Donation Management SoftwareFinancial ManagementNonprofit Donor Software

When Does a Nonprofit Donor Lapse?

Lapsed donors. They are those mysterious supporters who once donated to your ministry, but who have since fallen silent. They haven’t responded to your correspondence or given in a significant amount of time.

Do you move on from these donors and consider their exit statistically irrelevant?

Do you make reactivation a major part of your annual strategy?

How do you even identify which donors have truly lapsed?

To answer these questions, it’s time to go deep and perform some data analysis for your nonprofit.

Defining Lapsed Donors Differs for Each Organization

            Often, fundraising specialists define lapsed donors as those who have not given to your organization in the last 12 months. Some simplify it even more by limiting the time frame to a calendar year.

The thought process is, “If this donor group gave in 2018, but hasn’t given in 2019; then that donor has lapsed.”

This may work well for your organization, or it may be too simplistic. You may well find after analysis that your donors still consider themselves active 12, 18 or even 24 months between gifts.

This is key. It’s not only about how you view your donors, but how your donors view your organization. If you consider a donor lapsed and allow that donor to go dormant in your system, you could be missing out on vital support.

Identify your lapsed donors by asking several key questions:

  1. How often does our average donor give?

If the majority of your donors give 3-4 times per year, then you may identify a lapsed donor at six or nine months of inactivity and begin a reactivation process.

  • Does the amount of the gift affect the number of gifts given in a year?

For instance, do your major donors give once a year? If so, then do they spread out their gifts to 18 or 24 months? The answer to this question may affect what you consider “lapsed” based on previous giving. Your mid-level donors may have one parameter, whereas, your major donors may have another.

  • How do seasons, the end of the year, or special events affect your donations?

Perhaps your base’s “year” differs from the calendar year. Maybe the majority of your donors give in December or at a special fundraising event you host each May. This could affect the calendar parameters you use to pull your lapsed donor list.

  • Have you handled your special events and end of year drives similarly from year to year?

Or, have you changed your ministry model or communication plan in the last year? If so, you may not have lapsed donors, but rather donors who need better, more, or different communication.

Why Care about Reactivating Lapsed Donors

Because of the depth of analysis required to identify what a lapsed donor is, some question whether activating lapsed donors is as important acquiring new ones. After all, isn’t it better to put your ministry’s efforts into reaching those who truly want to connect with your cause rather than those who fall away?

This kind of thinking is common. It’s easy for organizations to get so focused on reaching new donors that they forget about the people who are quietly leaving through the backdoor. But the importance of reactivation comes down to stewardship.

Typically, it’s less expensive to retain a once committed donor rather than introduce yourself to a new one. Donors—lapsed or current—already know your message as they’ve supported you in the past. If they have fallen away, the fault may lie with your ministry’s communication strategy.

Identify When Donors Lapse

If you notice an uptick in the number of people who lapse or if your donors give once and don’t give again, it’s time to reevaluate your nonprofit’s communication. Check out the blog, “Re-engage Your Lapsed Donors.” [Inbound link: “Re-engage Your Lapsed Donors”] In it, we provide keys to identifying what brought donors to you and how to communicate more effectively with them.

Make Analysis Simple

If you’re unable to perform in-depth statistical analysis, then let us help you identify who your lapsed donors are and when your donors lapsed. Contact us to set up a free demo of StudioEnterprise with Advanced CRM. Our ministry representatives will show you how to better understand your donors, easily segment them with the right software, and achieve the reporting you need to accomplish your mission.

Don’t give up on your lapsed donors. Determine who they are and when they lapse, then create a communication strategy to keep them engaged. These are important steps in your future and the growth of your ministry.

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