Lapsed doesn’t have to mean forever

There are lapsed donors, and there are … donors who aren’t lapsed.

Reacquiring donors who have moved on is important for nonprofit organizations, but in her book “Donor Cultivation and the Donor Lifecycle Map” Deborah Kaplan Polivy argues that there are several types of lapsed donors. Further, she writes that being aware of the distinctions can be helpful to nonprofits looking to bring lost sheep back into the fold.

She classifies lapsed donors in the following ways:

  • Lapsing. If an organization runs an annual fund campaign, then it is likely to consider someone as lapsing if, after its completion, there is no gift. In other words, this category means that a donor is not yet inactive but in what could be called the “danger zone.” There is still a crucial window of opportunity.
  • Inactive. Those who have not given in two or three years are generally called lapsed donors. They generally require lower cost to reacquire than new donors cost to recruit. Re-engaging them requires determining how they supported the organization in the past.
  • Deep lapsed. A donor who has not given in five or more years is one who is deeply lapsed. This list will perform better than people with no relationship to an organization, but over-reliance on this pool should be avoided.
  • Stopped. This means people who have canceled their pledges without committing to another form of support. They are technically not lapsed, but they warrant attention.