Rethinking Reinstatement

Good direct response membership programs put a great deal of effort into recapturing lapsed donors, constructing dedicated, and often complex, plans for special solicitation and monitoring of lapsed donors – a.k.a. The Reinstatement Program.

That’s because it’s almost always less expensive to reinstate a lapsed donor than it is to acquire a brand new one. Plus, reinstated donors often have a greater lifetime value than their counterparts. But for all the effort our programs put into saying “we want you back” to our donors when they’re practically gone, oddly enough, many don’t put the same effort into saying “stay” to the donors who are still on the fence. Nor do many programs define what being on the fence is, for that matter.

Do you wait for donors to lapse to focus special analytics, strategy and creative – i.e. a whole reinstatement program – on them? If so, rethink your reinstatement strategy, and think about starting earlier, by starting a PREinstatement Program.

Here are three steps to get you started:

1. Know the vulnerable times in your donor relationships with your organization. Preventing donors from lapsing means understanding when and why they typically lapse. For instance, a universally vulnerable time in the donor life cycle is immediately after a donor’s initial gift. What’s the relationship between recency and attrition for your organization? Look more closely at your donor giving data and you may find, for instance, that once a donor goes 13 months without giving, their likelihood of never giving again spikes significantly. Simply doing the analysis to quantify the relationship between recency and attrition is a huge step toward developing corrective strategies.

2. Develop and test strategies to prevent donors from lapsing. Now that you’ve identified the vulnerable times in a donor’s relationship with your organization, you can intervene. For instance, if you find that the 13-month giving lag tends to signify an ultimate lapse, think about what you can do to reengage donors who fit this particular profile. A standing preinstatement phone call, mailing, or email every month with a special offer to individuals who fit the profile?

3. Measure your results. After you’ve defined your preinstatement candidates and developed your preinstatement strategies, measure your results. Don’t be daunted if it takes a few different approaches to make an impact. Above all, measure your attrition rates before launching your preinstatement program and after. Though you are likely to improve results over time with testing, you’ll probably make your biggest impact right in the beginning, simply by recognizing and addressing pre-lapse signals.


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