Number of Sustainers Grew 44% in Last Five Years
Spring is always an exciting time as sustainer statistics are rolling in.
The most recent Blackbaud Target Analytics donorCentrics Sustainer Summit was held earlier this year. You can find the key findings here. The study is based upon 36 big organizations that provided data for their July through June fiscal years from 2017 through 2021.
Here are some of the highlights.
Over the past five years, the median number of recurring donors increased by 44%.
The median number of sustainers grew by 10% between 2020 and 2021, even in the middle of a pandemic. Most organizations were not able to go out on the streets for canvassing/face-to-face fundraising, so many focused on additional digital efforts, aka more emails and more digital ads.
What I found was most interesting and promising is the fact that so many new donors were converted early on, within the first 30 days after their first gift. This is where new donor welcome emails are so powerful. Another great source of new recurring donors came from a monthly giving ask on appeal reply forms and new donor thank-you letters.
You see clearly here that the sooner you can get a donor to start giving monthly, the longer they will stay and the more money they will give.
Deb Ashmore who presented the study also made another great point: “A sustainer-first strategy is clearly the way to go, but might be challenging to get buy-in from leadership with the short-term loss in revenue.”
I always recommend at least annualizing the revenue of monthly donors, but to show its bigger power, start adding a five-year value and looking at your legacy gifts to show the overall long-term impact. I know this can be difficult if you’re just starting out, but it’s going to be so worth it.
The more you can do to project and quantify the long-term gain, the more likely leadership will buy-in to it. And that means additional funds for digital, direct mail and telemarketing efforts as well as more video, TV and possibly face-to-face campaigns down the road.
Ashmore also looked at drop-offs around the start of the pandemic. If you had a recurring donor program before the pandemic, you too may have been concerned with drop-offs. The reality is that this did not happen. People wanted to help.
However, what the current state of economic affairs (inflation, stock market drop, war in Ukraine) will do is unknown though.
This is where your monthly donor stewardship and engagement are so crucial. These donors have invested in you, so make sure that you keep them up to date on what’s happening, and you will do all right. So, take some time now to see where you are with your program. How have you grown in the past five years?
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.