Hmmm. What does that headline mean? It means doing whatever you can to retain the donors you gain through acquisition marketing. It means doing whatever you can to prevent them from lapsing in the first place.

Don't let precious donors walk away

HOW can you avoid lapsed donors – or at least minimize your attrition rate?

Today I’m zeroing in on three thoughts for your consideration:

1 – Don’t simply try to acquire as many new donors as possible. Don’t focus solely on the quantity of new donors.

Instead, focus on acquisition of the BEST donors for your nonprofit. Focus on people with stronger ties to your mission that are more likely to stay around for repeated gifts and longer periods of time.

Take a look at all the data you’ve collected on donors that have been with you for two or more years. What acquisition methods and channels did they come from? What programs do they support the most? Create a profile of your longer-term donors and go after more that match this profile.

And speaking of acquisition: For those donors that have lapsed, of course you try to get them back. But identify those that align with your “best donor” profile? Put your biggest effort on these ideal candidates when trying to woo lapsed donors back.

2 – Schmooze with gusto. The “PC” term for this is “stewardship” or “cultivation”.

Sincere flattery and appreciation work wonders.

Send out prompt and meaningful thank you letters and emails. And if at all possible do something special and unexpected for first-time donors. This might be a unique thank you letter, a warm welcome package, a screen-saver image, a hand-written note of thanks, a special report, etc.

Each subsequent appeal and communication with your donors ought to have expressions of your appreciation for all that they do. This is expressed in a variety of ways throughout the appeal.

Do whatever it takes to make it clear you recognize the donor as a person and not merely as a source of money. That you value and respect their time. That you value their opinions. That you value their precious support.

Proper schmoozing helps reduce attrition so you have fewer lapsed donors.

3 – Get them engaged and interacting with your nonprofit as quickly as possible; and in more than one channel.

Welcome package … ask a few questions for them to send back to you. However; I’m not keen on labeling it a survey. Test other ways to refer to the questions you ask in order to find out what is most important to your new donor.

And what else can you offer them to increase engagement? Depending on your mission it might be a visit to your campus; special access pass to a park or museum; sharing a bit of their own story as to why they gave; and so on.

A welcome email series is also very effective. In small doses with separate emails you can engage them with videos, visits to key information on your website, and so much more.

Studies show engaged donors as well as multi-channel donors are more loyal and tend to give more.

It’s your call. You can employ these three simple strategies (simple doesn’t equate to easy). You can foster these quality donors to evolve into monthly givers, donors with higher average gifts, and ultimately nurture them to include your nonprofit in their will or bequest.

Or you can have higher attrition rates and spend more money acquiring a mass of donors instead of qualified donors. You can spend more time begging lapsed donors to return instead of minimizing how many you create in the first place. You can spend your time chasing around with less to show for it.

Like I said – your choice.

What else have you done to increase retention and to avoid creating more lapsed donors?

Related posts:

Retention is the New Acquisition

Who receives more courtesy from your nonprofit?

Want more donors and members?

6 Top Donor Cultivation Methods


Photo credit: “Latente” via

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13 Quick Tips on Acquisition and Retention — Karen Zapp - Nonprofit Copywriter
July 17, 2013 at 7:01 am

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