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Strategies To Re-Engage Your Lapsed Donors

Unlocking The Legacy Goldmine

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What comes to mind when you hear “lapsed donors”? Do you feel embarrassed because it’s been a while since you last communicated with them?

Maybe you’ve tried numerous ‘win back’ campaigns that failed to convert them, and you’re wondering whether you should just delete them from your database.

Don’t do it!

A massive generational shift in giving is happening right now with donors aged 60 and older.

The great wealth transfer is officially here. Older Americans—Baby Boomers—have massive wealth, and trillions of dollars will be passed down as members of this generation pass away.

Making a legacy gift to charity can lower their taxes. They can trade a gift for income, which could be income back to them or a tax-free inheritance to their children.

Why should you care? If you’re like most nonprofits, the average age of the donors in your file is 64.

You may not know the average age of your donors. Most nonprofits don’t. Why? Because they don’t collect their birthdates.

Luckily, that’s an easy fix. You can run a date of birth append on your files to find your donors’ birthdays. A public demographic information database sources this data.

How are my older lapsed donors a literal giving goldmine, you ask?

It’s expected that they’re lapsing. Think about your grandparents’ activities before you lost them. They likely slowed down. Stopped volunteering. Stopped donating to charity. This typically happens in the final years of life. People are living longer. And wealthy people live the longest.

So this is *not* the time to stop communicating with them. If you don’t communicate with these donors in their last years of life, the odds of them not making that gift to you increase as much as 50%, according to Russell James, PH.D, JD, one of the world’s foremost experts on planned giving—even if they’re a member of your legacy society.

The chart below shows the latest fundraising results from Giving USA. While total giving is down—led by a decline in individual giving—giving by bequests has remained strong. How strong? Deceased people literally give more than corporations.

When you consider that the great wealth transfer is now upon us, it may even rise.

re-engage lapsed donors

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) can help with legacy giving by enabling donors to name a successor(s) to the fund who can continue their philanthropic legacy. Donors can designate successor(s) as individuals, including their spouse, child, other descendants, or representatives. Donors can also designate an IRS-qualified 501(c)(3) public charity as their successor.

One thing is certain: in times of economic uncertainty, innovative nonprofits work to diversify their sources of revenue.

Wondering how you can make the most of this opportunity? Here are three simple strategies:

  1. Love on your oldest friends, and keep communicating with older lapsed donors. Don’t remove them just because you haven’t heard from them.
  2. Do a stellar and robust job promoting legacy giving. Making donors aware that you value legacy gifts is the first step to getting them. According to Agents of Good, “With good marketing, roughly 2.5% of your donors will add a gift to you in their wills. If you have 6,000 active donors, that’s 150 bequests.
  3. Steward donors who’ve named you in their estate will.

If you have any reservations, remember this advice from my friend Wayne Olson, JD, author of Big Gifts, Small Effort: “Planned giving is the only way people can support a charity that brings them tremendous satisfaction, yet has no impact on their lifestyle, other than to improve it.”

We’d love to hear about your efforts to re-engage lapsed donors. Please tell us more about what strategies have worked for you. Have you stayed in touch with older lapsed donors and marketed your legacy program to them? We’d love to hear more about your experiences in the comments below!  

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