While we tend to think of lapsed donors at the start of the new year, it really is a process that should be reviewed year-round.  In fact, more than ever, lapsed donor strategies need to be in place to ensure the best retention rates possible. Did you know that donor retention rates have been on the decline since 2008? In fact, the national average for repeat gifts from a donor who has given multiple times is only 65%. Even the very best organizations aren’t going to have a 100% renewal rate.

All of this means two key things: you must have a plan in place, and you must be intentional about renewing, cultivating, and acquiring new donors

However, if you don’t yet know your numbers, it will be difficult to create a plan. Your lapsed donor goals should be included within your development plan and retention rates can be expected to resemble this if you have solid best practices in place:

  • First time donor repeat gift – 25%
  • Second time donor – 50%
  • Multiple time donor – 65% or higher
  • Monthly donors – 75% or higher

The easiest way to do this is look at the total number of donors in 2017 and find out how many of those donors also gave in 2018. This is your retention rate.

Whether you are pulling lapsed donors from 2017 who didn’t renew in 2018 or a donor who gave at an event in one year but not the next, the strategies for each resemble one other. Once you run that lapsed donor report, assess which lapsed gifts require more sensitivity to renew, and which ones will just be too costly to renew. For instance, if a major donor’s $5,000 gift lapsed, you might consider bringing that donor on a tour, inviting them for coffee, etc. However, a gift of $25 may end up costing you the same amount in company expenses to renew. Determine time and resources when trying to renew these gifts.

Make sure to let these donors know you have missed them and what you will be able to accomplish in the new year with their renewed engagement. Maybe update them on a crucial project they helped fund the prior year. Make sure the donor knows that you know who they are!

Overall, the best thing you can do is not let your donor lapse in the first place. Do this by proactively reviewing monthly or quarterly reports to see whose gift is about to lapse. The next best thing is to have a monthly giving plan in place since retention rates are highest amongst this group.

Retain activities and initiatives that are working from year to year. If you drop an initiative, have a plan in place to transition those donors into another giving opportunity. Do what makes sense for you and your organization. But react appropriately to your donor’s behavior and their data trends. Don’t just pull a lapsed donors list and mail everyone the same letter.

To summarize in one word, PLAN, and your retention rates should be on the rise.