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The Loyalty Letter

E-news that helps you keep donors connected (and giving)
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April 2014
Published by Lisa Sargent

Welcome, Nonprofit Professionals:

It was one of those moments. You're engrossed in a solid trade article, when suddenly your stomach lurches.

A trusted expert was saying to let go lapsed donors - to purge them from your file. Purge?!

I read the article again.

Upon deeper reading it was (mostly) clear that said consultant was talking about 1st-time givers who were...
repeatedly asked for but had never...
given a second gift and...
after 3 special reactivation mailings over a period of <15 months...

...still hadn't budged.

I guess we're assuming these donors were properly stewarded in the first place. So maybe that's sound advice.

But wow, if you had skimmed that article, your actions might have flown in the face of something that was really driven home for me in 2013 (and that I'm now testing further).

For details see this month's article, below: what I learned about lapsed (and long lapsed donors in 2013).

Thanks for reading. And thank you for being a subscriber,

Lisa Sargent (@lisasargent2)
Sargent Communications

P.S. Semi-regular reminder: content on my website and in this email newsletter is copyrighted to me, Lisa Sargent and Lisa Sargent Communications, to infinity and beyond. If you share, quote, reference, or use as subject fodder for your own blog, I’m honored -- but please, be a guardian of good karma and attribute what you use. Thanks!

What I Learned About Lapsed (and Long-Lapsed) Donors in 2013, and How It Can Help You Too

Before you purge, write off, or otherwise ignore the lapsed and long-lapsed names on your database, consider what happened to two of my clients in 2013...

“I’m not dead,” says the raggedy man draped over the shoulders of another. “I’m getting better."

“No, you’re not,” replies Raggedy Man's transportation. ”You’ll be stone dead in a moment.”

Raggedy Man objects, “I don’t want to go on the cart.”

So proceeds Bring Out Your Dead, one of my all-time favorite scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

At many nonprofits, lapsed and long-lapsed donors must feel a lot like this.

In their minds, they may be just "taking a break" -- maybe they've lost their jobs or times are tight or you've simply fallen off their radar screen, but they still feel a connection to your cause.

So why then, are they excluded from every mailing, relegated to the database dustbin, or ignored for months on end? (FYI: it costs 5-7 times more to acquire a new donor than it does to keep an existing one.)

What if, with a bit of stewardship and a good appeal, you could see something like this instead?

At client #1 this year, they saw:

  • Response rates of between 6 and 11 percent from their lapsed file, with an average gift of nearly $100;
  • Long-lapsed donors gave, on average, $45 to $50+, with response rates of 2 to 4 percent;
  • All in all, mailed to around 2,000 names, they raised an additional $18,000.

At another:

  • A holiday mailing yielded an 11% response rate from lapsed donors;
  • Average gift of more than $100;
  • Total additional gross revenue of over $30,000.

Instead of purging or ignoring, here are some things to test with your lapsed and long-lapsed files, especially multiple or long-time lapsed givers, instead:

  1. If you are a membership based organization that sends renewals, try a “forgiveness” appeal similar to Audubon Society of RI’s approach, featured on SOFII here. (A fifty percent renewal rate, for the record -- and for the donor gratitude win.)

  2. Follow the advice in these fabulous shared slide decks from Bonnie Catena’s (@catenaconnects) DMA presentation here, and I quote Bonnie directly:
    “ - Test mailing 2+ year lapsed who have given 2+ or 3+ gifts
    - Test “super dupes” - run lapsed files against other prospect lists in your acq. merge/purge to identify which lapsed donors are still active dm donors to other organizations...they may be willing to give to you again”

  3. See Pam Grow’s superb write-up of Ontario Nature’s approach, in Loving Lapsed Donors Back Into the Fold.

You can also test sending lapsed donors a thank you/update, a modified version of your cold/prospect mailing, or even an unmodified version, as a test to long-lapsed. (Part of what Bonnie is talking about, above.)

I’m testing a couple of these ideas and more right now, and I encourage you to do the same.

Because just like our raggedy man from the Monty Python movie, lapsed donors don't think they’re “dead” in any way, shape or form -- based on the results we saw from 2013 mailings, they still have a lot left to give.

They might just need a little love... and a chance to prove it.

Follow-up to our sold-out masterclass at
the 2014 Irish Fundraising Conference:
Sample interview questions for better storytelling

Want to tell great stories in your fundraising appeals and donor newsletters? Start with great questions...

In my masterclass with Denisa Casement (her brilliant blog here) at #finfc2014 I stressed the importance of asking the right kind of questions when you conduct interviews with patients, clients, etc. for your fundraising appeals and donor newsletters.

I offer advice and examples in these 3 links, free for you to use:

1. Advanced Interviewing Secrets for Better Storytelling and Stewardship

2. 65 Open-Ended Questions, Free PDF

3. 25 More Interview Questions

Happy interviewing!

P.S. Subscribing to The Loyalty Letter is easy:
scroll up for handy sign-up form at the top of this page. 

And lastly, if ever you have a question on donor communications,
send it along to The Loyalty Letter. All you have to do is:

Email me.

Or call: +001 (860) 881-7009.

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Fundraising ProTip of the Month: P.S. Prime Time.

Now-famous eyetracking research by Dr. Siegfried Vogele shows 90% of people read the postscript of your letter first. So don't make it an afterthought: save a bit of the story for the end, restate your ask/offer, stress a deadline or match -- in other words, keep a piece of the best, for last.

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