Should You Convert Members to Monthly Donors?
Some of the most successful (and perhaps even leading) nonprofits that are converting members to monthly donors (often called sustainers or sustaining partners) are public television and public radio stations, all over the country.
They realized several years ago that moving regular members to monthly donors had several major advantages:
• Members who give automatically through their credit card or bank account do not require a renewal process. This saves the stations thousands of dollars and lots of time every year.
• Members who give their membership automatically often give more money. For example, if the typical membership rate is $55, now they are getting $5, $10 or more a month! So, way more money.
• Stations already have the mechanisms in house to ask for monthly donors in the second most personal way: Through a personal request on television or on the radio.
• Instead of asking for straight memberships only, they’re asking members to consider becoming sustainers. While they still have to raise a certain amount every pledge drive, these monthly donors will count towards that goal.
• Stations do use premiums for certain level memberships, and they can simply use those same premiums for sustainers.
• Some donors will still wish to pay their full membership fee, but other donors (especially those on a fixed income) will appreciate the fact that they can donate monthly. It’s so convenient.
Some stations have some 50 percent to 60 percent of their members giving monthly. Just think of the sustainable revenue they receive each year!
These smart nonprofits have figured out a long time ago that they needed to think differently. A sustainer becomes a member right away and is also recognized as such. No need to wait till they’ve “reached the level with the money donated.”
If you adopt that same mindset and recognize a monthly donor right away at their full membership level and you’ll provide the relevant gratitude that goes with it, you’ll do alright!
After all, these sustaining donors do not need to be renewed, and they’ll stay with you for many years to come (and they’ll even leave you in their will)! So, if you’re a membership organization, think long term and sustainable and consider offering the monthly donor option as well. You won’t regret it.
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.