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NPO Management

Templates and writing tips to re-engage lapsed donors.

August 21, 2023

Once you’ve gotten to know your lapsed donors, it’s time to reach out via text, email, snail mail, phone call—whichever communication medium your lapsed donor prefers.

Lapsed donors are valuable. They have supported you before, they believe in your cause, and maybe, just maybe they still do. But, how do you get their attention and convince them your cause is worth re-engaging with? We’ve already gone over a few tips to help you re-engage lapsed donors, now it’s time to dive into the actual writing part.

Writing to lapsed donors requires a thoughtful approach. But, what does that mean? Well, here are some tips to help you say what you need to say: (Or, you can just skip right to our templates.)

1. Get to know your lapsed donors.

If possible, segment your lapsed donors into smaller groups based on their past giving history. This will allow you to tailor your message(s) to them by reminding them of why they started giving to your nonprofit in the first place, while addressing why they left.

2. Personalize as much as possible.

Address your lapsed donor by their name, reference their past donations, bring up an event they participated in—anything to make your message to them feel personal. Making your communications as personal as possible shows that you value (and remember) their past support and are not treating them as just another recipient of a mass communication.

3. Show your lapsed donor you remember them.

By being relevant you’ll show your lapsed donor that you remember them and that their past contributions (donations, volunteer work, etc.) had a meaningful impact. And, reminding them of the difference they've made might just remind them of why they started giving to your nonprofit in the first place.

4. Thank your lapsed donor.

Being thankful isn’t just about saying thank you—it’s also about using an appreciative and thankful tone. So, take a bit of extra time to make sure your communications are friendly, warm, and make your lapsed donor feel good. Yes, a simple thank you can go a long way, but an entire letter or email or text written in an appreciative tone is even better.

And, if you can, a small incentive goes a long way. So, offer them tickets to your next fundraiser, a leftover tee shirt from the event they volunteered at a few years ago, or a picture of them volunteering.

5. Put yourself in your donor’s shoes.

Circumstances change, people's priorities shift, life gets busy. Showing your lapsed donor that you know and understand this, without being judgmental, will let them know they mean more to you than just their monthly cheque.

6. Share a story or two with your lapsed donor.

If you can, share a story from an event your lapsed donor participated in or a story or a testimonial that highlights the positive impact of your nonprofit organization's work. Stories are emotionally engaging and can remind lapsed donors of the meaningful work your nonprofit organization does.

7. Include a clear call to action (CTA) for your lapsed donor to follow.

Whether it's making a donation, signing up for updates, or attending your next fundraising event, clearly stating what action you want your donor to take makes it easier for them to actually take action. So, make the CTA relevant to why you’re reaching out and the medium you’re using.

For example, if it’s the last email you’re sending them before you remove them from your mailing list, you can make the CTA a bit more urgent. If it’s a text message, remember to copy/paste a link for them to follow. If there is an event coming up or a campaign that could really use their help, be specific and let them know how they can help.

8. Don’t just acknowledge that circumstances can change, offer new ways donors can help.

It’s one thing to say you understand that situations can change—it’s another to actually show that your nonprofit understands by offering your lapsed donor a few different ways they can continue to contribute. This can be as simple as a few different donation amounts or a list of upcoming events they can volunteer at.

9. Wrap everything up with your nonprofit’s contact information.

Just because you remember how to get in touch with your lapsed donor, doesn’t mean they’re going to remember how to contact you or your nonprofit. So, provide a direct and easy way for donors to get in touch with you and encourage them to reach out if they have questions.

And, remember to respect their privacy and preferences by including an option to unsubscribe from future emails if they choose to do so.

10. Mix things up and follow up.

Don't hesitate to test different subject lines, content formats, images, and CTAs. Use A/B testing to see what resonates the most with your lapsed donors and track who answers what so you can continue to refine and improve your lapsed donor communications.

Just because they didn’t respond to the initial email, doesn’t mean they will never respond. Maybe your email got lost in their junk mail. Maybe they meant to respond later and just forgot. Who knows! So, consider sending a follow-up email with a slightly different angle or approach. Sometimes, people need a gentle nudge.

Overall, the goal is to reconnect with lapsed donors in a genuine and respectful manner. By following these tips and tailoring your approach to your nonprofit organization's unique circumstances, you’re more likely to get a positive response.

More resources to help you re-engage lapsed donors:

How to re-engage your nonprofit’s lapsed donors: Tips and a sample letter to re-engage lapsed donors.

5 free ways for your nonprofit to improve donor relations.

A nonprofit’s guide to writing a thank you letter.

Reconnecting with lapsed donors is easier than finding new ones. (Coming soon.)