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How to re-engage lapsed donors with our best practice donor engagement techniques

They might not know it, but when a new donor crosses the threshold, they are taking the first steps into what all fundraisers hope will be a long and fruitful relationship. You will always lose some along the way, but does that mean they’re gone forever? Not necessarily, which is why your fundraising techniques and strategies need to cater for lapsed donors as well as active ones. But how do you re-engage lapsed donors?

First, you need to know what’s what

What does the term ‘lapsed’ mean to your organization? Is it someone who hasn’t given in six months, a year, or 10 years? Perhaps it’s all of the above. Once you have decided, a good fundraising CRM  will show you how many donors you are losing and what it is costing. What else does it tell you? Giving histories, motivations, stage of life – every detail is a clue to help plan your next step. 

Segment, segment, segment

Just because they have all ‘lapsed’, doesn’t mean that everyone is the same. Personalization is key, and that means segmentation. Think donor profiles, giving type, value, or length of time away. You might find some segments are not worth the investment. For others, you will want to go that extra mile.


To be effective, you need to strategies. Different fundraising techniques will work for different donors, so take the time to get your approach right. You might want to try:

Getting digital: A few well-placed Google Ads and social media posts might be all you need to remind someone why they chose to donate in the first place.

A handwritten note: Simple and to the point, personal mail is great way to show you care.

Picking up the phone: Don’t bind yourself to a script. Talk to your donors. Thank them for their support. Find out why they gave to you and why they stopped. If it feels right, make the ask. Don’t worry if it doesn’t. This is a first step. Not the final destination.

Different giving options: There are many reasons people stop giving. Maybe it’s not about a regular gift anymore. Maybe it’s about community events, volunteering, or even legacies?

Event invites: Giving donors the chance the engage with your cause directly is never a bad thing. Look at your calendar and see what opportunities there are to bring back donor engagement.

Going for coffee: Fundraising is about relationships, and if there is a major donor or long-term giver that has dropped off the radar then taking time out for a chat is a great way to reconnect.

Of course, there is always direct mail – never underestimate the power of a well-written appeal. Remember, whichever method you choose, say ‘Thank you’. Tell stories. Share your impact. If you want to re-engage your donors you need to inspire them. Take time to find the content and words that do just that.

Know when to stop

Yes, you need money. But not at the expense of your relationships or reputation. With any re-engagement campaign, it is important to know when enough is enough. Go too far and you’ll never hear from them again!

But above all…

Remember, by far the easiest way to re-engage lapsed donors is not to lose them at all. There are lots of simple things you can do to improve your donor management process and donor retention strategies. Say ‘Thank You’. Plan their journey. Tailor communications. Keep your database up to date. There is no one big secret. Just a happy, engaged donor. And the more important and valued they feel, the less likely they are to leave your cause behind.

Plan for engagement: The more engaged your donors feel, the less likely they are to go elsewhere. Volunteering, events, community fundraisers, membership programs, newsletter features, behind-the-scenes tours… there is no shortage of ways to engage supporters and volunteers. Be sure to make the most of them!

Get ready to respond: Do not underestimate the value of good customer service. If a donor visits the office will someone be there to receive them? If a volunteer picks up the phone, are different teams trained to take their call? If someone posts a comment or question on social media, will they get a reply? Engagement works both ways, so make sure your team is ready to give as well as receive.

Put ‘the ask’ on hold: When the pressure is on, you will feel the need to make an ‘ask’. But sometimes not asking is the best way forward. If you always have an agenda, your communications will become insincere and meaningless. At its heart, fundraising is all about building relationships with donors. So put the ask away and take time for a chat.

Build on lessons learned: Define your milestones and KPIs from the start, and make sure you use your data to track progress against them. Find the strategies that motivate your donors and build on these – testing, refining, and developing donor retention strategies that are proven to work.

Remember why: Everyone gives for a reason, and you need to make sure that reason is clear to see. All nonprofits have stories. Choose the ones that show your donors how their gift is changing lives and take the time to tell them well.

thankQ CRM can help you and your team  improve your donor management process and donor retention strategies. Contact us to set up your personalized demo to see how!