How to Reactivate and Energize Lapsed Donors

We have to talk about the elephant in the room: lapsed donors.

The nonprofit sector has entered a generosity crisis marked by a decline in both the number of donors and the sum of giving. Donor churn has hit a peak. The Fundraising Effectiveness Project reported an 18.9% decrease in donors who did not contribute last year, but had given in the past.

While this data might indicate that donor generosity may be waning, it’s not so black and white. As Eglantyne Jebb, Founder of Save the Children, said more than a century ago, “The world is not ungenerous, but unimaginative and very busy.”

This statement still rings true today.

As the rest of the world progresses toward hyper-personalized donor experiences, many nonprofits are still operating on a one-size-fits-all model. These unresponsive fundraising tactics are hindering nonprofits from improving their donor engagement strategies and achieving their generosity goals, leading donors to feel disconnected from the missions they care about.

Research from Adrian Sargeant identifies two primary reasons why donors don’t return to give again:

  1. Impersonal messaging and inappropriate asks
  2. Lack of acknowledgment and transparency

Impersonal mass marketing is no longer an effective way to fundraise. When a donor receives a generic communication that broadly addresses everyone in your database, it fails to speak to where they are in their journey with your organization. It is a lackluster way to inspire them to take meaningful action.

Think about how much communication your donor receives daily between all their communication channels—email, phone, postal mail, etc. To put this into perspective, more than 347 billion emails are sent and received worldwide every single day. The age of information has created cluttered inboxes that require a delicate balance of targeted messaging and consistency to catch the attention of your most valued supporters.

Though it goes against the inherent spirit of our sector, the reality is that nonprofits find themselves in competition with each other for the attention and support of donors. To combat this challenge and align with donor expectations, organizations should embrace responsive fundraising.

Taking on a donor-centric approach, responsive fundraising fosters giving by tailoring donor journeys to the unique needs of each individual through listening, connecting, learning, and suggesting.

Responsive Fundraising Framework

Taking the power of responsive fundraising and combining it with conversion rate optimization can equip your organization with the tools it needs to enhance the donor experience. This two-pronged responsive strategy involves analyzing donor data, crafting personalized messaging, refining donor journeys, and fine-tuning reactivation campaigns.

Defining CRO and Its Role on Lapsed Donors

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a means of improving the donor experience to drive conversion or donors to take a desired action, such as making a donation, signing up for a newsletter, or registering for a fundraising event.

Putting on your responsive lens, a nonprofit might use CRO to modify its website user experience or refine its campaign strategy. For example, to reactivate donors who have lapsed on your nonprofit’s file, you might launch an email appeal targeting donors who have not given within the last two years.

To ensure you’re using messaging that resonates with this segment of donors, you might employ CRO tactics to encourage high open and click-through rates. Optimization tactics could be testing different subject lines, using more specific call-to-action buttons, or experimenting with different on-the-field images or videos.

Reviving Lapsed Donors With Responsive Fundraising and CRO

Responsive fundraising helps you discover ways to recapture the support of your lapsed donor base. Rather than sending cold emails broadly addressed to any type of supporter, responsive fundraising curates communications based on their individual interests, preferences, and motivations.

Making intentional efforts to listen to donors—through data analysis and direct engagement such as surveys or personalized phone calls—opens the door to deeper donor connections and relevant supporter suggestions.

Leaning into the responsive fundraising model, nonprofits that partner with Virtuous have seen a 12% jump in average donor retention. Take YWAM Orlando, for example. The faith-based organization previously took a generic and impersonal approach to fundraising communications, which they recognized as their biggest weakness.

Since adopting the responsive fundraising framework, the YWAM Orlando team now has deeper visibility into donor data, giving them more insight into why donors lapse and how to tailor a re-engagement plan to reactivate their giving.

“Once someone lapses, we have a workflow so they receive specific content with a specific call to action to try to reengage their giving. We have that all automated, we don’t even have to manage that. Those donors begin lapsing and—Boom!—they’re receiving the information we want them to receive, given the situation they’re in. It’s allowing us to be far more invested in them.”

Alastair Cuthbertson, Digital Communications Director of YWAM Orlando

Integrating CRO tactics into your responsive fundraising strategy allows you to hyper-personalize donor communications to capture the attention of lapsed individuals.  It empowers a more effective outreach strategy by adapting to how donors respond to your communications.

Let’s dive deeper into how CRO can upgrade your responsive fundraising strategy.

Using Data Intelligence and Segmentation Responsively to Target Lapsed Donors

Donor attrition happens for a reason. Those reasons could include impersonal messaging, inappropriate asks, lack of recognition, or budgetary constraints. By leveraging data analysis through your nonprofit CRM, you can pinpoint where and why a donor stopped giving. This analysis can reveal patterns of behavior that lead to a lapse in donations.

