Online Sustainer-Giving Strategies
April 25, 2006
By Tanya Zumach
Also called recurring or monthly giving, sustainer giving creates committed and active supporters who are much more valuable than one-time givers. These programs allow donors to make automatic monthly gifts (some offer quarterly or yearly options), and typically there's no predetermined end date.
If you have 40,000 donors and can convert 5 percent of your file -- at an average gift of $15 per month -- you could realize $360,000 in revenue per year.
*Loyalty and retention -- these donors tend to stay longer and feel more connected to the organization.
*Ongoing revenue -- maintaining a steady membership, you have a predictable revenue stream.
*Additional gifts -- these committed donors often give to special appeals.
*Reduced overhead costs -- online programs reduce or eliminate the need for paper appeals, updates and receipts.
*Planned-giving potential -- sustainers tend to be donors who give small gifts now but may leave big bequests later.
Additionally, you can customize these programs to fit your donor base, brand and capabilities. For instance, offer a regular monthly-giving option, and a "club" at a higher donor level with special perks.
If you can process online gifts, you can probably implement recurring gifts. Most online vendors offer this feature. They will automatically charge the donor's credit card on a specified date each month, and send receipts. You can also set up your own simple system by running the charges through your regular merchant account.
The most obvious place to look for potential monthly givers is within your current donor base. Targeted segments that respond well are:
*Small to mid-level donors ($25 to $100 gifts);
*Multiple donors (three or more gifts per year);
*Donors that respond well to premiums; and
*Donors already enrolled in a direct-mail sustainer program.
Other methods that work well are e-mail appeals, Web pages or mini sites, check-out upgrades, telemarketing, and direct mail. Coordinated campaigns across channels often result in even better success. For instance, precede a direct-mail ask with an e-mail introduction, and follow up with a phone call.
Donors like that they're able to provide steady, ongoing support. The lower overhead costs ensure that their donations are being used more efficiently. Most organizations limit mail and/or phone asks to this pool, another attractive benefit. Donors also appreciate that they are able to make a larger annual gift (building their tax deduction) because payments are spread throughout the year. Some are attracted by special benefits, recognition or other perks.
Once you've got donors enrolled, a comprehensive retention strategy is essential.
A monthly credit card receipt and special updates via e-mail or mail keep donors engaged. Remember their "anniversary" with the organization, birthday or other special occasions with a special thank-you note from your director or a small gift.
Around 5 percent to 10 percent of credit card transactions will decline each month (due to expirations, over-limits or cancels). Follow up with these donors quickly to ensure strong retention rates.
Remember that these donors are reliable, productive and loyal. Ask for a 13th gift at the end of the year or a special one-time donation at tax return time. Ask them to renew and upgrade their commitment. And remember this group when you're recognizing donors.
Tanya Zumach is web marketing manager at Mercy Corps and a nonprofit Internet strategy consultant. She can be reached via www.zumach.com.