This article was first published September 2019, updated May 2020.
People lose touch, emails go unseen, and, before you know it, there’s one less person on your email list.
While this can be a regular occurrence for nonprofits, businesses, and the general population as a whole, nonprofits shouldn’t write off these subscribers just yet.
Instead of simply dismissing these subscribers as lost causes, take the time to try and re-engage with them—especially if they’ve donated to your organization in the past.
Read on to discover how you can get started.
Why re-engagement matters
Think of all that time, effort, and resources that you put into building your donor list. Just because someone made a one-time donation and you haven’t heard from them since doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a lost cause.
Instead of giving up on them, focus your efforts on sending these inactive subscribers or lapsed donors a re-engagement email to win them back.
Defining lapsed donors
Before focusing our attention on designing a re-engagement email, we must first define what a lapsed donor is and how we can find them within our email lists.
Lapsed donors are donors who’ve given to your nonprofit organization in the past but, for some reason or another, have stopped giving.
What makes lapsed donors different from your typical inactive email subscribers is that these donors may still be engaged with your email marketing efforts. However, they’re no longer making charitable donations to your cause.
The definition of a lapsed donor can also differ between each nonprofit, especially if the donors are defined by the time since their last charitable gift. For most, however, lapsed donors are identified by donors who haven’t given to your organization within the last 12 months.
While you may be eager to start rolling out your re-engagement emails to try and win back your lapsed donors, you need to take the time to go through your email list and segment it in a few different ways:
- By those who’ve given and those who haven’t
- By size of their charitable donation
- Time since their last donation
In order to truly narrow down your list so you can send truly relevant material to your lapsed donors, you’ll want to first create a new segment that helps you divide your list into two categories: donors and non-donors. From there, you’ll want to further define filters to help you identify those who have donated within the past 12 months and another to segment your lists by the amount your donors previously gave to your organization.
Once you’ve created these segments, you’ll be able to carefully target specific donors with relevant information based on their giving history. While all donation sizes are essential, you may want to spend more of your energy on those who donated in larger increments over one-time donors who gave minimal amounts. Again, this decision is left up to your fundraising team.
Designing a re-engagement email that works
Once you’ve carefully defined and segmented your email list to create a priority list, you can then begin working on designing your re-engagement email to help win back your lapsed donors.
First, find out why your donors are lapsing.
It’s nearly impossible to send an effective re-engagement email to win back your lapsed donors if you don’t know why they’ve lapsed. So, instead of diving straight into a win-back campaign that encourages your lapsed donors to start giving again, find out why your donors have stopped giving.
There are a few simple ways to do this, and they can even become the starting point of your re-engagement campaign:
- Ask your donors why they’ve stopped contributing
- Address any common concerns that you’re already aware of
Depending on the feedback your nonprofit receives, you can then move forward and start designing compelling re-engagement emails that get your lapsed donors contributing once again.
Tips for creating re-engagement emails that work
When it comes to creating re-engagement emails that work for lapsed donors, nonprofits must walk a careful line of not coming off too demanding or needy—all while encouraging readers to give more money.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Storytelling is key to a compelling message.
Nonprofit organizations already have to maximize their storytelling abilities to encourage their email subscribers to make the conversion from a reader to a donor. When you’re dealing with lapsed donors, it’s time to take your storytelling up to a whole new level.
You want to be sending your lapsed donors the most compelling stories in order to encourage them to continue donating.
An excellent way to do just that is to make use of your testimonials. Testimonials are personal stories of how your nonprofit has affected an individual personally. These are the stories that really strike a reader’s emotions, and, if you’re trying to encourage a lapsed donor to re-engage, these are the stories that’ll provide the most impact.
Not sure where to start? Try out one of our donor solicitation email templates to get an idea of how your story should flow.
2. Prove to your readers how their contributions are going to work.
Some of your lapsed donors may have stopped donating simply because they question where their hard-earned money is going. While annual reports are one way of showing readers how their donations are going to work, you can use this same mentality to re-engage your lapsed donors.
Show them where their money is going and how it’s being put to use. Charity: water includes a constant reminder on their website by highlighting how their donors have helped fund thousands of water projects that have affected millions of individuals worldwide.
Source: charity: water
3. Engage with your previous donors outside of the inbox.
Sometimes donors simply want to get to know their favorite nonprofits on a more realistic level. Instead of only interacting with your donorbase via email and social media, why not consider holding local charity events where you can get to know your donors in person?
Both small and larger nonprofits can benefit from these sorts of in-person engagements. While smaller, more local nonprofits can set up local events and get-togethers, larger, more established nonprofits can set up larger-scale events, such as festivals and charity walks.
4. Don’t neglect the feedback loop.
We already touched on the idea of asking your past donors for reasons why they may have stopped making charitable donations. However, that may be a little too direct for some and could be potentially off-putting. This is why having a feedback loop is so vital.
Sending a feedback email survey is a great way to get feedback from your lapsed donors without putting pressure on them to contribute on the spot. These feedback loops allow your donor’s voices to be heard and is an excellent way to help your nonprofit collect valuable information for later email campaigns.
Re-engagement emails that we love
When it comes to re-engaging your donors and encouraging them to continue donating, your standard re-engagement emails won’t cut it. That’s why we’ve included some outstanding nonprofit email examples that can be used as a part of your donor re-engagement email campaign.
This example by charity: water would make a wonderful re-engagement email to lapsed donors because it’s not only telling a compelling story, but it’s connecting donors with real people that are being affected by their monetary gifts.
Remember, testimonials from the people your nonprofit works with directly are some of the most powerful messages you can send to your donors, both past and present.
American Red Cross
The American Red Cross does a wonderful job of keeping their readers fully informed on how their donations are going to work, which is key for retaining donors and re-engaging lapsed donors.
In this example, the American Red Cross is very clear that they’re still in need of monetary donations to help families in need during the holiday season. However, they aren’t simply asking for money. They go into detail about where the donations go, and they do this by highlighting recent milestones in a section that’s easy to skim through.
Want to win back your previous donors? Show them where their money is going, so they know that their money is doing what they intended to do: fulfill the nonprofit’s cause.
When trying to win back lapsed donors, nonprofits have to walk a careful line of re-engagement that not only reassures donors that their money is going to good use, but also encourage them to continue donating. That means a standard re-engagement “We Miss You” email simply won’t cut it. Instead, keep these four tips in mind when crafting your next donor re-engagement email:
- Share testimonials when delivering your most compelling messages.
- Prove to donors that their money is going to good use.
- Engage with donors outside the inbox.
- Create a feedback loop.