How To Reach Out To Inactive Donors
By: Ilan MannJuly 7, 2021
Donors who are inactive or have lapsed may appear to be a lost cause. These contributors haven’t given to your nonprofit in a long time; why would you spend money attempting to entice them to do so again? The truth is that many inactive donors don’t see themselves as inactive or are even aware they are inactive. It is important not to assume that just because a donor hasn’t given in months or years, they are no longer interested or will never give again.
In this article, we are going to offer you actionable advice on understanding inactive donors and developing a plan to reactivate them. By following these steps, you can increase your donor retention rate, increase the revenue you receive from lapsed donors, and most importantly, save valuable time.
Why Make The Effort To Reactivate Donors?
If you’re having trouble fostering long-term giving, you’re not alone: more than 75% of donors will only donate to a single nonprofit once. This is the case regardless of how much you ask for and even when donors are aware that your organization needs their help.
The fact is that it is difficult to keep individuals giving, particularly if they have only given once. So, what makes them worthwhile?
To begin with, inactive donors may be easier to convert than prospective donors. They’ve already made a donation to your nonprofit, suggesting that they identified with your objective at one time. Just because they’ve dropped out doesn’t imply they’re no longer engaged in your cause.
Second, it is less expensive than recruiting new donors. You have their contact information and know how much they’ve previously given. This means you won’t have to spend money to buy lists or sending generic mass mailings with the expectation that your request will be received by someone receptive.
Define a lapsed donor and how you’ll approach them
It is critical to first grasp your universe. Who is considered a lapsed donor by your organization? Is it someone who hasn’t given in over a year? Once you’ve defined this subset, you’ll need to run the appropriate reports to generate a list of your inactive donors. This will allow you to communicate with them directly.
When you’re ready to mail your list, bear in mind that many inactive donors do not consider themselves to be inactive donors. In reality, they may still consider themselves to be significant contributors to achieving your organization’s stated mission.
If you approach them with a finger-wagging tone, they will most likely be turned off from contributing again. Remember that they are contributors, and approach them with the same respect as your most active donors.
Understand When and Why They Became Inactive
Examine the data from your CRM to identify patterns that may have resulted in donors becoming inactive. There isn’t much you can do if you observe that many contributors ceased giving amid a global downturn. However, if you have a segment that ceased giving as a result of a change you made (for example, to your communications programme, more or fewer direct mail pieces, a changing organizational focus, changes to your online donation page, etc.), that is useful information to have in the future.
You can also ask them directly, via a survey or other feedback tool. Take the time to listen to the responses and engage them in a two-way conversation. Let them tell you why they haven’t given lately, versus inferring via data or worse yet, going with your gut.
Reactivating Your Donors
So now that you have an understanding of who your inactive donors are and some idea of why they stopped giving, it’s time to begin the process of moving them from inactive to active.
Reaching out to someone who hasn’t given in a while with the same generic message you send to everyone else in your donor network isn’t going to be very effective. Some will reactivate, but many more will just move further away from your nonprofit.
Personalize Your Approach
Historically, the way NGOs have interacted with the bulk of their supporters has been far distant from the organization’s fundamental objective. The traditional fundraising strategy focuses on the organization’s needs (money, advocacy, volunteerism, etc.) and fails to recognize how the act of donating truly works.
This approach to everyday donors contrasts sharply with how NGOs interact with wealthy donors. Those who write large cheques are treated to highly tailored experiences designed to keep them linked to the *why* of their donation.
Individual contributors nowadays, on average, anticipate a high level of tailored attention, even if they give as little as $20 per month. This trend can be attributed to for-profit consumer marketing. Your donors have grown accustomed to highly tailored web experiences – or on the flipside, generic bulk mailers that usually end up unread and in the garbage.
So you need to meet those expectations by personalizing every touchpoint you send to inactive donors. By including specific, personalized information tailored to that individual donor in your direct mail piece(s), you are letting them know that they matter.
Get Them Up To Speed
Before you make an ask, it is important to let your inactive donors know about what your nonprofit has been up to since they last interacted with the organization. Inform them of what’s been happening in your organization and your long-term vision.
Remember to address them as if they are key team members in need of an update, rather than as if they are clueless. Include tales and positive effect data, as well as a clear description of your next plans and approach.
Not giving them a “what’s been happening” update and sending them regular updates on recent victories is like inviting someone over for dinner, then serving the same meal they had at your previous party. That may have been great for your guests back in 3 plus years ago, but they need current information to pique their interest.
You can summarize recent campaigns, news articles, accomplishments and more in a quick direct mail piece. If you have too much activity to summarize, you can break it up into multiple pieces sent out at regular intervals. Alternatively, a growing number of nonprofits are redirecting their inactive donors to an online portal where they can view recent news, meet the staff, see photos from past events and get updates on upcoming programs.
Tell your inactive donors how much you miss and appreciate them
Find a way to express your care for their well-being while also thanking them for prior donations. We recommend that you begin with appreciation. Thank your donors for their contributions to your team in a sincere and heartfelt manner. Only until you’ve properly acknowledged their contributions should you tell them you miss them. You liked having them on your team, so make sure that’s the message you’re sending rather than one of guilt.
Making them feel as though they were a part of something genuine and great is a guaranteed approach to re-engage lapsed supporters. Your letters and emails should show your gratitude to your supporters. It is vital that your approach is perceived as just that. Nobody wants to be treated like an ATM, therefore you don’t want people to think you’re only interested in their money.
You should also remind them of the last time you heard from them or when they were connected with your organization; they may have just forgotten to donate.
Invite Your Lapsed Donors To Give Again
Now that they’ve caught up, it’s time to make an actual ask. Sometimes you’ll ask for a donation, but it’s often best to entice them back into the organization by inviting them to an event or asking them to participate in an advocacy action first. Be open to fresh opportunities for them to contribute. They may no longer be able to donate, but they can still volunteer.
Whatever technique you apply, make sure you are positioning your inactive donors to eventually make a donation. By doing this you are giving them an opportunity to routinely connect with your organization again and eventually become a member of your active (better yet recurring) donor list.
Time To Reach Out To Your Inactive Donors
So now that you have a plan to reach out to your inactive donors, what are you waiting for? It’s important not only for the health of your organization and ability to execute its mission, but it’s also essential for establishing a sustainable revenue stream. Don’t wait any longer: begin the process of converting your inactive donors to active givers today.
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