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Downes Murray International News

Do you recognise the four early warning signs of donor withdrawal?

You suddenly realise you haven’t heard from a loyal donor in six months, and haven’t gotten a gift in almost a year. You look on social media, and the donor has stopped talking about your organisation. You call, and never get a call back. Your once dream donor has become... (yikes!) a lapsed donor.

It’s painful, but true: even the best donors occasionally withdraw from organisations they support. The excitement wears off, and so does their involvement with your non-profit. But what if there was a way that you could head off donor withdrawal?

First, let’s look at the four early warning signs that the excitement is wearing off and your donor is getting ready to withdraw. Then, we’ll look at four ways you can bring that donor back into the fold... 

1: Meetings/calls get shorter

Shorter meetings and calls are a key warning sign that your donor is growing disinterested with your organisation. The donor is still taking your calls and meeting with you out of a sense of obligation, but their heart is no longer in it.

2: The donors stops reposting/ forwarding/replying

If a donor that normally reposts or likes everything you post on social media stops doing so... or a supporter who often replies to your updates stops, you may have a problem. Donors who stop social media activity and e-mail forwarding of your newsletters are showing you that they are becoming bored with your communications and work.

3: The donor RSVPs for events but fails to show up

This is a big warning sign, particularly for mid-level donors. If you have a donor who used to attend your fundraising events but who starts RSVPing for the events and not coming, it’s a major clue that the donor is losing interest.

4: Missing a regular gift

If a donor was making regular gifts to your events, appeals, and annual campaigns, but has been slowly pulling away and missed a regular gift, you’ll need to take drastic action to avoid permanently losing this donor.

How to bring your donor back into the fold

Ok... you’ve been vigilant, watching the warning signs listed above, and have noticed one or more of the signs cropping up in a group of donors. How can you bring those donors back into the fold? Here are four simple ways:

1: Recognise and reconnect

One great way to bring soon-to-be lapsed donors back into the funnel is by making a special effort to recognise their past support in a way that reconnects the donor with your mission and vision. For larger donors, this might mean things like offering them a lifetime donor achievement award or naming one of your programmes in their honor. For smaller donors, you may want to stop by their office with a client that your organisation has helped (if appropriate) to allow the person to thank the donor for their support. Or, you could do short, three-minute thank you videos from your office where you show them some of the good work you have accomplished through their donations.

2: Build the relationship outside of fundraising

For some donors, it may be appropriate for your staff to reconnect with them through one-on-one experiences that don’t revolve around fundraising. For example, you could invite several withdrawing donors to a football game in your board chairman’s VIP suite.

3: Provide volunteering opportunities

This strategy can be used with nearly every lapsing donor, no matter how large or small their average gift. Your donor got involved with your organisation in the first place because they believed in your work. One of the main reasons why donors withdraw is because, over time, they become less passionate about your programmes. The best way to get them reconnected is to put them to work on the front lines.

4: Have an honest conversation

When all else fails, it is often beneficial to have an honest conversation with your withdrawing donors. Many donors will tell you that they just don’t have the time (or money) that they used to or that they are focusing on new philanthropic endeavours. If the donor gives you a reason for their withdrawal that you can easily and ethically address, the conversation will have been well worth it.

With acknowledgement to Joe Garecht. Visit

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