Once you better understand where the gaps and opportunities are between your messaging and your lapsed donors, it’s time to segment out your donors. This segmentation should be more than one general segment called “lapsed donors.” It requires a more detailed approach, like donation history, how long ago the donor lapsed, communication preferences, and engagement levels.

Responsive Optimization Ideas

CRO comes in by considering each lapsed donor segment and refining donor journeys based on donor responses through your communications. For instance, a few responsive optimizations you can make to your lapsed donor re-engagement campaign could be:

  • Updating your “donate” button on your website: Maybe your “donate” button isn’t resonating with your audience and is driving low conversion. If that’s the case, it’s worthwhile to try out multiple copy iterations, such as “give now,” “save a life,” or “make a difference.”
  • Finding individual stories that inspire support: Certain stories you share might have a higher conversion rate than others. Dive into these metrics and pinpoint the narratives that resonate particularly well.
  • Experimenting with time-based appeals: Especially when it’s a busy time, like year-end, why not test out a time-sensitive appeal, such as a matching-gift campaign? This could be an opportunity to reactivate the support of a donor who has lapsed and build a journey to keep them engaged over time.
  • Creating segmented landing pages: You might be already creating campaign-specific landing pages, but have you considered creating segmented versions? It might be worthwhile to try variations in content, imagery, and calls-to-action based on your lapsed donors’ unique behaviors and interests.

Once you’ve fine-tuned your campaign using CRO techniques, you can make it easier on you and your team by using nonprofit marketing automation. These automated workflows seamlessly guide donors through their journey with your organization. Before initiating these donor journeys, it’s important to consider what these workflows will look like.

Two critical questions to ask:

  1. How many touchpoints will the donor receive?
  2. Which types of communications will they receive?

Automated workflows streamline the re-engagement process, ensuring timely, relevant, and personalized interactions with lapsed donors without the added manual effort. Virtuous provides dynamic automated workflows in which every touchpoint is activated in response to specific donor actions, such as signing up for a newsletter.

This enables your team to nurture donor relationships and recapture the support of donors who might have an interest but need to feel inspired to take action.

Bridging the Gap Between Your Mission and Lapsed Donors With Responsive Copy

If you want to rekindle the interest of your lapsed donors, your secret weapon is writing engaging, relevant, and persuasive content. In our attention economy, multiple forces are vying for your donors’ attention, which has undoubtedly contributed to the increasing rate of donor churn. After all, people are exposed to up to 10,000 advertisements a day.

In an age when information is at the tip of our fingertips, nonprofits are not only competing with each other for donor attention but also with for-profit businesses. This is why it’s so important to craft personalized messaging that will resonate and help you stand out in a crowded space.

Putting together fundraising copy is an art and a science. The right mix of words can evoke empathy, instill a sense of purpose, and spark the emotional response needed to drive a lapsed donor to take action.

Message Refinement Ideas

Ready to refine your messaging? Here are a few copy recommendations to re-engage your lapsed donors:

  • Keep it simple: Communication should be clear, concise, and to the point. Avoid overcomplicating the message by over-explaining or using complex language or jargon. Highlight your mission, the problem you’re addressing, and how your donors can make a difference.
  • Find the emotional appeal: People take action when the message resonates emotionally with them. Use meaningful storytelling and compelling narratives to connect with donors personally.
  • Define the impact of their support: Phrases like “Because of you” or “Your support makes a world of difference for…” can help donors see themselves as more than just a financial transaction—it helps them feel like an integral part of your mission.
  • Optimize using data: A core of responsive fundraising is listening. Leveraging a donor management system like Virtuous provides comprehensive data insights that can help you understand what messaging is working and what isn’t. Use CRO to experiment with different messages, headlines, or calls to action.

For a responsive and donor-centered organization like Fleece & Thank You, personalizing its messaging and scaling its content strategy to drive greater impact was essential. Pairing Virtuous’ responsive segmentation with KindKatch’s real-time content capabilities, the team has achieved remarkable results, reaching an impressive 85% engagement rate with their audience and an above-average donor retention rate of 75%.

“This is a first-class experience truly shattering the ‘donor pyramid’ philosophy and helping its users to create a responsive and personalized experience for donors of all sizes. I have tried almost all of the CRMs and can confidently say that Virtuous is the best of the pack,” emphasizes Nicholas Kristock, Founder and CEO of Fleece & Thank You.

