Once, Twice, Three Times a (Lapsed) Donor

June 1, 2012
— Ideas Blog —

As an Account Director, I’ve had the opportunity to create and manage many new client relationships. A few of them involved starting direct marketing programs from scratch, but most of the organizations contacted our team because of a struggling program and the need for a fresh perspective.

Part of Nexus Direct’s strategic process with any new relationship is identifying pain points — where are the biggest challenges? 9 times out of 10, this includes reactivating lapsed donors/supporters/members/you name it. (I’m going to use donors for the sake of this post.) I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a client say, “We have a large donor pool, but a large portion is lapsed. How can we re-engage the people who haven’t given in several years?”

If you research industry publications or direct marketing resources, you’ll find an abundance of suggestions for doing this: sending “Final Notice” packages, personalizing the direct mail package or email with giving history, sending questionnaires to find out how frequently they’d like to receive communications or what messages are most engaging to them, and so forth. But surprisingly, none of these suggestions include segregating the single-gift lapsed donors and the multi-gift lapsed donors — those who have given once vs. those who have given more than once. And to me, this may be the easiest way to pinpoint those most likely to respond to your efforts.

Take a minute and think like a donor. It doesn’t matter what the cause is, as long as it’s something you care about. If you’ve given one gift, and only one gift, it could’ve been because you were intrigued by an email subject line, or there was a heart-wrenching message within a letter, or maybe just because it was the end of December and you were maximizing your tax-deductible contributions. (I’m married to an accountant who always makes a few well-timed donations at the end of the year.)

But let’s say you’ve given more than once. This shows a different level of commitment. You’re past the flashy creative, the tactics on an envelope designed to get you inside — all of that. At this stage, you’ve shown a dedication to the organization, a connection to their mission, and a much higher propensity to give than someone who has given just one gift.  As a marketer, I know which donor I’d rather try to re-engage…how about you?

So the next time you’re looking to reactivate donors from a large lapsed donor pool, focus on the multi-givers first. You may want to test them against the one-timers (just to make yourself feel good), but if you’re looking for low-hanging fruit, there’s where you’ll find it.

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