How to get your lapsed donors back

going down the drain

I know…it’s easy to roll your eyes at the fundraising advice blogs.

“you mean…if I simply do this, that, and the other thing, I’ll raise more money. “ Yea, right.

Today I’d like to steer away from that list of 5 things you “should” do, and instead ask you a few pointed questions. Answer them then take it from there. You don’t need experts. 

How much money is going down the drain?

  • How many of your donors from last year have not renewed their gift in the last 12 months? (It maybe as high as 70%)
  • How much money does that represent? ($12,500?, $50,000? what’s the number?)
  • How did you make up for that loss? Did you go out and find new donors? Did a few board members upgrade and cover it? Or maybe you’re operating at a loss.

If you’re like many nonprofits in this country, you don’t know. If that’s the case, I guarantee you’re tossing money down the drain…unnecessarily. 

Don’t have time?

stopwatch with five seconds period highlighted

It doesn’t take a lot of time to figure this out. 

If you don’t have fundraising software that makes it easy to access this data, make it a priority to get it – you can’t increase your fundraising without accessible, accurate data. 

Grab the board member that will be receptive to this useful information to join you in figuring out next steps.

Knowing the right questions to ask is smart fundraising. You can’t course-correct if you don’t know what you’re solving for.

Men holding the simple math. Concept 3D illustration.No excuses! Math is cheap. And so are the solutions.


You CAN increase your donor retention rate and raise significantly more money between now and the end of the year!

2 easy ways to get your lapsed donors back.

1. Personalize your approach

Start where you’re at. If you currently send out one solicitation letter, next time send out 2 segments: one to current donors and one to lapsed group.

Make it clear how much you value their past support and invite them to renew their gift. Google “samples of lapsed solicitation letters.” Make your copy different than the letter to current donors. It works! 

beautiful girl writes greeting card

Right thoughtful notes on them. Get yourself in the right frame of mind and take the time. If that’s not possible, pick your 10 highest priority donors, and do it for them. Over time, increase that number. Get those donors back!

2. Re-write your thank you letter if it is old and boring.

Please don’t say “On behalf of the board and staff, I want to thank you…” Yawn. Be different than everyone else. It will get read and they’ll remember it.

That one little change that you “don’t have time for” will increase your fundraising results. My plea to you: Do a tad bit of math, then adapt.

The same approach =  the same results.

There are lots of free resources out there. Google “how to get your donors back.”

Search for anything that you’re struggling with. “How to improve your gala.” Use your smarts to raise more money and change more lives.

That’s what you’re in business to do. 

Do you know how many donors you lost last year? 

Tricia Dell is a fundraising coach, facilitator, and strategist for nonprofit organizations. Learn more at and follow her on twitter @triciadell.

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  • Laura Dake

    Reply Reply April 23, 2016


    I really do enjoy reading your blog posts. I am busy so appreciate that they are short and to the point. The most helpful thing, though, is that the “how-to’s” are presented in small, doable chunks. This makes fundraising, board development, etc. much less daunting! I read several nonprofit / fundraising blogs and yours, in my opinion, is the best. Not the most exhaustive, but the most practical and realistic for the overwhelmed ED! Thank you.


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    • Admin

      Reply Reply April 26, 2016

      Thanks Laura, I appreciate your comments very much. Small steps toward strategic goals is what I’m aiming for.

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