We’ve all been there. You work so hard to gain new donors throughout the year, only to never hear from them the next. But what if you could win back those donors who’ve wandered astray through a donor re-engagement campaign?

There is a whole host of reasons that can contribute to a donor disappearing on you from one year to the next. But by developing a focused donor re-engagement strategy, you can help stop the fallout and reconnect previous donors with your cause.

What’s a Donor Re-Engagement Campaign?

Rather than spending the majority of your fundraising time chasing after strangers, spend that time re-engaging those who’ve already shown interest in giving to your nonprofit. It’s much easier to reach out to people that know you and care about your cause enough to have already given than to start over with a stranger who may or may not share that same level of interest.

Donor re-engagement campaigns aim to do just that — re-engage the lapsed donors in your database. I’m talking about all of those donors that gave in 2016, but not in 2017.

According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, the donor retention rate in 2016 was 45%, meaning less than half of those who gave in 2015 gave again the next year. To raise your nonprofit’s retention rate and bring past donors back into the mix, pull together a donor re-engagement campaign focused on re-connecting these folks to your mission and vision.

Why Now?

You just went through year-end fundraising, and we’re telling you it’s time for another campaign. But wouldn’t it be great if you could inspire a past donor to make your nonprofit their New Year’s resolution?

I know it sounds exhausting, but catching supporters as they’re making and planning for New Year’s resolutions is too good of an opportunity to pass up. People are looking to be better and pick up good habits this time of year. It’s the perfect time to win back those donors who may not have responded to your last few (dozen) fundraising asks.

Donor Re-Engagement Strategies

In order to connect with lapsed donors, you’ll need to zero in on their needs. What they don’t need is another general ask for money from an organization with whom they’ve fallen out of touch. First, you’ll need to bridge the gap and make them feel like an integral part of your community again.

Like anyone, donors are more likely to respond and connect with personalized content that they care about. Meeting past donors where they are, where they’ve engaged with you in the past (be that social media, email, direct mail or some other medium), and tailoring communications to what you know about them will get you a much higher success rate than piecing together a general email to send en masse. For instance, maybe one of your lapsed donors gave to support a particular program in the past. Share an update about that program since you know it’s likely to pique their interest. Or perhaps one of your lapsed donors always likes your posts on Facebook. Consider reaching out through Facebook since it seems they’re already spending time there.

To take that personalization a step further, you could create target audience personas around groups of donors with similar behaviors or traits to customize the tone and information within your messaging. Do you have a bunch of lapsed donors active on Facebook? Maybe your lapsed donors tend to be the parents of students who’ve aged out of your programs? Creating a persona around them will enable you to communicate with that audience more strategically.

We pulled together some options for you as you go about piecing together your campaign. Test out a few of these strategies (or all of them!) to focus in on reconnecting with donors who wandered away from your organization over the last year.

Re-Demonstrate Impact

To re-engage lapsed donors, a short reminder of your mission and impact is key. You’re doing great work, and your donors may just need a little reminder of that fact. Send them an email with a quick and impactful update on the work you’ve been doing over the last year, perhaps also including a compelling story of someone you’ve helped to drive the message home.

We’ll give you bonus points if you also write a blog post filling out the story and link to it from the email and within social media posts. Doing so is a great way to get these donors back on your website where they can take action.

Get Creative in Your Messaging

It’s time to get a little creative with your fundraising emails and bypass the run-of-the-mill “thank you for your support, please continue to give.” Why not try something new and different with those who haven’t responded to your tried and true methods?

  • A funny or inspirational marketing campaign — You could even play off of those “get in shape” resolutions by keying people into the fact that setting up a monthly online giving schedule with your nonprofit is a much easier way to better oneself.
  • Personal social media interactions — Message lapsed donors directly, asking them how they’re doing and letting them know what you’ve been up to. You could even pare down that quick impact update you used to re-demonstrate impact in the previous section.
  • Memes and GIFs — A relevant meme or GIF is a quick and easy way to add some humor to your messaging and to make your organization seem friendly and relatable.
  • Photo collages — Showing off the closeness and community-oriented aspects of your nonprofit will make those previously disengaged donors feel like a welcome member of the family.

Whatever creative twist you place on your campaign, make sure that it fills your donors with good, happy feelings for you and the work you’re trying to accomplish.

Present New Options

It could be that the reason these donors didn’t give last year is because they weren’t able to do so in the same capacity they had previously. Maybe they were on a tighter budget or spent more than they’d planned over the holidays. To bring them back into your circle of active donors, present them with other giving options.

Try saying something along the lines of:

“We know every supporter isn’t cut from the same snowflake pattern, which is why we offer many different ways to give.

  • Give online
  • Set up automatic monthly donations
  • Give your time by volunteering
  • Make us your Amazon Smile charity of choice
  • Mail us a check
  • Etc.”

You could pair these new options with links to your website where they can learn more. Getting past donors back on your website is a huge first step in re-engaging them.

Send a Special Invitation

Pull together a dinner or other event just for your donors and invite all of them, even those who didn’t give this past year. The special access offers value and will make them feel connected and included in your community. Creating a community around your donors is a great way to make them feel loved, appreciated and more inclined to jump back into supporting your cause. Plus, if they come, it’s likely they’ll give at the event.

Get Feedback

Wouldn’t it be nice to know why these donors didn’t give this past year? Stop psyching yourself out over your year-end fundraising strategy. You probably didn’t send too many asks, but the only way to know for sure is to ask. Send lapsed donors a survey (in print or through email depending on your usual correspondence) or you could even do a Twitter poll to find out why they fell off the wagon this past year.

Just asking for their feedback could also be a way to start a conversation that leads to re-engaging a lapsed donor. After they provide their thoughts, thank them with a personalized email that clearly shows you’ve taken their input to heart and genuinely appreciate them taking the time to provide their thoughts. Don’t shy away from letting them know you’d love to welcome them back into your community of supporters.

Pick and choose from the strategies above to piece together the donor re-engagement plan that’s right for your nonprofit and supporters. Remember to focus on connecting with lapsed donors on a personal level to bring them back into your community.

Are you kicking off a donor re-engagement campaign in the new year? Have you tried one in the past? What strategies worked best for you? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.