Prioritizing User Experience for Your Donor Reactivation Strategy

Your website is a pivotal guide in the donor journey, often the destination for your call-to-action in your communications. Whether directing donors to explore the “About Us” page, a campaign landing page, a donation form, or an educational blog article, it shapes the experience your donors have with your organization.

This is why website design becomes an essential part of responsive fundraising. When you don’t invest in optimizing your website, you’re creating roadblocks in the user experience. If your website is cluttered with information overload, is hard to navigate, and is slow to load, it limits donors’ desire to continue their donor journey.

The design of your website tells a story. When the layout is inviting, it captures visitors’ attention and compels them to learn more or take action.

Website Optimization Ideas

To use your website as a reactivation tool, consider testing these three website elements:

  • Homepage: Your homepage is the first thing your donors see when they enter your website. Consider optimizing current digital elements (copy, graphics, videos) to see if there’s a higher re-engagement rate. A well-designed homepage can serve as a powerful reminder of the impact previous donors can have by reactivating their support.
  • Navigation: Is your website navigation too cluttered? Are you relying on too many dropdown menus? Are your labels straightforward, or could they cause some confusion? Testing your navigation from time to time is critical to ensure it’s as seamless as possible. After all, it acts as the directory to your website.
  • Calls to action: Are your CTA not converting as well as you would like? It might be time to experiment with new copy or placements. This might be obvious, but make sure your CTA directly relates to the information the visitor is engaging with. This contextual relevance increases the chances of conversion. Remember to put CTAs in high-traffic areas, like at the top of each page and the center or next to featured hero images.

Knowing which content on your website resonates most with donors empowers you to optimize their overall experience and give them the information that they want to consume.

Go even deeper. While a positive user experience can inspire lapsed donors to reactivate their support, it can also lead to them signing up for recurring donations

Virtuous nonprofits use the Responsive Listener feature on their website to monitor and track donors’ activities. With a simple code installed on your website, you can use this valuable responsive listening tool that gives you actionable insights into donor preferences and interactions.

Plus, all of this information is housed in the donor’s contact record, making it even easier for your team to make informed decisions on how to take the relationship to the next stage.

Maximizing CRO With a Responsive Multichannel Approach

Reaching out to lapsed donors through multiple channels helps rekindle the connection between lapsed donors and your organization. Each person has their own communication preferences, and it’s essential to respond to these preferences by adopting a multichannel fundraising strategy.

If you’re noticing an uptick in donors who stop giving or supporting over time, evaluating your lapsed donor journey might be worthwhile. Remember that responsive donor journeys span various touchpoints, so map out the entire experience—from the initial engagement to conversion. You should look for potential drop-off points and ways to optimize these stages to keep donors engaged.

Which channels you choose to include in your multichannel strategy can vary from organization to organization. However, consider key communication channels like email, digital ads, social media, and direct mail to engage donors.

Remember, keep messaging consistent and coordinated messaging across channels to foster a personalized donor experience. This highlights your organization’s mission, reinforces your value proposition, and encourages higher conversion.

Not sure which channels to prioritize? Use responsive listening to find which communication channels resonate most with your lapsed donors. You can do this two ways: analyze the data in your responsive nonprofit CRM and ask supporters directly by sending out a donor survey to your lapsed segment.

Cleaner Data Creates Bigger Opportunities for Personalized Communications

In their previous CRM system, John 3:16 Mission had difficulty maintaining accurate, clean donor data. The team had discovered they had 3,000 duplicate records in their nonprofit data ecosystem. Using the data health tools in Virtuous, they were able to reduce the duplicates and clean up their data.

Limited to outsourcing their email marketing to a third party, John 3:16 saw an opportunity to take back more email efforts in-house with their revitalized donor data.

Now, with Virtuous, John 3:16 creates and manages their email newsletters and personalized emails and tailors them to different segments of donors.

“Being able to connect with our donors has really helped build our relationships with them,” Jack Humphrey, Data Manager of John 3:16, shares.

Made for Lapsed Donor Reactivation: Responsive Fundraising and CRO

Responsive fundraising effectively re-engages lapsed donors because this strategic approach adapts to changes in donor interests, behaviors, and motivations. Working together with CRO, responsive fundraising continues to refine the donor journey by tailoring interactions and optimizing touchpoints to increase the chance of lapsed donors reactivating their support.

Ready to learn more about responsive fundraising? Schedule a chat with one of our team members.

What you should do now

Below are three ways we can help you begin your journey to building more personalized fundraising with responsive technology.

See the Virtuous platform in action.  Schedule a call with our team for personalized answers and expert advice on transforming your nonprofit with donor management software.

Download our free Responsive Maturity Model and learn the 5 steps to more personalized donor experiences.

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