The Nonprofit Lapsed Donor Project

This week, as I listened to Week 2 of 100 Donors in 90 Days, I spent a lot of time nodding my head in agreement.  Gail Perry offered a dead-on assessment of how many nonprofits ignore lapsed donors, previous board members and current and past volunteers, instead of embracing these people who have already shown you that they have an interest in your organization.  If it is easier to retain a donor than find a new one, then it makes sense that it is easier to recapture a previous donor than attract someone new to encourage a gift.

If you are participating in the “100 Donors” program, you already know that Gail gives a lot of great suggestions on how to go about re-engaging this group.  But while I was listening to the ideas about lapsed donors, my mind kept drifting back to an early comment she made about naming projects.

Large projects at nonprofits get names.  A capital campaign or other major initiative may have multiple painstaking discussions as to whether the name reflects the true nature of the project, can ignite enough excitement, will avoid offending anyone, etc…  But Gail Perry recommends naming many initiatives. “When you name something it becomes far more real.  It’s not like, ‘oh, we hope we are going to do this.’ When you name something you can talk about it in front of your board and it becomes a Project with a capital ‘P.’”

Not only does this ring true to anyone who has tried to gain momentum on an idea, but it provides one possibility as to why some efforts never make it past the discussion phase.

Using a name allows you to use a single term/phrase for the project, the mailings, the related events, etc., it provides a short-hand way to refer to the initiative, and it gives the idea a rallying cry.  It may seem minor but consider the difference between asking your board to get excited about a lapsed donor program vs. one of Gail’s three suggestions:

  • “We Love You, We Miss You, We Want You Back”,
  • “The Lapsed Donor Project”,
  • “Fired-up Donors Initiative”

Sometimes it is not clear why a project didn’t work, but by naming it and ensuring the details are in place will almost always improve efficacy.