Win Back Your Lapsed Donors: 3 Effective Strategies

Motivate lapsed donors to resume their support for your nonprofit with strategies that make it easy for them to give and stay updated on your progress.

Win Back Your Lapsed Donors: 3 Effective Strategies
10 mins read

The loss of supporters can sting, but it doesn’t have to be permanent.

Your nonprofit knows that every one of your donors is important to helping you continue your good work and achieve your mission. As soon as they’ve made their first gifts, hopefully you work hard to build your relationships with each of them, but that’s not always feasible for resource-strapped organizations, so sometimes they fall off.

The loss of these supporters can sting, but it doesn’t have to be permanent!

With the help of your donor database, a few creative ideas, and a strong online fundraising strategy, here are three proven strategies to revitalizing lapsed donors’ interest in your nonprofit:

  1. Invite your donors to an enjoyable fundraising event;
  2. Create personalized communications with the help of donor data; and
  3. Expand your online giving options to make contributing more convenient

1. Invite your donors to an enjoyable fundraising event

One of the most effective ways to motivate lapsed donors is to reconnect with them in person at a fun event. Use the event to share updates about your progress and encourage renewed giving in an exciting atmosphere.

A fundraising event is an excellent opportunity to re-engage lapsed donors through in-person interactions that communicate the urgency of your mission. Your fundraising event will be most successful when you plan ahead to create an experience your donors are sure to enjoy.

As you plan your next event, keep the following tips in mind to make the experience as positive as possible for the donors you’re working to win back:

Keep your organization’s goals front and center.

Whether you’re communicating with potential supporters before the event or speaking to attendees, emphasize the ways in which their participation in your event (and their continued support) will help your organization achieve important goals.

Choose your time and location carefully.

The donors you’re trying to win back shouldn’t have to go too far out of their way to support your organization. If they’re mostly concentrated in a specific area, host your event there. You’ll also want to look back to past events you’ve hosted to determine successful times and locations.

Host the type of event they’ll love.

Are your donors mostly families with children or single adults? How old are they? Demographic information such as this is important in determining the type of event they’ll be most enthusiastic to attend, whether that’s an outdoor event such as a fun run or an evening fundraiser such as a gala.

If you’re looking for an event that appeals to a broad variety of supporters, you may want to consider hosting a charity auction. Charity auctions are among the most popular fundraising events for several reasons. With their party-like atmosphere, they’re fun to attend.

They give donors the opportunity to mingle with members of your team and learn more about your cause. Of course, they also can raise significant support!

To ensure that you host the perfect charity auction, it’s critical you choose the right format(s). You have several options to consider, with the three main types being:

Live auction.

These can be highly effective for re-engaging donors, but only if you’re able to secure packages worth several thousand dollars a pop, along with someone to run the auction at your event. To maximize giving, you can also use the auction as an opportunity to provide information on mobile giving methods—such as text-to-give—that donors can use whenever they feel inspired.

Silent auction.

This popular type of auction is one of the best ways for members of your nonprofit to interact with attendees, motivating them to reconnect with your cause. My firm OneCause actually created an entire guide to planning the perfect silent auction, as well as a list of checkout tips to help you make the most of these great opportunities for fundraising and networking.

Online auction.

While not as conducive to mingling, online auctions are easy for you to set up and for donors to join. They give you the opportunity to reach large numbers of lapsed donors and gather important information on them in your CRM as they register for the auction and bid on items.

Whether you choose to host a charity auction or another type of event, a well-planned fundraiser will encourage lapsed donors to get involved with you again. Once they do, ensure that you have enough information on them to reach out in a personal way to maximize fundraising results.

2. Create personalized communications with the help of donor data

Just like everyone, donors want to feel special and respond best to individualized communications. When you address their personal reasons for giving and thank them for their contributions, they feel valued and are motivated to give again. That’s why donors who receive a call from a board member within 48 hours give 50% more over their lifetime.

