Case Study: Lapsed Ministry Donor Study

In 2004, Campbell Rinker conducted qualitative focus groups and depth interviews among lapsed donors followed by a phone survey of 3,000 lapsed and active donors to charitable causes.

The goal of this research was to identify the chief causes of lapsing and to classify donors in ways that let nonprofit marketers to understand the mindset of a lapsed donor and communicate more effectively to them.

Donor names were selected using the same criteria by ten nonprofits representing different sectors and mission statements. The qualitative research helped to shape the scope, sequence, and topics in the survey questionnaire.  Several methods of exploratory analysis were used to evaluate the resulting study data and support the conclusions delivered in the final report.

This study discovered three essential categories of lapsed donors: ‘Idles,’ ‘Intentionals,’ and ‘In-betweens.’  Furthermore, the study identified the specific traits that comprise the personas, attitudes, and motivations of each lapsed donor segment.  Finally, the study yielded tremendous insight into the universal traits donors consider important in an organization, the initial causes for their lapsing and their likelihood to renew their giving behavior if they can be convinced that the organization still embodies the traits they hold to be important.

This study is the topic of a book entitled The Disappearing Donor, published by the consulting firm that sponsored the study.  Study highlights were presented at the 2006 AFP International Fundraising Conference and have been cited in the Chronicle of Philanthropy (April 20, 2006).  An article regarding the study was published in the July-August 2006 issue of Advancing Philanthropy and in Contributions magazine during Fall 2006.  Methodology: Online Survey