How to Get Your Lapsed Donor to Donate Once Again

Published on March 22, 2020

The average lapsed donor rate for nonprofits is above 50%.

You worked hard to market your cause, talk to various donors, and convince them to donate. 

Once they have given, you think your job is done.

But in reality, it’s far from over.

Half of these donors are not going to give to your organization again.

But, there’s no need to panic.

The median gift retention rate is 48%, though only 50% of the people from last year are donating.

That’s good news!

It means that nonprofits are on average keeping donors who give larger gifts. 

But, they are losing on donors giving smaller gifts.

But this can also be changed. By implementing a few simple steps, you can bring these lapsed donors back.

Why do donors stop giving?

Donor experience determines how easily you can reactivate lapsed donors.

“If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them.” 

Jeff Brooks

You cannot expect your donors to keep donating if you don’t invest your time in making them feel important.

Most donors stop giving because they might have stopped believing in your cause, or they might not be happy with your nonprofit for some reason.

Comparatively getting a lapsed donor back is relatively easier than trying to acquire new donors. Unlike a new donor, lapsed donors who know about your cause have confirmed their interest in your organization, by previously donating. Thus, retaining donors by regaining trust can prove easier.

So they’re worth reconnecting with!

Here are a few common reasons why donors lapse:

Poor stewardship programs obstructing donor retention

Think of the last time you received a thank you?

Didn’t that feel good? 

In the same way, sometimes donors just need a little motivation to donate. And what’s better than a small thank you letter?

Donors can stop giving because you are not thanking and recognizing them properly.

Maintaining a proper stewardship program will go a long way in lowering your donor attrition rate.

It’s always better to prevent a problem than to treat it.

Are you finding it difficult to come up with creative ways to thank your donor? 

Here are a few:

Creative ways to thank your donor

Repeat donors cannot afford to give again

According to the 2018 Global Trends in Giving Report, 43% of donors don’t donate again because they don’t have the financial resources. 

This is where constant communication with your donors can help you. 

If they say that they cannot continue with the current plan, you should give them other options. Tell them they can donate a smaller amount, introduce them to your monthly giving program, or give them the option of volunteering.

45% of worldwide donors are enrolled in a monthly giving program. It is a great way to keep your donors engaged without them having to worry about high donation sums.

Read Next: The most important questions to get started with donor retention

New donors had a change in priorities

Unlike the above case where the donors don’t have the means to donate, here the donors can afford to give, but they don’t.

It’s not because they stopped believing in your cause, but their priorities have changed.

Sometimes it happens because they feel their donation is not making the same impact in comparison to the other nonprofit.

To change this view, you should send constant updates to your donors, informing them how their donation has made an impact.

Example of how donations made an impact

No one asked new donors for donations

One out of four Americans says that they don’t donate or volunteer because no one asked them to.

This is one of the main reasons why donors stop giving

People think that if it’s important, you will ask them. If they had missed one or two donations and you haven’t asked, they presume that it’s not essential for them to donate.

As you can see, there are many reasons why the average donor stops giving. But it’s you who should encourage them to start donating again.

While donor retention is not possible for all churned individuals, making the effort, by identifying and targeting them with meaningful conversations, will be enough to make an impact on your donor retention rate.

Identify and segment your lapsed donors

To reconnect with your lapsed donors, you should have a clear idea about them. 

  • Use your CRM platform or donor database to identify the number of lapsed donors you have this year. Then you can compare it with the result of the previous year. This will help you to understand whether your efforts to reduce the number of churned donors and to get them back are successful or not.
  • Segment your churned donors. This will help you identify if there’s any common pattern in the case of donors leaving.

For instance: 

When you divide your lapsed donors into age brackets or other groups that make sense for your organization. You find out how best to talk to them and convince them to give again. 

  • Decide how you communicate with the goal of donor retention: 71% of new donors only give once, this is because organizations communicate with all the donors in the same way. The statistic shows how poor the average donor retention rate is.

No two donors are the same; therefore, the mode and type of communication will also change.

  • Some give one gift per year; others prefer monthly giving, you can communicate with them using these parameters, and convince them to donate again.
  • Some prefer electronic communication, while others prefer direct mail, etc.

This is where segmentation comes into effect where you can know and respond to your donors based on their preferences. 

Once you have segmented your lapsed donors, it’s time to reach out to them.

Read Next: 50% of Donors Don’t Return – Donor Retention Strategies to Reduce Churn.

How do you reconnect with a lapsed donor?

How phone calls help in retaining donors. Know more here.

Since you now know the problems and you’re ready to rebuild your donor base by turning your lapsed donors into active donors again, let’s begin!

Lapsed donor survey

Try to add multiple choice answers wherever possible. You should also keep in mind that the survey recipient should never see the words “lapsed donors”, “reactivate lapsed donors”, “first-time donors”, “new donor”, etc.

