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4 Tips: When to Remove a Lapsed Donor from Your Database

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Most nonprofits are extremely reluctant to remove a lapsed donor from their mailing lists and database. After all, they gave once in the past, and you worked so hard to get them to do so. However, a lot of data suggests that if someone hasn’t given to your organization in a few years, they probably won’t give again.

That’s why we recommend that you should look closely, every month, at the donors who have not given for two years, and thoughtfully – but aggressively – decide which ones need a personal contact, and which ones should be moved to an “inactive” status.

Four Tips for Identifying Which Donors Should be Dropped

1. Pay special attention to the people who have given you several hundred dollars lifetime. Are some of them out-of-town? Is it possible they’re deceased? Do a quick internet search for obituaries. Few things are worse than peppering a widow or widower with solicitations addressed to their late spouse. On the other hand, a hand-written note of apology and condolence, even months after the fact, may recoup the household as donors.

2. Take a look at the attributes or constituency codes of some of your lapsing donors. Are there former board members, volunteers, or others with a special relationship with your organization who deserve a personal call? This is a good report to share with a development committee each month, in case the lapsing donors are friends of board members. Odds are they don’t realize how long it’s been since their last gift and they don’t intend to fall off your list.

3. Even if you know nothing about them except their giving history, it’s probably worth one more stamp to communicate with them. In fact, if you only have a couple dozen or fewer such donors each month, it’s probably worth a first-class stamp and a hand-addressed envelope to optimize your chances of getting a letter opened. Be forthright in the letter that you appreciate their gift, and hope they’ll renew their support, but also that you want to be good stewards of the money they’ve already given you and not spend it all on mailing to them forever more.

4. If you have dozens or hundreds of such lapsing donors each month we strongly recommend that you bite the bullet and mark their record as inactive. You don’t have to delete them. You may, at some point in the future (particularly if you’re doing a program in their geographic area) want to communicate with them again on a case-by-case basis. But don’t be afraid to re-allocate some of your time, attention, and budget away from these donors, and back toward those that have given more recently, and who are demonstrating through increasing the amount and frequency of their gifts that they are “on fire!”

By the way, Bloomerang’s “inactive” status lets you keep a donor’s record in your database, even keep adding notes to it — but not include them in every mailing and email that you do.

It’s a good idea to run a report on the first week of every month to identify who is about to lapse about a month before they  actually do lapse – and then consider a case-by-case strategy for each name on that list.

How do you decide when to part ways with a donor record? Let us know in the comments below!

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