The same is true for lapsed donors. So, take the time to reconnect with old donors before you see them. Get them excited about your event ahead of time with email communications, social media posts, or the opportunity to contribute to a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, all shared with a personal note based on whatever you already know about that person and their connection to your cause.

When they interact with these communications, they’ll provide you with valuable information that you can use to structure your subsequent approaches.

Once you’ve gathered more recent information on your lapsed donors, use this data to segment your donor database and create appropriate communications for each segment. Not every lapsed donor paused in their giving for the same reason! You may choose to reach out to your lapsed donors according to:

  • The last time they engaged with your organization. In your communication, remind them of the value of their contribution and reach out through their preferred communication channel if you know it.
  • Their motivations for supporting your organization. If you know why your lapsed donors supported your organization during the time that they did, remind them that you continue to address the causes they care about. If you’re aware of any new reasons they may be interested in your work, be sure to reference those.
  • Demographic information, especially location. An appeal based on the notion of a shared community will always perform better.

When it comes to creating the right communications to win back lapsed donors, you may need more updated information than you already have stored in your donor database. Conduct prospect research to gather new information on donors so that communications will be more relevant to their current interests.

Once you use communications to re-interest lapsed donors, make it easy for them to make their next gift. Provide convenient online and mobile giving options, so they can give as soon as they’re motivated.

3. Expand your online giving options to make contributing more convenient

Implement quick and easy online and mobile giving methods to encourage lapsed donors to resume their contributions. Whether you’re expanding your current giving options or just refreshing your online and mobile giving tools, you should ensure your website and mobile platforms are:

Trustworthy and integrated.

Potential donors should see your nonprofit’s familiar color scheme, logo, and other branding elements on each page, especially your donation page, so they know their gift goes to you. Imagine going to a store, picking out a sweater, and then being sent somewhere else to pay for it. Weird, huh? This is one of the most important reasons for your organization to invest in customized online donation pages, as free buttons and similar options don’t tend to allow for much customization.


Today, about 30-40% of your website traffic likely comes from a small screen. If you’re lucky enough to get a donor to show up to your donate page and they find a two-point font, they’ll bail. Responsive pages appear differently to different size screens, ensuring donors have a good experience.

Created to share a compelling story.

Donors—especially lapsed ones you need to win back—won’t give if you don’t share a compelling reason they should. Use online tools to appeal to your donors’ hearts. Provide photos and videos to personalize your impact and ensure that potential donors know where their gifts are headed, but don’t “oversell” and make the mistake of sharing too much once someone has already clicked that donate button.

That said, sharing a bit of context of what kind of impact gets unlocked at each giving level in your donation string can be a powerful motivator for new and lapsed donors.

When you take the time to reach out to lapsed donors and address their changing interests in your nonprofit and work, they’ll respond positively. Stay connected to all of your supporters, even when they pause in their giving, to keep building these important relationships.

With a carefully considered outreach strategy and the help of online tools, your nonprofit can successfully reconnect with lapsed donors. They’ll be happy to resume supporting your organization when they’re made aware of the good work that you continue to accomplish.

About the Author

Kelly Velasquez-Hague brings over 20 years of fundraising, nonprofit management, and sales/marketing experience to her role as the Director of Content Marketing for OneCause, where she manages all of the company’s content strategy and execution. She is passionate about empowering great missions and loves that her current role allows her to continue to help nonprofits reach new donors and raise more funds for their cause.

Articles on Blue Avocado do not provide legal representation or legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for advice or legal counsel. Blue Avocado provides space for the nonprofit sector to express new ideas. Views represented in Blue Avocado do not necessarily express the opinion of the publication or its publisher.

3 thoughts on “Win Back Your Lapsed Donors: 3 Effective Strategies

  1. Great article. Thanks for sharing. So much focus is given on gaining new donors. It’s nice to see some attention brought to the value of winning back donors that have gone silent.

  2. I totally agree that we shouldn’t just focus on gaining more new donors, we must focus on those active donors and especially those gaining less interest. Great article by the way. Very informative. Well done!

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