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We’ve officially put 2018 behind us and fundraisers everywhere are planning for their first campaign of the new year. As the dust settles from all the year-end fundraising craziness, your nonprofit might be wondering how to get a strong start in 2019. This is the perfect time of year to run a lapsed donor campaign to recapture your LYBUNTs.

LYBUNTs, or donors who gave “Last Year But Unfortunately Not This year” are not a lost cause. There are a number of factors that can account for a lapsed gift, and not all of them are within your control. Don’t assume that a LYBUNT is no longer interested in helping your nonprofit reach its goals.

This quiet time of year in January and February is a great time to reach out to these donors, open a dialogue, and encourage them to help your organization achieve its mission once again.

Building LYBUNT Personas

Remember, only 19 percent of first-time donors make a repeat gift, while 63 percent of second-time donors will give again, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. Keep this in mind when you are combing through your donor database. You can drastically increase your conversion rate by focusing on LYBUNTs who have made more than one past gift to your organization.

Once you have determined which LYBUNTs are most likely to give again, pull any relevant data you have about them. Information about past gift amount, donation frequency, and what programs they supported are particularly important. If possible, determine why they haven’t made their usual contribution to your organization.

All this information will help you create more relevant communications when it is time to reach out to your LYBUNTs with an appeal.

What Are They Hearing?

While digging for information, determine the last several communications each LYBUNT donor received. If they have been receiving appeal after appeal, without many other touches in between, this should be a huge red flag. Donor fatigue is a real concern. Fundraising organizations need to vary their messages and reach out with different types of communications, aside from appeals, to retain donors long-term.

Look for ways to add extra touches to your communications pipeline. For example, let’s say the last time a donor heard from you was when you invited them to your annual awards dinner. They didn’t attend, and that’s OK! What’s not OK is if they don’t hear from you for months after and then you hit them with an appeal. Consider sending a newsletter about the event before sending another appeal. Highlight award winners and other important moments from the night they would not have known about to keep your donors in the loop.

The worst thing an organization can do is make their donors feel like a source of income. The donor/organization relationship is supposed to be a partnership, in which you work together to achieve a shared goal. Mixing up your messages is one way to let your donors you care about more than what their next gift will be.

Say Thank You Better

When a new or repeat donor makes a gift, we know that we need to thank them promptly. However, one of the reasons your donor retention rate may be suffering is because your “thank you’s” don’t do much else than say, “thanks!”

If someone holds the door open for you, a simple “thanks” will suffice. When someone opens their wallet and helps you advance your mission, you need to do more. Let your donors know exactly how their gift will be used to continue your organizations work. Include pictures of the people that you help and invite them to participate in volunteer opportunities to continue their support.

We will always stress the importance of sending a handwritten note as part of the stewardship process. You should also pick up the phone and have a conversation with major donors after they make a gift. You want to find out what exactly about your mission inspired them to give, and what might encourage others to continue their support.

Run a LYBUNT Appeal Campaign

If you put in all this work and then just reach out to your LYBUNTs with the same appeal you send all of your current donors, you’ve missed a great opportunity! Fundraisers build donor personas and profiles because no two donors are the same. While personalization strategies can help make appeals feel relevant and specific for individuals, you need to segment your audience to ensure they receive the message that applies to them.

You can create a special LYBUNT appeal that focuses on everything your organization has accomplished since the last time a donor gave. Then, discuss the impact that renewing their gift today would have on your goals. You can use variable content to specify the date or dollar amount of past gifts for each donor to add that personal touch.

A word of warning: be gentle with your LYBUNTs. The point here is not to make them feel guilty for not giving to your organization. Instead you want to nurture the relationship you have with them. Think about this appeal as reaching out to an old friend to catch up over a cup of coffee, not begging an ex-lover to give you another chance!

Focus on Donor Retention

How much time does your organization devote to retaining lapsed donors, compared to acquiring new ones? If most of your energy is spend on finding new donors and securing first-time or one-time gifts, you might be doing more harm than good.

Don’t forget, it can cost your nonprofit 50 to 100 percent more to acquire a new donor than you will receive from their first gift. If you want to raise more money this year, shift some of your focus away from acquiring new donors and really work on convincing you LYBUNT donors to give again.

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