Many leaders struggle to prioritize their focus when it comes to raising money. The number one challenge that we see in ministries is retaining donors, and regaining those that were lost.
When it comes to raising money to move ministry forward, leaders tend to gravitate toward spending their energy to recruit new donors. I want to turn your focus toward the significant work of regaining donors because it’s normally easier and far more worthwhile to regain a donor than it is to go after a new donor.
Regaining donors is important because it’s another way that you can make sure that you’re stewarding the relationships with the people that God is currently working through, and has already worked through, to bring your ministry to this point. If you’re so busy working on new strategies and recruiting new donors, you can lose sight of this.
We begin with the discipline of evaluating who our donors to regain actually are.
Donors to regain are not new people that have come along. These are people that gave prior to the last giving year (January 1 through December 31) and back as far as you can go, but they have not given since. For example: if is currently 2017, you would prepare a list of people who gave in 2015 or prior, but not in 2016 or since.
It’s so important to know who these people are because the more time that goes by, the harder it is to regain a donor. In fact, if a couple of years go by, it’s extremely difficult to regain these people, but it can indeed be done. And when you do regain donors, it’s often more effective and a better return on your time and investment in energy and resources than it is to actually recruit a new donor.
As you create your list of donors to regain, you need to see their names, their previous giving, and you need to total up the potential that this looks like. This can be a shocking list to behold. This can sometimes be hundreds or even thousands of people and represent hundreds of thousands of dollars given. When you look at the total giving this list represents, it can be pretty heartbreaking from a stewardship perspective of these relationships.
Here’s the good news. If thanked and reported to on the impact of their past giving through excellent communication these people really can be regained, and can have a greater impact on the future than ever before!
Your number one goal with these past donors to regain is to spend this year thanking and reporting to them and do everything you can to get them in the room with you for a face to face meeting or small group meeting. This will usually result in you then being able to challenge them to really think and pray about the future of your organization and their personal giving.
Remember, any level of giving with this group is a win!
Be warned that looking at this list of names is going to be uncomfortable. You will probably uncover a sense of discouragement about how you lost track of these people. Another reason why it’s uncomfortable is because you may not know why they quit giving. Even worse, often times you do not know who this person is at all! There may be some emotional baggage, some damage that was done, or some mistakes that were made. Maybe it had nothing to do with you or the people in your ministry currently, but it’s certainly there, and it just feels easier when you look at those names to go and get new donors, go into new territory, and work on a new list.
You will be tempted to start telling stories to yourself in your head about these people, and you might talk yourself out of doing the right things with them. But, be strong and resist that line of thinking. You don’t really know what God is doing now in the lives of these people, even if you know maybe a little bit about the past. I guarantee they are not where you last left them.
Just by prioritizing your time, communicating with them, and getting personally involved (whether that’s you or others) often these people are going to reconnect and will give. They will often actually meet with you or talk with you. They will read what you send them, especially if you reach out to them, and they will respond. They have a sense of ownership already even if there’s some emotional baggage there. So, don’t let those fears and stories in your head be an issue, but recognize that this is a good opportunity to move forward.
As you evaluate this list of donors to regain, I encourage you to see the potential and really recognize that this is worth doing well. These are the people that God used to bring you to this point, and he may be working in their lives to prepare them to give in helping you move forward from this point.
Help them see how God has used their giving in the past. If you can see it, then you can articulate that to them. Help them know what you’re doing now in your ministry. This will position them to understand that there’s an opportunity now that wasn’t there before, and get them to really think and pray about what that means to them as a donor.
Finally, you need to thank them well and report. Help them see how the past involvement was used by God to bring them to this point, and then ask them how they are feeling now toward the ministry, vision, and mission. Often times, it’s just listening that’s needed. They just need to be heard. If there’s junk there, they need to get that out and they need to know that you are listening. If you do all of that, it’s remarkable how they will respond, and it frees you up to request that they begin investing in the future through their giving.
It takes a courageous leader to have these hard conversations.
Ultimately, regaining donors comes down to you being personally engaged. Ask for their feedback, give them a real opportunity to have an impact now as you go forward that builds on their past, and follow up as personally as possible.
Also, get others involved that can really listen well. This may be a favorite staff member to some of those folks, a board member, or a lead volunteer that’s well known in the community. If this person can really listen well, this is going to go a long way in regaining donors.
Regaining donors is important! God will bless your efforts to shepherd these people well because these are the people that He already worked through to impact your ministry. He’s already provided resources through these people. They just need to be listened to, brought up to speed, to know that you see them and know them, and to begin to imagine the kind of impact that they can have again.
If you are in a season of needing to raise money toward a goal or project that needs to be accomplished in the near future, you may also be interested to take a look at our Rapid Success Project Tool. Just click here to get this helpful resource.