5 Ways to Increase Revenue from your Sustainers

growing sustainers
Date Published

Nonprofits are becoming increasingly adept at acquiring new donors as monthly givers, and at converting existing annual donors into monthly givers, or Sustainers. At public media stations across the country, some now have monthly givers making up in excess of 50% of their active donor files. This “Sustainer Revolution” has brought about an overall 20% revenue increase for public radio stations in particular over the past 5 years, because of enhanced donor retention.

As monthly giving swiftly becomes the norm for donor behavior, how do you ensure that annual revenue continues to grow? Many organizations are leery of “bothering” these loyal donors with requests for more gifts in fear of offending them and turning off their reliable cash flow. However, this reticence may be unnecessarily limiting that cash flow.

Here are 5 ways to increase revenue from your monthly givers:

  1. Start out by getting the highest initial monthly gift you can. Most will likely stick to that amount for many years. Base your ask off of the donor’s previous total annual giving amount, split into monthly increments. Don’t just shoot for the minimum $5 or $10 monthly gift in every ask. You don’t want to backslide and start off with a lower total annual amount than the supporter was previously giving, if you can help it.
  1. Include Sustainers in your requests for additional gifts at least once or twice per year, especially if there is a special fund or purpose for additional generosity. Sustainers are invested in your success and like to participate in special appeals. Their monthly gifts are happening automatically and outside of their day-to-day consciousness. They like to be involved in what you are doing and experience the good feeling afforded by making a conscious choice to give. Don’t deny them the opportunity. You’ll be surprised at their response. And for those few who are put off, mark their records to be excluded from future additional gift appeals.
  1. Ask for an upgrade. At least once per year, maybe twice. Focus groups with Sustainers revealed they expect to be asked for an increase, and appreciate the opportunity to adjust their gift amount. Try making one ask more aggressive, perhaps first asking for a move up to the next giving level, and then making a second ask that is less aggressive, maybe adding just a few dollars to the monthly amount. The first strategy will get a lower response, but will flush out those donors with more interest and capacity. The second strategy will get a larger number of donors moving up in smaller increments, which adds up too! Again, suppress donors who joined or responded recently to an upgrade appeal so you don’t burn them out.
  1. Send frequent stewardship pieces informing Sustainers about the impact of their giving, like newsletters, surveys, updates from the CEO, and annual tax receipts. Add a soft ask for an additional gift, perhaps a blank fill-in or even just a reply envelope. Keep it low-key. The added revenue will help cover the cost of the mailing, and the cultivation will lead to increased gifts.
  1. Make it easy for them to add to or change their monthly giving amount online. Convenience is a huge motivating factor in monthly giving. If donors have to work hard to contact you when the impulse strikes, fewer will bother trying. You’ll be leaving money on the table.

Add these tactics to a strong stop-loss effort for bounced and declined payments, and to Sustainers’ stronger retention rates, and you have a recipe for unprecedented revenue growth!

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