Re-Connecting With Lapsed Donors

Lapsed donors--those who once loved you but seem to have lost that love--are a gift waiting to happen to your organization. Over the years, many studies have shown, and personal experienced confirmed--that more than half of these once supporters will again support your organization if they are approached in a personal way. The end of the year is a perfect time to spend timer re-connecting.

First, run a list of all those donors who sometime in the last 3-5 years made a gift to your organization but haven't made one this year. These donors are known in the field as SYBUNTs (some year but unfortunately not this). Segment a little further and put the donors who gave most recently at the front of the line. These LYBUNTs (you got it-those who gave last year but not...) are the most likely to say yes. Starting with them will not be sure to up your annual numbers, it will also get you on a high, making the other calls easier!

Start by thanking them for all they've done:  "Hi Jim, I just wanted to thank you for your past support of our organization and to ask if we can again count on you to make a $______(fill in the blank) end of the year gift."

  1. Two important things to remember to increase your success rate: You have 8 seconds (or less) to grab someone's attention--and you want that attention to be on giving a gift. Therefore, keep the message short and to the point
  2. Asking for a specific amount increases giving. Really.

Years ago there was a study of beggars in New York. Those who asked for a specific amount got a whole lot more than those who just asked for "spare change." Judging from what I see from those begging, it is not a lesson they have learned. But you should. And you shouldn't ask for too little. I wrote about this in a recent blog, but it is important enough to warrant a repeat; if you ask for too little, the donor is liable to think, "Ummm, that won't make any difference" and decide not to give at all.

So ask high. Not so high that the person being asked can't see over the wall, but high enough to make it a stretch. They can--and will--offer less if your ask is a bit too rich for them right now, but they won't offer to make a larger gift than the one you've asked for.

And remember--that except for dating situations, no doesn't always mean no. Acknowledge their concern, probe to find the real concern, and then respond to that concern by re-asking appropriately for a gift.

For example, if they tell you that this isn't the best financial time for them, or the gift you asked for is too high, ask if they could make such a gift would they? If the answer is no, find out why. If nothing else, you may get some important information. If it is yes, then you are home and all you need to do is to negotiate the amount, the timeframe, the way they will make their gift.

If, during your calls, you get to voice mail, do leave a message, And also know that younger people in particular don't listen to their voice mails. Leave one anyway--and then email, text, post on Facebook, saying, "Just left you a voice mail...wanted to thank you for your past support and ask you to once again help support us with an end of the year gift of $_________. Just click here to donate now. I'll give you a call in a few days. I would sure like it be to say thank you once again!"

What are you waiting for? Time is running out. Run those lists, grab a cup of coffee and start calling.

Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity.  Start the new year off right and see how Janet can help you be more successful. Check out her services and see who else has gotten help from Janet at