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How to re-engage your lapsed donors

Posted March 7, 2017 by Virginia Davidson

Re-engage lapsed donors


Every organization has lapsed donors. These are donors who previously contributed to your organization, but for whatever reason they haven’t renewed their support. Their prior giving is evidence that they believe in your mission, though, and it’s a good indicator that they may give again. What can you do to try and win back their support?

The very first thing you should do is determine your definition of a lapsed donor. Many organizations consider a lapsed donor to be someone who hasn’t made a gift in over 12 months. A donor management system like Little Green Light makes it easy to identify lapsed donors.

Your lapsed donors have great potential to donate to your organization, but they won’t give unless they’re asked. And how you ask is key. If you’re sending the very same appeal letters and mailings to your lapsed donors as you are to your active donors, you may not enjoy much success in reactivating those lapsed donors. Personalization is key to re-engaging your lapsed donors. That takes time and effort, but the rewards for your organization are well worth it!

As you craft your targeted communications to lapsed donors, it’s important to consider the following:

  • What motivated these donors to donate in the first place? Did they attend an event or make a donation after seeing local publicity about your organization? Are they friends of a former board member? Gaining insight into what inspired these donors originally will help you reach out to them in a meaningful way.
  • Express gratitude for their past support. There’s no such thing as thanking a donor too much.  Even though it’s been a while since your lapsed donor made a gift, make a point to reference their past giving. Provide specific examples of what their support made possible.
  • Are you striking the right tone? Many lapsed donors don’t consider themselves to be lapsed donors. They may not realize it’s been so long since their last contribution. Be careful that your communications to these donors do not come across as a guilt trip! Your job is to inspire, not reprimand.
  • Reinforce the good work that your organization is doing. You think about your nonprofit’s work every day, but it’s unlikely that your organization is top-of-mind for your lapsed donors. Remind them! Share the impact of your organization’s work and recent activities so they can visualize what their renewed support will go toward.
  • Consider recruiting your donors as volunteers. A change in circumstances may have prevented them from making another charitable gift, even if they’d love to support your organization. Give your lapsed donors the opportunity to donate their time instead. Make sure they know about volunteer opportunities and the value that their gift of time would bring to your organization.


Need some inspiration to get started? We love this story from Cause & Effect about how a non-profit in Rhode Island loved their lapsed members back.

Have you implemented a successful strategy for re-engaging your lapsed donors? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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