Do You Have the Courage to Regain Donors?
by Zach Clark, guest author ◊
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 who 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 often more effective and a better return on your time and investment, both in energy and resources, than recruiting a new donor.
Regaining donors is important because it’s another way that you can make sure you’re stewarding the relationships with the people that God 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 who come along. These are people who gave prior to the last giving year (January 1 through December 31) and back as far as you can track, but have not given since. For example: if is currently 2017, you would prepare a list of people who gave in 2015 or before, but not in 2016 or since.
It’s important to know who these people are because the more time that goes by, the harder it is to regain a donor.
As you create your list of donors to regain, you need to see their names, and their previous giving to be able to total up the potential that this looks like. This can be a shocking list to behold – sometimes hundreds or even thousands of people representing hundreds of thousands of dollars given. When you look at the total giving this list represents, neglect of these relationships can be pretty heartbreaking from a stewardship perspective.
Here’s the good news. If thanked and reported to on the impact of their past giving through excellent communication, these past donors really can be regained, and can have a greater impact on the future than ever before!
Your number one goal with these donors to regain is to spend this year thanking and reporting to them. 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.
Be warned that looking at this list of names may be uncomfortable. You will probably uncover a sense of discouragement about how you lost track of these people. You may not know why they quit giving. Even worse, you may not know who some of these person are at all. There may be some emotional baggage – damage done, mistakes regretted. Maybe it had nothing to do with you or the people currently in your organization but it’s certainly there, and when you look at those names, it just feels easier to 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 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, often you’ll find these people are willing to reconnect. They will meet with you or talk to you on the phone. 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 was some emotional baggage. 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 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.
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 is 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 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. Follow up as personally as possible. Also, get others involved who can listen well. This may be a favorite staff member to some of those folks, a board member, or a lead volunteer who is well known in the community.
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.
Guest author Zack Clark is our keynote speaker at the SCSBC Leadership Conference on November 4, 2017. Building on years of experience in seeing God do impossible things for faith-based organizations, Zach has a big vision to see Christian organizations fully fund themselves to fulfill their God-given visions in this generation. Zack is the founder of Development and Leadership Coaching, a non-traditional service approach helping leaders grow and build a culture of generosity.