You should try to include phrases like “we miss you” or “did we do something wrong.”

This can be an excellent way to get the attention of new donors or churned supporters and re-engage with them.

Example of a lapsed donor survey question:

Why did you stop giving? (Select that apply)

  • I was not aware
  • I couldn’t afford it
  • My priorities have changed
  • There was a mistake at my bank
  • I was pressurized to give
  • Found the ask amount to be inappropriate
  • I switched to a different charity
  • The cause doesn’t interest me
  • I got irritated with too much communication
  • I am not sure how my money was used
  • My payment account changed.
  • Other:________________

If the result of the survey reveals that the donor left because of the organization’s fault, you should make sure that you rectify that in order to prevent other donors from leaving. Increasing your average donor retention rate often comes with a hard pill to swallow but you must introspect and evolve according to the survey’s insights.

This information can be leveraged to have a better understanding of the donors. It will help you while talking to the lapsed donors as now you know what their pain points are.

Check out our Donor survey questions that you should be asking

Lapsed donor call (Script included)

A phone call might seem to be old-fashioned and time-consuming, but it is one of the best ways to try and re-establish your relationship and work towards donor retention.

Here you get to know their reasons for leaving and you can try to solve them in real-time. Phone calls can help in a great way to shift the perception of the donor. 

Sending texts or emails before you make a call is important because you don’t want to call them out of the blue. Make sure you put your brand back on your donor’s map before reaching through the phone.

If you are planning to go ahead with this mode of communication, you should make sure that you have a donor-centric communication strategy for your calls. That means, you call them often and get their views and suggestions on various aspects of your nonprofit. This will make them feel more invested and will encourage them to donate more.

You May Also Like: The Donor Management Process: The Secret To Building Unreserved Donor Loyalty.

Sample phone script for lapsed donors

This script is ideal to control donor attrition after they have received a regular sequence of texts or emails asking them to renew.

The thing you should keep in mind is that you should know the following details about the donor before calling them.

  • How long have they been a member?
  • What and when they gave last year
  • What was their first gift and date?
  • How much did you ask to donate last time?
  • What is their lifetime value?

Once you have all this information, you can call them by following the steps below:

Step 1: Introduction

Tell them your name, who you represent, and why you are calling.


My name is [full name], and I am a [role], I am among the board members at [name of the nonprofit]. 

I am calling to thank you for your support of our cause and to know the reason why you are not giving now.”

Step 2: Get Updates

“Is now a good time to chat?”

If no

Thank you for your time and support until now. I hope you will consider rejoining this meaningful cause in the future”.

Record the time to call back. 

“Thank you.”

If they don’t want to receive a callback

“May we continue to send you updates about our work made possible by donors like you?”

If the answer is no

Mark the donor as lost/inactive

“Thank you for your support until now. I hope you will consider rejoining this meaningful cause in the future. 

Thank you!” 

If yes

“Great! While I have you on the phone, I want to thank you for your past donations, and I am hopeful that you will renew your support again this year by making a gift before December 31.”

Step 3: Make the ask

If yes

“That’s great news! Are you willing to pledge [last year’s gift +20 ] today? 

If yes again!

“Fantastic! This gift will make a big difference for [Type of beneficiaries].”

Get the payment. 

“Thank you, and have a great day.”

If no to +$20

“Will you consider matching your last year’s gift?”

If yes

Accept the payment

Thank you, and have a great day.”

If no to matching the previous gift

“Is there a gift that you are comfortable pledging today?”

If yes

Accept the offer and get the payment. 

“Thank you for your support. It will make a great difference for [Type of beneficiaries].

If no

Thank you for your time and support until now. I hope you will consider rejoining this meaningful cause in the future”.

Lapsed donor mail (Template included)

Mail can act as a massive step towards showing your lapsed donors that you care about them.

You increase the possibility of winning people over and retaining donors by sending perfectly crafted and tailored messages through their preferred means of communication. Use the intel in your donor database to craft an excellent email for donor retention.

You should split your donors into two groups, the one that prefers email and the other that prefers direct mail.

Take a look at these templates that will help you craft a perfect email to retain donors.

Lapsed donor email template

Lapsed donor email template

> Click here to download the lapsed donor email template (opens in a new tab)”>>> Click here to download the lapsed donor email template

Lapsed donor letter template

Lapsed donor letter template

> Click here to download the lapsed donor letter template (opens in a new tab)”>>> Click here to download the lapsed donor letter template

As you can see, both of these letters are relatively similar. The main difference is in the mode of communication and the action of donation. 

Finally, once you have regained your lapsed donor, sync the info with your donor database and make use of all the data that you have to show them that they made a good decision by deciding to support your nonprofit again. By making sure all their previous concerns are addressed since we know what they are it will become easier to make it right this time.