10 Things I Learned From 30 Years in Sustainer Giving, Part 4
I’ve shared six of my top sustainer giving lessons so far. Today, I’ll get to the heart of sustainer giving, and probably the hardest lessons for nonprofit leadership.
7. Be Patient and Think Long-Term
If you talk to those organizations that are most successful with sustainer giving, they all have a long-term focus. I know it’s not easy to do, especially not right now when short-term funding is so crucial, but you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.
If you only focus on the net for this year, you’re never going to be able to grow your sustainer program to higher levels. Let the numbers speak for themselves.
“The median long-term value per donor acquired as a single gift in 2017 was $179 in 2020,” according to the donorCentrics sustainer benchmarking study.
However, the power of sustainer gifts is clear. From that same study: “The median long-term value per donor acquired as recurring in 2017 is $550 in 2020.” That’s three times higher!
For most nonprofits, the real answer lies in the middle. Can you move some budget focused on one-time gifts and try some sustainer asks? Can you do some focused emails? Can you finally test that tick box on the appeal reply form? Can you add a special direct mail campaign?
I watched a recent interview with Brady Josephson, formerly with Next After and now with charity: water, where he explained how the nonprofit grows. You may know that it changed its focus to long-term in 2015 and is reaping the benefits from that decision. But it doesn’t stop there, the organization still does a minimum of seven sustainer-focused campaigns a year — most of which are done digitally.
8. Set Goals and Write Them Down
Of course, most nonprofits are not like charity: water. You may have historically been dependent on direct mail and you may just be stepping into the digital world. That’s totally fine.
One of the biggest changes in mindset I have seen comes from something simple when you think about it.
As part of your goal-setting process, make monthly giving its own budget line item. When creating your budget, don’t hide sustainer giving as part of the overall annual fund budget. Instead let it stand on its own. Once you do that, everybody can clearly see how monthly gifts grow year over year.
And once others start seeing the overall revenue of sustainers, they’ll want more, I can guarantee it.
Who wouldn’t want a $550 donor? Not to mention the subsequent legacy revenue and additional gift revenue that can come from your committed donors.
So, start by looking at where you are now, then set some goals, write them down on its own budget line item and start growing.
And it doesn’t matter where they come from. Everything we as fundraisers do is always aimed at getting donors to give more money, more often and ongoing. That’s where sustainer giving comes into play for sure.
Editor's Note: This is the fourth part of a five-part series, 10 Things I Learned From 30 Years in Sustainer Giving. Each part contains two lessons.
10 Things I Learned From 30 Years in Sustainer Giving
Part 4: Think Long-Term and Set Goals
Erica Waasdorp is one of the leading experts on monthly giving. She is the president of A Direct Solution, a company serving nonprofit organizations with fundraising and direct marketing needs, with a focus on monthly giving and appeals. She authored "Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant" and "Monthly Giving Made Easy." She regularly blogs and presents on fundraising, appeals and monthly giving — in person and through webinars. She is happy to answer any questions you may have about this great way of improving retention rates for your donors.
Erica has over 30 years of experience in nonprofits and direct response. She helped the nonprofits she works with raise millions of dollars through monthly giving programs. She is also very actively supports organizations with annual fund planning and execution, ranging from copywriting, creative, lists, print and mail execution.
When she’s not working or writing, Erica can be found on the golf course (she’s a straight shooter) or quietly reading a book. And if there’s an event with a live band, she and her husband, Patrick, can be found on the dance floor. She also loves watching British drama on PBS. Erica and Patrick have two step sons and a cat, Mientje.