How to Win Back Lapsed Donors

We recently recommended that organizations with fewer than ~10,000 donors should not create a “lapsed donor version” of appeal letters.

If lapsed donor versions of your appeals was one of your tactics for reactivating lapsed donors – and you’re wondering what to do now – you’ll love “The right way to win back lapsed donors” from Jeff Brooks.

His post is the perfect follow-up. We shared a tactic not to use, and Jeff shares multiple tactics to use.

Jeff goes deeper on two powerful things you can do:

Here are two additional things you can do to improve your lapsed donor reactivation:

  1. Lower the ask amounts for these donors. You have a valuable piece of information on each of then – the amount they gave last. With current donors, we normally ask for amounts around their most recent donation and up. For lapsed donors, ask for their most recent donation and down. That improves response. Better to get them back at a lower level than to lose them!
  2. Be choosy about which donors you try to reactivate. Very low-amount donors who are lapsed may not be worth the cost to regain them. On the other hand, it can be worth it to keep trying longer for those high-dollar donors. You might mail donors who are several years lapsed if their last gift was $100+.

Having a lapsed donor strategy is an important part of most nonprofits’ overall strategy. For many organizations we work with, 25% of their “new” donors each year are actually lapsed donors who have reactivated

Plus, reactivated donors have higher lifetime values (on average).

It’s worth spending time to build a coherent lapsed donor strategy for your organization. If you think yours can be improved at all, read Jeff’s post!


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

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