Author's note: This blog was originally posted in Jan. 2014. The topic is especially relevant at this time of year.
A really good question came up this week during our webinar on recapturing lost donors. It was about how to re-engage donors who stop (or scale back) giving once the urgency of the moment has passed. Here are five suggestions for tackling this all-too-common problem:
1. Analyze data on your lapsed donors
Look for common characteristics among these donors: location, age, giving level, join date, giving method, online donors v. mail. Are they clustered in one state? Did they all join in response to a particular campaign? Are they online donors or did they come in through a special event? If you can group these lapsed donors into specific segments, it will help narrow your focus and point to possible solutions.
2. Gather feedback
Try a survey or focus group to dig a little deeper into their concerns. You may have a good handle on some of their issues or concerns, but a survey could reveal a little more about their priorities, and a series of open-ended conversations in focus groups could help generate three to five new messages that you could then test via email to see how well they resonate with a larger audience.
3. Launch a targeted reinstatement effort using custom campaign materials
Develop materials that address the priorities identified in the survey and focus groups. If there is someone associated with a high-profile issue or legal case, ask that person to be part of the campaign, to sign a letter for you, have their story told in emails, even make a few calls. In your materials, make sure to include the threats still posed by the opposition, specific efforts by your foes to roll-back progress, and the need for vigilance in protecting hard-won gains.
4. Donor engagement activities
Are there other ways for donors to be engaged? Is it possible to hold small-scale donor events in key locations or an evening program featuring an inspirational speaker? On the advocacy level, if your organization has petitions or lobbying efforts it needs help with, appeal to the lapsed donors for help. It’s not a substitute for financial support, but it might at least keep them in the fold.
5. Plan for the ebb and flow
Be prepared in the future to leverage high-profile moments into multi-year giving commitments; this will make your organization less vulnerable to the ebbs in donor attention. The urgent moment, whenever it comes, reminds everyone of the importance of your mission. It also typically puts your organization’s leaders front and center in the media and gives you an opportunity to reach out to everyone from former board members and major donors to foundation officers and long-time members. On the fundraising front, it is an opportunity to secure multi-year pledges and lock-in giving for future years. When the heat of the moment has faded, your donors will still be paying those pledges.