Traditional/transactional fundraising usually defines lapsed donors as those who gave a certain number of gifts over a certain period of time before failing to give for a subsequent period of time.
If that’s a lapsed donor, then the opposite is pretty obvious: a donor who continues to give a certain number of gifts in a certain period of time.
In this way of thinking, the opposite of a lapsed donor is an active one.
Sounds sensible. But is it?
You know me well enough to know that the reason I ask the question is because I intend to turn the traditional/transactional answer on its ear. What may surprise you is that it’s going to take this whole week to do it.
Fortunately, the fact that a multiple-day answer is required doesn’t mean that we have to slog through four days of arcane nonsense before we get to something meaningful. Instead, if I do my job right, we’ll be having major a-has every day this week. The length of the answer is due, in other words, not to the complexity of the question but rather to the degree that it is so close to the heart of God.
To understand this, we have to turn immediately to scripture, where two verses in particular serve as the biblical ‘bookends’ when we talk about lapsed champions.
In 1 John 2:19, John writes, ‘They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had really belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.’
In Luke 15:4, Jesus says, ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?’
These two verses bookend a very different shelf on which the question of lapsed champions sits.
On the one side, John’s statement helps make clear something that is obscured in most discussions about lapsed champions, namely:
Most individuals labeled as lapsed champions (or donors) by an organization really shouldn’t be classified as lapsed at all.
For John, and by extension in Transformational Giving, we recognize an entire category of people who were never ‘of’ us, though for a while they were ‘with’ us.
In TG, we call these people Participants.
They may do projects with us. They may give through our organization. They may even be around for some period of time.
What they don’t do, however, is engage with the cause through us.
As a result, we don’t use the term ‘lapsed’ to describe them. Participants, in other words, don’t lapse by definition. They participate for a time (sometimes even a long time) and either become engaged with the cause, or they just stop participating.
Turn now to the other bookend.
Notice Jesus’ language. It doesn’t speak of a sheep lapsing or wandering.
It speaks of a shepherd losing a sheep.
As such, TG turns the question of lapsing on its head. Rather than seeing it as a characteristic of the sheep, it sees it as part of the responsibility of the shepherd.
It’s a great fundamental observation:
Sheep wander. Shepherds bring them back.
So when we talk about lapsed champions in TG, we’re talking about you bringing back those who were of you and who have now wandered, as champions are prone to do.
Since this is a very different way of thinking about the question, it stands to reason that we’re going to have a very different way of going about the process–a way so different, in fact, that the opposite of a lapsed donor will quickly be seen to be something more than simply active.
More in tomorrow’s post.
The heart of what you’re saying is that the focus is on the one who does the losing not the one who gets lost.
In the traditional model the blame, if there is any to place, lies with the donor who gets lazy and needs to be prodded, who drifts to the stingy and needs to be challenged, or who forgets what a great job the orgnazation does and needs to be reminded.
In TG the blame, again if there is any to place, lies with the organization, who gets boring and needs to become interesting again, who forgets it’s all about the cause and needs to be about the business of connecting champions with the cause again, or who never knew they were called to be the shepherd and not the star of the show.
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