What better time than spring (at least in the northern hemisphere) to focus on the same cycle of renewal that many parts of the earth go through?

This is a good time of year to focus on reactivating lapsed donors.

The point is you have to plant the seeds and water the plants before your flowers are ready to pick.

April showers bring May (and June, July, August, September…. and so forth) flowers… as it is said.

If it’s still early in the calendar year for you, put these ideas aside to use a bit later. Though, honestly, many of these are great ideas to use year round.  The key is to avoid a donor drought!

Here are some tips to make a little rain fall.

1. Develop/implement a strategy to woo back your lapsed donors.

First, come up with a strategy to “shower” your donors with a little love.

It can be a thank you call, note or text. You might also include a token gift.  Offer some recognition of the donor’s importance to you.  My e-book, Creative Ways to Thank Your Donors is up to about 72 ideas at this point – but I’m sure you can come up with your own.

A few ideas:

  • Make a check-in phone call. It’s nice to show your donors you’re thinking about them, and ask them how they’re doing. You can even get some volunteers to help.
  • Organize a check-in zoom call.  This can be a way to build community and get questions answered. Sometimes people are more willing to participate in groups than one-to-one. Resist the temptation to make this an all-about-you “update.” The more interactive you can make it, the more engaged your participants will be.  You might invite a guest speaker you know folks will want to hear from, or perhaps ask beneficiaries of your program to tell their stories.  Then open the floor for questions.
  • If it’s been awhile since your monthly donors got a real thank you, consider a ‘thankathon’ this month. Recruit board members, development committee members and/or other volunteers to help. If you’re a school, ask students to help.
  • Send a thank you video. It can be super brief, and it need not be fancy. Just film yourself saying thanks from your cell phone. Or video a group of staff or beneficiaries saying thanks. This is not a gift-specific thank you. Rather, it’s a general gift of ongoing gratitude to let your supporters know how much they are valued. See “Gratitude, Nonprofits Say Thanks.”
  • Send a letter written by someone whose life they’ve changed. This could be a scholarship recipient, an entrepreneur who recived a grant or loan, a teen matched with a mentor, a rescued pet or even a painting — get creative.
  • Send a shout-out on social media. You can DM someone you’re especially trying to reactivate, or you can simply send a warm embrace to all your supporters.
  • Invite donors to a free event. This could be a speaker, performance, behind-the-scenes tour, zoom Q & A or a live conference call dedicated to a particular issue.
  • Celebrate your donor’s anniversary. Not your anniversary, theirs. If they’re lapsed so far this fiscal year, send a belated “Sorry we missed your “donor-versary” in October. We missed it (and we miss you). Please accept our belated best wishes. Next year we promise to be on time!  Here’s _______ in your honor!”  Send a coupon, stickers, button, bumper sticker or other token gift.  Or simply send a BIG HUG!

Many of you are on fiscal years that end June 30th.

Now is the time to reconnect with your LYBNT (last year but not this) donors so they don’t miss out on another year of giving. And, while you’re at it, take a look at your SYBNT (some year but not this) donors. The point is not to let those who took the active step of making a gift to you — especially in the not-too-distant-past — to simply fall off your plate. Consider doing something that might keep them at your table. I would especially target those who gave more than your average-sized gift. Apply one or more of the strategies above. Or send an engagement survey.

2. Once you’ve sent a little love their way as suggested above, it’s time for some targeted asking.

When you fail to ask, you deny donors the opportunity to do something meaningful. Something that will bring them joy.  Did you know many lapsed donors don’t even realize they didn’t give to you yet? It’s your job to notice this — not theirs — and to reach out to renew your friendship. If you don’t work at the relationships, don’t be surprised when it withers and dies.

Here are a few actionable lapsed donor solicitation tips:

Send a “we miss you” letter.

Based upon my own experience calling lapsed donors at multiple nonprofits, many folks think they already gave and just need a reminder.

  • Make it brief, direct, and as personal as you can manage.
  • Stay upbeat and positive.
  • Praise your donor for their caring, generosity, understanding and so forth. Mention values you know your donors share.
  • Tell them you know they intend to give because you know how much they care.
  • Assume in the tone and language that your donor simply has forgotten/just not got around to it due to the busyness of daily life.

Call your most important lapsed donors.

You don’t want to lose these folks, so find out why they may not have yet renewed. Who you call, and how many you call, will depend upon your own resources and the makeup of your donor base.

  • Begin with those who’ve given the most.
  • Next call those you believe have the greatest potential to give more.
  • Also take a look at those who’ve given consistently over a period of years.  These are your most likely future planned giving donors – the ones who might leave you a bequest.

Follow up with email and even text messages.

Multi-channel campaigns work the best, because one message medium supports the other. You never know what mood your donor might be in on the date/time your email hits their inbox, so send the same message multiple times. Another great medium to layer in is texting. Did you know text messages have a 90% open rate? That’s HUGE! If you have phone numbers, and folks have opted in to receive text messages from you, don’t hesitate to contact them with a quick, warm message akin to the copy you’d include in your mailed letter. If you want help with this strategy, contact the experts at Rally Corp. [NOTE: The resources they offer are amazing and cost-effective. I make no money if you work with them (just think they’re swell)].

3. Don’t forget to uncover new foundation and business donor prospects.

Sometimes this gets put on the back burner. That’s a mistake, because you may be missing out on some potentially significant grants. Securing this type of funding is often a matter of who you know. And the people you know today may not be available to you tomorrow.

So… never put off until tomorrow what you can do today!

Make it a point to ask your board, committee, donors, volunteers and staff to review their connections with you on a regular basis.

Spring is a good time, because you’re usually not asking them to help with year-end solicitations during this part of the year.

Here are some tips to make it easy for your board and other key leaders to help:

  1. Ask board members/key leaders to review a list of potential foundation supporters you’ve put together.  Be sure to list the trustees in case they know any of these folks. How might they be able to help?
  2. Do the same with a list of potential business supporters you’ve curated. Who do they know that works there? Who might they know on their board?
  3. Ask if any of the suggestions on the lists you prepared inspire them to provide additional suggestions. Might they know another prospective funder in the same industry? Or does seeing the name of a trustee remind them of another foundation or business with which they know this person is connected?

May all your donor flowers bloom!