Sustaining Your Sustainers: Taking Your Monthly Giving Program to the Next Level
These days, more and more nonprofits have monthly giving programs of one shape or another in place. Most development professionals worth their salt have integrated this strategy into their fundraising plans. They know the advantages, and they see the potential for vastly improved donor retention and for taking pressure off the renewal process. A predictable, ongoing stream of cash from donors whose annual commitment automatically renews? Higher average annual gifts and greater lifetime value than other donors? What's not to like?
I come to the topic of sustainers largely from a public TV and radio background. Almost 20 years ago, while working at a major-market station, I helped launch one of the first branded, coordinated sustainer programs in public media. Partnering with PBS Development, I evangelized the concept to stations across the country. Gradually, it took hold, and in recent years, stations have embraced the concept in a big way. Many have built their sustainer files quickly, largely through on-air pledge drives, from under 10 percent up to, for a few, more than 40 percent of their members.
This has been a real sea change for these stations' development operations. Some have done a great job of changing with the tides. However, as a development consultant, it distresses me to see how many nonprofit organizations are witnessing a good portion of those valuable donors, and their dependable revenue, drift right back out to sea. It's a danger faced by any nonprofit with a burgeoning recurring-gift program.
What's at the root of the problem? Perhaps some complacency from knowing that these donors are automatically sticking with the organization, so a stretched-too-thin staff can focus its attention on more at-risk funding. Yet, if one is prioritizing time properly, who better to focus on than the donors with the highest potential lifetime value?