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Donor Engagement

Guest Blog: 4 Fundraising Ideas That Will Re-engage Lapsed Donors

Donor retention strategies can fail for reasons outside a nonprofit’s control. However, donor acquisition is a costly undertaking and, therefore, not an appropriate response. Instead of pursuing new donors, organizations should re-engage lapsed donors to grow their supporter base.

According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Survey, only 4.1% of lapsed donors were recaptured in 2022. This statistic reveals a large resource of prospective supporters that nonprofits have historically been unable to convert. The power to reconnect with donors lies in leveraging targeted requests, which ask the right people for the right amount of money at the right time.

This guide will explore four fundraising ideas that are powered by targeted requests. By implementing these strategies, nonprofits can boost donor retention rates and strengthen their existing relationships with supporters.

Text-to-give fundraisers

Among their target audience of lapsed donors, nonprofits must make requests to the right people through personal communication. Text-to-donate fundraising can be specifically directed toward lapsed donors who opted into SMS outreach in the past and are known to be interested in supporting a particular cause.

In a text-to-give fundraiser, supporters donate by texting a keyword to a nonprofit’s phone number, then following a link to complete a payment form. This process re-engages lapsed donors through:

  • Ease of participation. Sending a text message to contribute is a simplistic way to respond to text-to-give appeals. Inactive supporters will be more likely to return when their involvement demands little effort.
  • Nonprofit attentiveness. Donors will be prompted to return when nonprofits communicate that the donor is missed by including specific details, such as the donor’s name and involvement history, in donation appeals.

Nonprofits must carefully consider their audiences to determine if a text-to-give approach will increase their donors’ lifetime values. Donor data, such as demographics or communication history, will reveal which donors are likely to respond to this fundraiser. For instance, an older lapsed donor may prefer direct mail and disregard a request for donations via text message, while a younger donor who previously responded positively to SMS outreach will have a higher likelihood of coming back into the fold.

To reach the maximum number of lapsed donors, nonprofits should choose an all-inclusive fundraising software that includes text-to-give capabilities. That way, the text-to-give fundraiser can supplement other initiatives that would appeal to less tech-savvy supporters.

Virtual auctions

Fundraising events replace the focus on raising money with the excitement of participation. Auctions are an especially exciting event, allowing nonprofits to sell donated items and experiences to donors, who view the transaction as a shopping experience rather than a contribution.

Snowball Fundraising’s guide to auction software recommends choosing a platform with a mobile bidding feature, through which participants can place bids from their mobile devices. With mobile capabilities, bidding is much like online shopping and lapsed donors will be attracted to the convenience of the event. 

Auctions are a particularly effective donor engagement strategy for several reasons:

  • Bids offer auction items at a discounted price. The incentive of a good deal attracts lapsed supporters who may have stopped giving for budgetary reasons.
  • Donors obtain unique items or services. Auctions sometimes offer items or services that participants could not receive otherwise, which makes auction participation seem urgent.
  • Participants might secure tickets to an experience or event. Disengaged donors might be drawn back in by the limited opportunity to gain access to coveted events and experiences.

During item procurement, nonprofits should choose items at various price points to appeal to a diverse range of budgets. The unique nature of auction bidding also allows donors to choose their contribution amounts, making the donation appeal target the right amount through specificity to the donor.

Nonprofits will see an increased donor retention rate when they ask for an appropriate donation amount. Lapsed donors and existing donors alike will appreciate achievable requests that take their budgets into consideration.

Giving Tuesday

Each year, millions of organizations around the world participate in Giving Tuesday, a holiday dedicated to charitable giving typically hosted in November. A Giving Tuesday campaign can serve as a reminder to lapsed donors that nonprofits need their help. Alternatively, nonprofits can choose their own giving days, such as:

  • Local events or holidays. Nonprofits might align with community events, such as parades or festivals, to increase visibility. Lapsed donors who are active in the community will recognize a familiar nonprofit and be reminded to give.
  • Nonprofit anniversaries. When disengaged donors are reminded of a nonprofit’s milestones, such as the anniversary of their founding, they might feel compelled to give.
  • Current events. Donors will quickly return to support a nonprofit as it addresses a current issue or crisis, such as a natural disaster. 

Whether a nonprofit celebrates Giving Tuesday or hosts their own giving day, donors’ one-time gifts can be transformed into renewed involvement through the peer-to-peer nature of contributing. According to Jackson River, social media can effectively promote giving days by challenging participants to involve their followers. 

The 24-hour window of time presents an urgent opportunity for lapsed donors to give. By participating in the globally recognized Giving Tuesday date or choosing a significant one of their own, nonprofits ask donors for contributions at the right time: when giving is already on their minds. 

Matching gift campaign

To regain a donor’s support, nonprofits must convince the donor that their contribution is significant and impactful. Matching gift programs can maximize these gifts and increase the impact of a donor’s dollars.

Through a matching gift program, a donor’s employer adds to the donor’s nonprofit contribution according to a predetermined ratio. Nonprofits should compile employer information in a comprehensive database to provide all the necessary information to donors. When choosing a matching gift database, nonprofits should look for:

  • Electronic forms. A database that provides the necessary forms that donors must complete to participate in the program keeps the entire application process in the same place.
  • Easy-to-understand data. Important information, such as the matching gift ratio or minimum eligible amount, should be clearly listed and explained within the database for interested donors.
  • Updated records. The majority of companies update their matching gift policies in September or October. Effective databases reflect these changes to provide relevant information for donors.
  • Complete coverage. Matching gift databases should have extensive market coverage. For any company policies not listed, the database should allow donors to manually input their employers’ policies. 

Nonprofits may also leverage auto-submission functionalities to further enhance user experience. Providing the ability to automatically submit matching gifts invites lapsed donors to return by simplifying the giving process. 

Donor insight is crucial to fundraising success—lapsed donors’ perspectives can impact a nonprofit’s appeals and communications. Understanding donors’ sentiments can be made easier with technologies like Behavioral Economic Modeling AI services, which leverage artificial intelligence to understand why people behave the way they do and set ask amounts that will optimize their lifetime giving. By understanding lapsed donors and hosting fundraisers based on their preferences, nonprofits will have a better chance of regaining their support.