Lapsed Donor Surveys

Posted on 01/14/2017 - by Dan Allenby

SYBUNT is an acronym that stands for “Some Year But Unfortunately Not This.” It’s commonly used in annual giving to describe someone who has given at some point in the past, but has not given in the current or the last fiscal year. The term that’s often used to describe when a donor skips a year of giving is “lapsing.”

There are numerous things that could cause a donor to lapse. Did they have a bad experience last time they made a gift? Could they have moved and you haven’t been able to update their new address? Was their last donation inspired by a challenge, a class reunion, or some token incentive that got them excited – but only for a moment? Did they just forget?

Understanding why someone lapsed can be an important step to winning them back, which is why The University of Houston conducted a survey of their SYBUNTs (see example below). In it, they asked their lapsed donors:

  • What motivated you to give in the past?
  • Why haven’t you given recently?
  • What would increase the likelihood that you’d give in the future?
  • How could our annual giving program improve our efforts?

To encourage responses, all participants were offered personalized return address labels. Within a few months, the survey received over 400 replies. The data was used to inform their donor reactivation strategies and think about shortcomings in their donor stewardship efforts. Among the most common comments received was that people wanted the university to do a better job of explaining how their gifts were used.

Data wasn’t the only benefit of the survey. Many donors used it as a chance to update their personal and employment information. Others used it as an opportunity to renew their gift, with over 250 participants sending back donations after taking the survey.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE for AGN’s Webinar on Reactivating Lapsed Donors.