anyone can send the “we miss you” mass mailer. Not you, your donors deserve more. A phone call. Yes, an actual phone call.

The following practices will help you restart that conversation.

  • Say It, Mean It. Be authentic, transparent, and sincere that you are saddened, even sorry, that they are no longer involved with your nonprofit.
  • Ask for Feedback. What are the reasons that attracted them to your nonprofit, and what are some areas where your nonprofit can improve.
  • Acknowledge Mistakes. Listen and take accountability of your nonprofits’ shortcomings, and discuss improvements that have been completed or are being addressed in the near future.
  • Recount Your Story. Discuss why the nonprofit was created, who or what it was created to help, and how donations are being allocated.
  • Re-engage. Communicate that you would like to share some of the wonderful programs and resources that your nonprofit currently offers.
  • Follow-Up. Send an email no later than the next day, thanking them for taking the time to speak with you, and paraphrase the phone conversation.

Reclaiming lapsed donors isn’t easy, but it is easier than acquiring new ones. A donor, whether lapsed or active, believed in your mission at some point, and supported your nonprofit with a monetary gift, and that should not be taken lightly. Ensuring that donors are continuously engaged with exceptional experiences should be one of your top priorities.

The following practices will eliminate donor disconnect, resulting in a decrease in lapsed donor accounts.

  • Say It, Mean It. “Thank You”, “We Appreciate You”, and “This is a Blessing” are statements that go a long way.
  • Communicate Regularly. Exceptional experiences start by being involved. Inform your donors what they can look forward to in the future.
  • Share Stories. Share the good news of how their donations are making a difference, and positively affecting the mission’s goals.
  • Show Appreciation. Year-round communication through emails, mailers, and social media should be a large part of your operational process. Whether you are celebrating a milestone with a donor or requesting feedback for a survey, engagement is the key to reclaiming lapsed donors.

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