Monthly Donors, You Complete Me
I once had a great mentor who would regularly share hard truths on me. Once, for instance, when I was dating the wrong guy, he told me that it was like I’d “lost the steering to my own damn car.” He was right. Well, I think we sometimes need that kind of tough love in the nonprofit sector, too. How are you steering your fundraising program for success?
In my recent post, “Shape-Up Plan: How Regular Exercises in Monthly Giving Can Yield the Results You Seek,” I asked if you were ready to plan for success in building your sustainable giving program. I shared our research series from the Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact called “Sustainers in Focus,” where part one of the series first uncovered the value of retained revenue, showing the financial justification for sustainer giving programs as a strategic approach to building donor base stability and maximizing value. In part two, we drilled down to highlight the research-backed best practices that increased sustainer program performance across the nonprofit sector.
“I have been building monthly giving programs for more than 35 years. Monthly giving programs remain one of the best ways for nonprofits to dramatically increase the lifetime value of their average donor,” Harvey McKinnon, author of the report’s foreword and the best-selling book “Hidden Gold,” said. Truth, Harvey. Truth.
So how can you get in on that action and build a plan of your own? Here’s a look at the data-backed best practices you should be implementing in your program today:
1. Ask new donors to give on a monthly basis.
The retention rate of sustaining donors in our sample was more than double the rate of single gift donors. So, it makes tons of sense to encourage new donors to sign up for monthly giving out of the gate.
2. Convert multi-year, single-gift donors to sustainers.
In our study, we observed that the best sustainer programs are those that never stop offering donors the option of sustaining support.
3. Make monthly giving the website default.
It seems like common sense, but not doing so could be leaving money on the table. One organization in our study’s cohort found that in one year of doing so, their number of sustaining donors increased 3.5 times and their sustainer revenue doubled. No brainer.
4. Use a credit card updater service and update invalid credit card data.
Tracking down donors to manually update credit cards on file requires major staff time, yet failing to do so can mean lost revenue. Set it and forget it.
5. Encourage donors to use electronic funds transfer (EFT).
Want to take it a step further? EFTs can reduce the number of rejected credit card transactions and significantly cut transaction fees to boot.
6. Steward your sustainers.
While tech can help you set and forget some aspects, like credit cards, don’t forget to steward these valuable donors. Their loyalty will pay dividends for years to come if retained.
Successful implementation of these strategies relies on close collaboration across the organization, particularly among the finance, fundraising and marketing teams. So don’t lose control of your car—let this report serve as a roadmap to guide you as you implement or reinvigorate your sustainer program to make it as productive and successful as possible.
These tried and true best practices are the hard truths we need to see. As Erica Waasdorp put it in her article, “Who’s the One Owning the Monthly Donor Program?”: “Take control so nothing falls through the cracks, and your program will grow!”
Ashley Thompson is the managing director for the Blackbaud Institute. She is responsible for driving Blackbaud’s extensive research, thought leadership, and best practice content.
Through this role, she builds thoughtful strategies and solutions for the philanthropic sector utilizing the most comprehensive data set in the social good community. She also manages internal and external relationships for the Institute, including the convening of the Blackbaud Institute Advisory Board.
Ashley is active in the Austin community and participates in numerous groups as a volunteer, active board member, and collaborative partner.
She is a regular contributor to sgENGAGE, serves on the Giving USA Editorial Review Board, and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.