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The Psychology of Giving: Why Do Donors Become SYBUNTs

Donor retention is a top metric when measuring fundraising success. Retaining donors is more cost-effective than acquiring new donors. Retention of donors helps nonprofit organizations build capacity toward long-range strategies such as bequests or legacy giving.

Donor databases or CRMs often have built-in reports and dashboards that show donor retention rates and can be customized to review a snapshot in time. They may also include LYBUNT and SYBUNT reports.

Most often, nonprofit organizations will run donor retention rate reports at the end of the fiscal year or at critical times seasonally, such as after a direct mail appeal.

To fully understand donor retention, knowing why donors lapse is vital. What is the psychology behind why a donor gave some year but not another?

Do you know how many LYBUNT (last year but unfortunately not this year) or SYBUNT (some year but unfortunately not this year) donors your nonprofit had the previous fiscal year?

There are many reasons why donors lapse. One of the biggest reasons is that donors may not feel appreciated. Appreciation is vital to recurring donors and can help nonprofits raise more money.

They may not understand what their gift made possible. It could be that donors weren’t asked for a suitable donation amount, or another nonprofit mission felt more closely aligned with what they wanted to support.

Sometimes, donors lapse simply because they were not asked to give again. It can be essential to communicate across multiple communication channels so that if an email is not received, they still receive the direct mail appeal.

Donors who gave some years, unfortunately not this year (SYBUNTs), often gave in the last two to three years, but not this year. Don’t lose hope; SYBUNTs can be recaptured with the right strategy.

This specific segment of donors may need extra attention, but remember, these donors already know something about your mission. Help these donors remember why they gave to your nonprofit mission in the first place.

With a few simple steps, you can turn donors who stopped giving into repeat donors.


3 Tips for Recapturing SYBUNTS

  1. Thank them for their last donation and mention what the gift made possible.
  2. Tell the donor your organization misses them. It is important to acknowledge you know who they are and that you are aware their support lapsed. This helps them to understand what they mean to your organization. Personalized communication is essential when re-engaging donors.
  3. Invite them to give again. You may invite donors to give through a direct mail appeal, an invitation to an event, or by asking them to volunteer—plan for different donor segments.

As your nonprofit organization works toward regaining lapsed donors, consider additional ways to personalize your fundraising efforts. Personalizing letters and asking donors for the right amount can increase giving.

Consider personalizing thank you letters beyond the salutation and gift amount. The bottom line is donors want to feel appreciated.

Write letters for long-term donors differently than letters to donors who gave last year for the first time.

Consider a multi-channel approach to ensure communication is received and donors feel appreciated. An email strategy might work for some donors, while for others, like major donors, you may want to try a phone call or a personal invitation to have coffee.

Some nonprofit organizations include donor acknowledgments on social media if they know a donor likes this type of appreciation.

Board members can also assist with communication steps to contact LYBUNT and SYBUNT donors. Consider providing a short script for phone calls or an email outline they can customize in their own words.

Customizing ask strings for every donor can feel cumbersome and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to. Consider a tool such as AskGenius to customize ask amounts for every donor in your direct mail appeal.

If your nonprofit fundraising strategy could use fresh ideas and insights, check out the webinar library from AskGenius. These webinars cover everything from retaining first-time donors to writing the World’s Greatest Fundraising Letter.

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