The old way of thinking about lapsed donors doesn’t work. Not in this new world in which we find ourselves these days. While it’s still as important as ever to build long lasting relationships with your donors, “writing off” a donor after a certain amount of inactivity thinks of them as a transaction, not a relationship. There may be financial reasons to reduce your interactions with them, for example, remove inactive individuals from your newsletter list if you pay on a per-subscriber basis or not printing and mailing to inactivate names to save on paper and postage. However, eliminating them completely also eliminates the relationship.
Let’s lean into that for a moment. An individual who interacts with your organization isn’t looking for a transaction. They’re looking for a relationship. Going to the local grocery store to buy a bag of chips—that’s a transaction. Unless there’s loyalty to the chip brand, or the grocery store chain, it really doesn’t matter to the consumer where they get their junk food fix. A gas station. A dollar store. A grocery store or a big box store. It’s probably based on what’s convenient for them. Again, without brand loyalty the place of purchase or the brand purchase doesn’t matter. They want the transaction, the transfer of money for a treat.
Your organization and the work it does isn’t a bag of chips. It’s better because your organization has a mission and, while there may be many organizations with the same mission (which is a great thing), you have a unique take on that mission. Whether it’s working with a specific aspect of a more general population, such as at risk children instead of all children or a greyhound rescue instead of all dogs, or focusing on a local or regional area, you’re doing good work and looking for people to join your mission. If they join you for a single event or fundraising campaign, that’s great. But more importantly, you want them to join you for the long haul.
Lapsed donors haven’t abandoned the mission. They’ve taken a break. We may not know the reason for the break, but it’s vital that we think of this as a temporary pause not a permanent one. The reason for this break may be personal, such as a life change or a job loss, or it may be because they’re not feeling connected to your work. While to some extent, it’s up to the organization to provide the connection between the donor and the mission, a large part of that also depends on the donor’s current situation. There are times when things happen and the donor really has no choice about pausing donations.
This is where the features FundRaiser Software provides, such as donor tags and coding, creates the opportunity for you to segment and identify donors, both current and lapsed. From there, you can decide what correspondence to send, perhaps even opting to send your letter directly from fundraiser using your email server or ours for better cost savings. Your database instantly transforms from a place just to put names and gifts into a contact management system that can keep you in touch with your donors. This means you can remind these individuals about your mission. Just because they’ve taken a step back doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten about you. And you can take steps to not forget about them.