In a dark and dusty corner of every nonprofit’s database, a group of former donors are lurking. They gave once, twice, or more, even over a period of years. But for some reason, they stopped giving, and now they languish in bits and bytes, reminding us that not every donor will stick.

That’s not something fundraisers like to think about. We tout our latest redesign of our website, the creative thought that went into the “Donate Now” button on our eAppeals, and the cool graphics on the upcoming direct mail campaign. But we forget that even if we are very, very good, 90 or 95 percent (maybe more) of our donors won’t be moved to respond. They will delete, recycle, or just ignore our message.

And that moves them one step closer to lapsing … and being lost to us forever.

So instead of continually chasing the latest shiny thing, pay attention to proven fundraising activities that may not be sexy and sparkly, but they still work. It’s like Willis Turner wrote, “The old standbys didn’t get to be old standbys by accident.  They’ve stood the test of time…”

So what are these standbys? Among them are:

  1. Monthly giving programs. Donors who give every single month via credit card or bank draft are like geese that lay golden eggs. They give more, give longer and are among your best candidates for planned giving. Love them – and let them know how much they matter.
  2. Consistent receipting. True, most of us don’t need a receipt since we aren’t giving gifts that require them for tax deductions. But we still need to feel noticed and valued. Sending out a timely receipt for every gift to express genuine gratitude isn’t a waste of money; it’s a vital building block in a relationship that is worth investing in.
  3. Sharing results. Too often we write about a need in the eAppeal or direct mail and then never mention it again. Sure, most donors won’t remember, but if you put an article in your newsletter three or six months later saying, “Remember when we asked you to support XYZ? Well, here’s what happened because of your generosity!” a lot more people will notice – and many of them will feel good about giving to your programs. Yes, showing a need is vital to fundraising. But showing how you turn their dollars into a real impact gives donors assurance that the next time you present a need, just maybe they really can make a difference with a gift.

The truth is, we need to view every donor as just one step away from being a former donor. How can we show them how much we value their relationship with us? Let’s face it – benign neglect just isn’t cutting it anymore. It’s time to be actively involved in showing our donors how much they matter to us.