How to get your lapsed participants back this year

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Best Practices August 31, 2017 By Kevin Wolfe

When participants from last year’s event don’t return this year, it can have a surprisingly large impact on your event revenue. Meghan Nash, a project manager here at DonorDrive, recently hosted a webinar for our clients on recruiting and retention. In it, she pointed out the value of retained participants: “Returning participants feel more comfortable with fundraising and have come up with strategies they can share with newer participants to help them become more successful fundraisers. Returning participants are typically more invested in your cause and have made a commitment to come back for a second or third year. They’ve found something in your event, or your work, that they’ve connected to deeply and they’re more likely to invite their friends and family to join their team.” That commitment can have a positive effect on your event’s revenue. Across our events, we have seen that on average, returning participants raise 2.5 times more than new participants. The reality is that you must recruit 25 new participants for every 10 you lose in order to make up the revenue.

A game plan to get your lapsed participants back

Though you may have had low retention numbers in the past, don’t assume you’ve lost those lapsed participants. It’s easier to get them back than it is to recruit people who don’t know you. We've developed a straightforward plan to get these valuable participants to return for your event this year.

  • Preparation: After the launch of registration, allow a reasonable amount of time for your past participants to register. Then, run a report on current participants and compare this to last year’s participants to determine who’s not back.
  • Send Email 1: Ask them back. Start with a friendly reminder noting you haven’t seen them sign up yet. Tell them there’s still time to register, fundraise and make a difference toward the mission. Include moving images from last year’s event to help them remember their experience last year. End with a call-to-action that steers them to your registration page.
  • Send Email 2: Ask them why. For those who haven’t replied to Email 1, send out a simple survey and ask them why they’re not back. Don’t use multiple choice: just give them space to explain.
  • Send Email 3: Address their issues. Based on your survey, create a series of emails, one for each of the major reasons why participants aren’t back.
    • If they’ve moved out of the area or can’t make it on that date, encourage them to register and fundraise as a virtual participant.
    • If their team captain left, encourage them to start their own team.
    • If they had an issue with your event last year or just don’t seem enthused, let them know how you’ve addressed concerns and made this year’s event better.  

     When you target your reply to their answer, it’s more likely to eliminate their reason for not participating this year.

  • Send Email 4: Ask them again. For those who still haven’t registered after Email 3, send one final message letting them know they’ll be missed. If you think this is too many emails to send them, it’s not. MailChimp shows that the average open rate for a nonprofit is 25%, so it’s entirely possible they missed one of all of your previous three emails in your campaign. Again, including event images or a link to an emotional video might encourage them to register. You might also make the mail dynamic and include data specific to them, like how much they raised last year. Reminding them of the impact they had may bring them back.

In her webinar, Meghan provided some great tips on the tone of the emails you send to lapsed participants: “You want to talk to them differently. Their commitment to your organization needs to be acknowledged. They should feel like they're more than just a number. If they receive the same messaging and treatment that they received their first year, their engagement level may falter. You don’t want to send them the same welcome email as new recruits about how the event works and where the money goes. You don’t want to just welcome them. You want to welcome them back.”  It’s also important to note that throughout your emails to lapsed participants it’s good to point out the impact they made last year and in years past.

Segment and target

Some organizations segment their lapsed participants list by the supporter’s fundraising value. For example, they may delete last year’s zero-dollar fundraisers from the list of participants to re-engage, since these are the least likely to join in again. It’s also useful to personally address the biggest fundraisers, team captains and multi-year supporters on your lapsed-participant list in an email or with a phone call. These participants require special treatment since they would mean the biggest loss to your event.

There’s no reason why you can’t encourage your participants from two or three years ago to register through a similar campaign. But note there can be diminishing returns in that: There will be more bad email addresses, more supporters who have moved and more who are no longer connected with someone close to your organization.

How DonorDrive helps you retain participants
DonorDrive Peer-to-Peer Fundraising is software that’s built to help you retain more participants. Here are just a few of our tools that power retention:
- Lapsed, New and Returning Participant Reports let you quickly segment supporters.

- Fast Pass™ makes registration super easy for returning participants.

- Scheduled Messages can target returning participants with encouraging messages based on their actions or inactions.

- Achievement Badges help foster loyalty and a sense of community among fundraisers by publicly recognizing their hard work, encouraging them back next year.

To find out about other powerful features that drive better fundraising, check out our feature page.