If You Let ‘Bean Counters’ Call the Shots, Your Sustainer Program Could Suffer
… You’d think that every organization by now would be convinced that there are donors who are interested in supporting your organization by joining a sustainer program.
… You’d think that tremendous feeling of excitement that these wonderful sustainers generate would permeate your organization.
Well, unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, it’s the “financial folks, the bean counters” who are holding things up. They stall. They don’t want to communicate because they’re buried in getting ready for the audit or the end of the month reconciliation. Or they’re not willing to pick up the phone to set up that crucial link between your online platform, so you can start asking for monthly donors.
You may have wonderful finance folks. You’re blessed. But perhaps you’re not so lucky, and they’re making your life as a fundraiser difficult. I hope this is not the case for you, but let me tell you about one that really struggled and their sustainer program struggled even more. And worse, the donor experience was non-existent because of it.
Let me share a real-life case study with you.
A religious organization with millions of donors (!) wanted to grow its sustainer program. They thought they had it all ready to go. They spent weeks coming up with the name, and even more creative juices were put into coming up with the right benefits for these sustainers.
Their first appeal was about ready to go out in the mail and a special online sustainer donation page was created. So far so good.
It was a good thing we tested making a sustainer gift! Because we found out something that’s in a way embarrassing, but sadly tends to happen in organizations, all the time.
What the fundraiser didn’t realize was that someone in finance had “decided” that (and I quote):
“Just because the donor fills in their credit card information on an online donation page, clicks ‘make this monthly’ and hits submit, this does not mean that the donor actually wants to become a monthly donor.”
Oh my! Instead of processing that monthly gift, the system was set up to send an internal email to the already highly overworked office staff in the fundraising department.
They now had to call the donor to confirm that they actually wanted to become a sustainer.
Well, you can guess what happened. NOTHING! Staff couldn’t reach the donor and even though the sustainer clearly filled out the information, clicked the button, he or she was not considered a new monthly donor.
Needless to say, their sustainer program struggled for the next few years, UNTIL that finance person left. Now, they’re finally growing!
Three lessons learned:
- Make sure that your finance folks are “plugged in” and will help you every step of the way, especially when it comes to organizing your monthly donor program.
- Make sure you have the right people on your sustainer team.
- And make sure that only those who understand donors and fundraising are making the decisions about how best to raise the money.
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.