publication date: May 15, 2011
author/source: Sumac Research
There's a saying among used-car salespeople: Never try to sell someone a car; try to sell
them five cars over 20 years.
Likewise, repeat donors should be a key
component of your organization's financial strategy. But what do you do when
one of your donors suddenly stops giving? Here are a few strategies for
re-energizing your lapsed donor segment.
Know who to woo
Winning back donors may
require a significant investment of your time and resources. Begin by
identifying your best prospects. Eliminate any donors who have not donated in
over 48 months, donate irregularly or in small amounts (under $10), or have
only donated once.
While it may be tempting to mount a broad campaign towards
all previous donors, your recommitment efforts will be more effective if they
focus on a select group likely to yield the best results. Remember that through
your organization's regular communications strategy (newsletters, email updates,
etc.) you can continue reaching out to those donors you do not target directly.
Once you have a short list of donors targeted for
recommitment, begin by doing a little more research into their donation
history. Looking for patterns in the way they have given in the past can
provide key insights that will help you win them back. Consider when they first
started donating. What was your organization doing then that could have induced
them to donate? Was your organization pursuing a particular campaign or media
strategy at the time?
Consider the time of year too - certain donors may be in the
habit of giving during the holidays. In that case, a simple note to the effect
of "We missed you this year!" may be all it takes to re-engage them.
Sell the promise
Donations should be treated the same as any sales
transaction. Instead of selling a product or service, you are selling the
capacity of your organization. Your donors are investing in both the sense of
goodwill they get from supporting an organization that works for positive
change, and the confidence that your organization has the resources and
professionalism to use their investment effectively.
As with any investment, donors will lose confidence if they
do not feel their money is going to good use. In many cases, donors can be
re-engaged by a personalized letter highlighting an upcoming project they can
support. If their donation history suggests a specific interest, explain in
your letter how this project will support it. Let them know they are investing
in a vital organization that is still actively working for a cause they have
supported in the past.
Speak to their legacy
An important corollary to this kind of forward-looking
appeal is a campaign which codifies and celebrates your past accomplishments.
Remember that every single one of your donors was once inspired to write a
cheque to support your organization. Try to get them thinking about what first
drew them to you.
Think of hosting a small cocktail party or learning lunch
for former donors. If your organization has an important anniversary coming up,
consider holding a party or conference to celebrate it and get them involved in
the preparations. Phone or mail your donors soliciting any memories they have
about how they first got involved with your cause. Remind them not only of what
your organization has accomplished, but also that as a valued donor they are an
important part of those accomplishments.
There are a number of reasons why regular donors stop giving.
Some of them - a change in their financial circumstances, a disagreement with
the direction your organization is headed - will be beyond your control. Others
- loss of interest, other demands on their time, simply forgetting - can be
easily overcome with a little creativity and personal attention. Those are the
donors that will make your efforts worthwhile.
In the end, no one relishes the prospect of cold-calling old
donors with the hope of renewing their commitment. It is a frustrating process
in which a considerable amount of effort and work yields predictably few
results. But with more and more organizations vying for the attention of an
inundated public, the ability to effectively re-energize your existing donor
base is becoming an increasingly important component of fundraising in the nonprofit
Sumac is a complete, integrated software solution for
nonprofits that tracks lapsed donors and distributes personalized electronic
and paper communication easily and cost-effectively. For more information,