Your Step-by-Step Guide to Reengaging Lapsed Donors

Posted: Sep 29th, 2020 Updated: Dec 17, 2020

Lapsed donors have already expressed their interest in your nonprofit, even if they’ve stopped giving. Read on to learn how to win them back.

Are you overlooking lapsed donors? It’s an easy thing to do. After all, you’re already focusing your efforts on attracting new donors and upgrading your existing ones. But, letting lapsed donors go is a big mistake for two reasons:

  1. They’re interested in your nonprofit: Even if they’ve stopped giving, lapsed donors relate to your story and have been invested in your impact 
  2. They’re cheaper than new donors: While finding new donors is crucial, the simple fact remains that finding new donors is more costly than reengaging lapsed ones


Donors lapse for any number of reasons — not always because they’ve become disenchanted with your organization. For instance, poor communication is the cause for 53% of donor drop-offs, but not all miscommunication is on the part of the nonprofit. Address changes, updated credit cards, and good, old fashioned forgetfulness are all completely rational reasons why a donor may have lapsed. For them, a simple communication may clear all of that up.

But for those who lapsed not because of a mistake, but for other reasons, all is not lost. A simple mix of action, flexibility, and empathy may transform a lapsed donor into a loyal one.


1) Don’t neglect the data

The first and most crucial step to reengaging a lapsed donor is to gather the data. Your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database keeps data on every donor, including dates, amount given, and contact information. Equipped with that data, you’re able to glean how invested they were with your campaign and inform your approach to reengage them.

Of course, your CRM can do far more than give you basic donor data. FundHero, for instance, has the ability to group lapsed donors together for easier follow up. It also offers context to your donor data: Was there a specific event or campaign that they initially gave to? Is there a time of year that works better than others (e.g. Giving Tuesday)? Were they your target audience in the first place? 

Answering those questions is the first step to contextualizing lapsed donors, and paves the way for a big-picture approach to winning them back. 


2) Reach out on their terms

Once you have a game plan for winning back your lapsed donors, the next logical step is to reach out to them. But, be careful how you do it. 

Donors often have a preferred method of communication, and can be put off if you don’t use it. In a multi-channel society, there is no shortage of ways to reach out to your lapsed donors. If your CRM shows they hate snail mail, send them a text or DM. If they are agitated by a phone call, email them instead. Meet them where they want to be met. 

Beyond knowing their preferred channel, use your CRM data to appeal to them. If they were originally drawn in by a certain campaign, tell them how that campaign is going, for instance. And, if they were a particularly generous donor, a bigger effort may be necessary. Perhaps a person of authority can make a personal phone call, visit them at home, or meet them for lunch. 

Of course, that approach isn’t always feasible, so find unique ways to be personal and show them they’re appreciated and wanted back.


3) Find new ways to make it work

After defining your plan and reaching out in the right way, it’s time to have a simple conversation. Without pestering, ask what went wrong, and whether you can do anything to help. Approach the conversation in a personal, empathetic, and forward-thinking tone. If you’re energized about your campaign, they likely will be, too. 

Perhaps your lapsed donor is interested in reengaging, but simply can’t at the moment. Offer them new options, such as smaller amounts paid over time, or volunteer opportunities. Appeal to their original motivations and show them how much their impact really means. And if requests for donations or volunteer positions aren’t going anywhere, invite them to an event or ask them to share your content on their social media pages. 

Ultimately, there is no one way to reengage your lapsed donors, and you may never know which approach will be the one that reenergizes them to your campaign. But by having a data-backed game plan, reaching out to them in the right way, and holding an empathetic, option-filled conversation, you position yourself to not only reconnect with that lapsed donor, but increase the likelihood they’ll be a loyal one. 


Looking for new ways to reengage lapsed donors? Learn how FundHero can help.

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Eric Paulson

Eric Paulsen is an author, copywriter, and wannabe political junkie. After completing his MFA in creative writing, he has dedicated every spare moment to correcting his own grammar and avoiding pesky split infinitives. His work includes brand marketing for a leader in the business process outsourcing (BPO) arena, advocacy for persons with disabilities, and outreach for global poverty and hunger initiatives. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with his wife, two kids, and a few too many copies of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.