New donors needed? Try looking back!

In a world where your charity is fighting against thousands of others to be heard by potential donors, acquisition is hard. Very hard! So hard in fact, that return rates on an acquisition mailing average around just 1 – 2%! They also cost a lot and in a small non-profit like mine that is funding that could be used much more effectively elsewhere. This is why as fundraisers we should all be addressing the ever-present leaky bucket of donors. Keeping relationships fresh and engaging donors in our work is essential and helps to provide key funding over time. Retention after all, is the new acquisition! (Ways to do that will be in a separate blog post!)

But, what should we do about those who have given in the past and dropped off into the pit of ‘previous donors’? People, who were once invested in our charities but for some reason, stopped giving. Well, in my experience, reengaging with them provides much better results than trying to find new people to get involved in your organisation! They already know your mission, they already know what services you provide and the best part is, they have already given! Going back to these people even after a number of years, is both beneficial to your organisation AND helps further your fundraising.

I work at a small membership organisation, and all everyone talks about is how we need to increase the number of members we have. But, without a marketing budget and with very little funding available for gaining new members, there is a limited amount that can be done that makes a real impact. I am sure this rings true with many non-membership organisations when talking about getting new donors too!

Therefore, instead of wasting time and money on an acquisition initiative, I chose to look back. I looked back ten years in fact! I invested time and energy into re-engaging with our ‘lapsed members’ from the last ten years, which resulted in a fantastic 10% increase of our total membership! Some of these people didn’t even realise they were no longer members and were happy to re-join! Some, decided to start giving monthly and some had not given since 2006 yet still knew how we were doing and were delighted to get involved again. All it took was a simple ‘As a previous member, we thought we would update you on how we are doing’ message, which included a ‘renew your membership’ card!

One lesson I learnt from this particular initiative was to trust my instincts. There was a lot of negativity from fellow staff surrounding this idea at first. A lot of comments like ‘people from ten years ago won’t renew!’, ‘why are you wasting time on people who have stopped their memberships?’ etc etc. My response was, ‘if we don’t ask them, we definitely won’t regain their support!’

As fundraisers we know that people give because they are asked and it rings true that people also re-engage with your cause because they are asked.

Looking for new members or donors? Try looking back and let me know how it works for you! It also provides a great opportunity to check your data is of good quality!


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