Maintaining hard-won donors

Faithful donors are our life blood. While we are working our hardest and taxing our wits developing strategies to identify and attract new donor prospects, it is the loyal base that keeps our efforts operating. Yet do you even know when one of the faithful falls from the ranks?

The donor rarely keeps track of the time since the last gift to you. Most rely on your gentle reminders to trigger the next gift. It may be your annual campaign solicitation, but hopefully you are in touch with them more often that the predictable every-twelve-months. And you should be offering them opportunities to interact with your organization and help financially more than once a year. It takes regular communication to maintain your place in their hearts.

So how do you keep track of this? Well, say you do two mailings a year (your Big event and your annual appeal). Then you need to look at your lapsed donors (sometimes called LYBUNTs—last-year but-not-this-year) about every nine months. Whether they meant to or not (or had a change in family situation), they have neglected to respond to two mailings. You might make a personal phone call, mentioning that you haven’t heard from them in a while, and telling them about a special project they might be interested in. It’s a good idea to ask for a specific amount, but no higher than the amount of their last gift.

When you send your annual solicitation, write a separate letter to those who didn’t give the previous year. Make gentle reference to their lapse, as in “we want to welcome you back to our family of active supporters.” If they didn’t realize they had lapsed, now they will and will become more attentive to their giving in the future.

If the donor fails to respond to the second solicitation, sent another note saying “we miss you” and enclosing a survey asking “can you tell us why you stopped giving?” Offer a choice of typical responses (Too much mail, Lost your address, change in giving priorities, and I didn’t realize…). You’ll be happy to see the number who “didn’t realize” and will return your envelope with a check.

Don’t give up on those who don’t respond to “we miss you” approach. The cost (literal and figurative) of obtaining a new donor is still more than you’ve invested so far. After another six months, approach them with another mailing or call with a specific offer and a request slightly lower than their last gift. (This works especially well when you can say “your gift will be matched…).

And occasionally, in the future, send your appeal with the “we miss you” letter, and include them in your planned giving offers if age appropriate.

Track your results (and costs) over time to gauge how much follow-up—and what kind--works for you. When someone has responded to your appeal in the past, it’s very likely that they still have an interest in your mission. And those, after all, are the ones you want most.

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