Lapsed Member Letters

Lapsed Member Letters

Back in April, I suggested that each quarter, you devote yourself to chasing donors whose membership has lapsed (See Renewing Lapsed Members). Chasing lapsed members and donors is important because it’s much easier and less expensive to renew a lapsing member than to replace them with a new member. Because every month outside of February has more than 28 days, every three months or so, you end up with an “extra week.” When I worked for The Nature Conservancy that was the week I chose to mail out lapsed member letters. Counting by Wednesdays, in 2015, that extra week falls in April, July, September, and December.


Fundraiser’s Almanac – June


Since TNC days, I have often advocated a slight modification of lapsed member renewal strategies. After sending out three or four letters asking the donor to renew, I recommend simply dropping the issue for a full year. In other words, I treat them exactly as if they had renewed their membership for a full year. And a year later, I send them the full letter sequence again.

Many will give to something else, an appeal for example, during the year, fully justifying the strategy. Others will give the second time the renewal sequence comes around, perhaps not even realizing that they did not renew the year before. But either way, I do not treat them as “lapsed” until they have ignored renewal letters for two years.

In 2013, blogger Gayle Gifford reported that The Audubon Society of Rhode Island took this concept a step further, but were much more overt about it. According to Gayle’s blog, dated July 24th 2013, Audubon prepared a hand-written note for each 20+ year member whose membership had lapsed.

“In the handwritten note, Audubon thanked this loyal member for many years of support. They gently suggested that perhaps the membership renewal may have escaped their notice but not to worry. Audubon understood how important protecting birds, wildlife and their habitat was to this member. So … because Audubon didn’t want this long time member to miss out on exciting programs and important information, they were extending the membership for another year. (Yes, for free). And they included an updated membership card.”

The response was very encouraging: 50% renewed their membership. In fact, the program worked so well, they have since lowered the threshold to 10+ year members

Again, from Gayle:

“When you take all you know about direct mail and apply it to this mailing, the card has lots going for it as a renewal.

  • The envelope is hand written and personally addressed.
  • The envelope carries a live stamp – and not a flag stamp, but a specialty stamp.
  • The note card format stands out from all the business mail.
  • The stunning bird photo you see when you open the note card is hard to ignore and likely to be remembered.
  • Members are appreciated for their commitment.
  • The offer is genuinely sincere. Audubon cares about this donor for more than the value of their money.”

I like this idea a lot and can’t help but wonder whether the threshold might even be lowered further – perhaps even to 2+ years.

What will you be doing for your lapsed members (in July!) to make them feel special and appreciated?





Related Posts:

Renewing Lapsed Members

Is your lapsed member letter getting a response rate that is too good?


Photo credit: Family at Mills Lake courtesy of Walt Kaesler.


See how David can help you with your membership fundraising here.

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