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Lapsed Donors: Learn the “Who” and “Why” to Win Them Back

Please Come Back!

Some nonprofits did very well in 2020. Organizations with missions focused on providing food and basic services, or supporting diversity and equality, had urgent needs and were more likely to be top-of-mind. Many nonprofits, however, have more lapsed donors than ever due to the pandemic.

You can get these donors back! The key to bringing back lapsed donors is taking a strategic approach based on hard data so you can focus on tasks that bring the best results.

Calculating Donor Attrition

If you want to lose 20 pounds, you have to get on the scale to establish a starting point, right? Winning back lapsed donors is no different.

Calculating donor retention is simple. Divide the number of donors this year by the number of donors last year. For example, if 300 people donated in 2019 and 135 returned in 2020, your donor retention rate would be 45 percent (135 / 300 = .45). The remaining 55 percent – the percentage of donors you lost – is your donor attrition rate.

Incidentally, donor attrition of 55 percent may seem high but falls in line with historical averages. Don’t be discouraged by these numbers. Use them as motivation to set and achieve your goals!

Classifying Lapsed Donors

There are industry-standard categories (and acronyms) for lapsed donors based on the time period since their last gift. These categories are used by donor management systems like Eleo to classify and run reports on lapsed donors.

  • LYBUNTS (last year but not this year): These donors haven’t given in 13-24 months. This group of donors is the most likely to return because they’ve lapsed for the shortest period of time.
  • PYBUNTS (previous year but not this year): These donors haven’t given in 25-36 months.
  • SYBUNTS (some years but not this year): These donors haven’t given in 37-60 or more months. After five years, the odds of bringing back a lapsed donor are slim.

There are other factors that affect the likelihood of a lapsed donor to restart giving. Were they a consistent donor in the past? Were they actively engaged with your nonprofit in terms of volunteering, attending events, or sharing your content on social media? Are they closely connected with anyone your staff or board? These are all questions that will help you better understand donor engagement and unique particulars about your supporters.

Our advice? Get some wins! Focus on lapsed donors who are most likely to return – the LYBUNTS and those who have been the most active supporters of your nonprofit.

Why Did Your Nonprofit Lose Donors?

Many small nonprofits were simply struggling to stay afloat as the pandemic commanded people’s attention in 2020. These challenges likely affected donor stewardship. For example:

  • Did you reduce staff?
  • Did someone who played a key role in donor communications leave?
  • Did board members leave?
  • Did you tweak your mission in response to COVID-19?
  • Did you eliminate or make major changes to a program?
  • Did virtual events fall short of goals?

You also need to look beyond COVID-related challenges that could have contributed to a higher number of lapsed donors. Is your messaging on point and relevant? Are you engaging donors frequently enough? Is your website functioning properly? Is your social media presence being neglected?

Identifying the reasons behind lapses in giving will help you avoid the same mistakes and address weaknesses in your nonprofit.

How to Leverage Donor Data to Win Back Lapsed Donors

All the information about lapsed donors mentioned in this article can be found in your donor management software. Run detailed reports on who your lapsed donors are. Segment your lapsed donors into groups based on interests, length of lapse, and other important engagement metrics. Use this information to create targeted emails and letters to your different lapsed donor groups. Picking up the phone is also important. However, before you start calling every single lapsed donor, look at the data. This will tell you who to invest the most time in.

Eleo Donor Management Software allows you to enter, update, track, and analyze donor information so you can retain more donors and win back lapsed donors. Contact us today to schedule a demo!