Lapsed Donor Letters

Jeane Vogel and Fund Raising Innovations

Why would a donor stop giving? In other words, what makes a donor go away?

        *Did your mission change? Donors have personal, specific reasons for supporting you. If a favorite program ends or a direction shifts, that donor might not be interested in your mission anymore.
        *Was there donor fatigue? Was this person a donor for a long time without getting anything back from your organization? Was there good communication between the donor and the organization?
        *Did the donor know how the money was being used? Did the donor get the feeling that he was making a difference? Was the donor confident in the integrity and long-term stability of the organization?
        *Did the donor feel valued? Did the donor feel appreciated?
        *Did you do something to annoy the donor? Was the donor recognized for his gift in the way the donor wanted?

The care and feeding of small donors is an art form. Donors, no matter how much they give, want to feel that they are making a difference and are valued by the groups they support.

Before writing your lapsed donor letter, take a good look at your donor management and recognition procedures. My suggestions:

        *Write your thank you letters promptly – I recommend within 48 hours. A quick thank you letter implies that the gift is important.
        *Tell your donors what you are doing with their money. Make sure they know that every gift matters to your success.
        *Thank them often. You can’t thank a donor too much.

What should go into a lapsed donor letter?

        *Generally, if there hasn’t been a problem you just need to remind the donor why he or she liked you in the first place.
        *Open with sincere thanks for their past support. Tell them what you were able to accomplish with their gift. It’s not too corny to tell them that you missed them!
        *As with all letters, focus on successes and invite them to be part of the success with you. Be upbeat and positive. Give them a reason to come back – a new program, and new building, a chance to serve more people.

Each donor has a personal reason for contributing – and a personal reason for moving on. You can’t control every reason, so control the ones you can. How you treat a donor, how you communicate with a donor, how you thank a donor – those are things you can control and will make a difference in the ability to establish a long-term relationship.

And remember, most people say they stopped giving because they weren’t asked!