Your Second Best Donors

December 16, 2022

Far too often, we aim for only the best. The best donors, the best events, the best volunteers. But what if we looked at obtaining the second best donors? What are the second best prospects, anyway?

The second best donors are your lapsed donors. At some point in time, they had an affinity for your organization. They may have even been a monthly donor! A great exercise would be to do some examination of this cohort — why did they lapse and how do you get them back as donors in good standing? I wrote about some reasons donations stop here.

The Credit Card

  • Did they lapse because of an expired credit card? Believe it or not, I have found this to be the number one reason donors lapse. The credit card on file lapsed and when the charity followed up, they chose not to renew.
    • How do you fix this potential problem? The easiest solution is to fix it before it becomes a problem. There are some solutions out there (usually through your database provider or bank) that can automatically update credit card information.
      • This may work for you provided that the credit card is just expired. We see that credit cards get compromised easily and the bank must issue new cards — the Credit Card Updater will not work for these types of donors.
    • You should be able to run a query of credit cards that are due to expire in the next month. My suggestion would be to call those donors proactively (another excuse for a human touch) and get the new credit card information (or direct them to a link to be PCI-compliant).

The Expectation

  • Did they lapse because they were an “arms’ length donor”? These include donors that contributed through “in honor” or “in memoriam” as directed by someone else. This cohort could also include people who took part in an event (gala, lottery, etc.) and were there as a one-off.
    • How do you address this issue? Again, the answer is to fix it before it becomes a problem. Do you have a welcome package for new donors? Do you communicate back to the “in memoriam” donors regarding the specific use of their gift (or is it lumped into a generic report)? Have you invited them to fill out a participant survey (for the events folks)?

You/The Organization

  1. Did they lapse because you ghosted them? Most charities never get to the second donation by the donor. It could be because we did not show them enough appreciation. Maybe they found the donation process cumbersome. Or maybe they do not know about the impact of their gift.
  2. Did they lapse because you forgot to ask them to consider another gift? Believe it or not folks, I have seen this happen more often than I would expect. (Though to be honest, I wouldn’t wish this to happen at all!)
    • How many times has your organization withheld someone from a mailing or communique because someone believes that the donor is over-communicated with? Or, even worse, that some fundraiser is saving the communication for themselves!
      • Just because someone has contributed to your organization doesn’t preclude them from receiving timely information from your organization. The caveat to this rule is if the donor expressly wishes to be removed from mailings/communiques, etc.
  3. Did they lapse because of a poor fit with the fundraiser or charity? This is tough to admit. To be fully transparent, there were times in a former life where I moved the relationship with a donor away from me. The reason was that I could not move them along the continuum, and I felt that another one of my colleagues could foster the relationship better. Every single time I admitted I was not the most ideal fit for the donor and moved the relationship to a colleague, that donor wound up much closer to the organization. Every time.
    • Sometimes, however, the donors’ priorities have shifted. Perhaps your organization is no longer a high priority for the donor. THAT’S OKAY. If you only have a relationship with the donor because of money, you are likely in the wrong business. (I don’t want to say what business is known for having an exchange of money for a relationship, but you catch my drift.)
  4. Is the donor upset or angry with your organization? You must figure that out and remedy it, if at all possible. The best supporters are ones who have been upset and have had their issues resolved/heard.


The lapsed donors are perhaps your strongest prospects. To move the donor from lapsed to current, you will need to address what the reason for their lapse is in the first place, remedy it and hopefully maintain a meaningful relationship.

Until next week.