Sustainer Majority: What’s the Impact on the Rest of Your Program?

Sustainer Majority
Date Published

Has your nonprofit approached or even crossed over that magic line into “Sustainer Majority,” i.e., more than 50% of your active supporters are monthly givers? This is happening at more and more organizations these days.

If so, it’s likely you are beginning to notice changes in the way the rest of your usual fundraising efforts are performing. Rest assured, it’s not time to panic. It is time to pay careful attention and adjust your plans and expectations to accommodate “the new normal.”

  1. Expect your annual renewals to take longer to roll in. You’ll be sending more efforts to perhaps a smaller pool of less enthusiastic donors since non-Sustainer supporters tend to renew later in the series.
  2. You may also have to send more hits deeper into the file to achieve your previous level of additional gift revenue. You’ve likely converted many of your loyal, multiple gift givers to monthly donors. And if you are including sustainers in these appeals, they tend to have a much lower response than single-gift supporters. It’s important to continue to include them, though, because contacting them regularly is important to maintaining your relationship. To keep your net revenue high, you may want to focus these efforts on those sustainers who have given most frequently in the past.
  3. As retention increases, your responsive, recent-lapsed file will thin out. Good news, right? Now you can redirect your resources toward getting creative with the more deeply lapsed pool of supporters and coming up with ways to reengage and renew them.
  4. Make sure your CFO is prepared: cash flow will eventually stabilize, but if you’ve been relying on seasonal campaign pushes, revenue will now be more spread out, and may take a couple of years to settle into a new, predictable pattern.
  5. It will be tempting to get complacent with all this “automatic” revenue flowing in, but it is critical to continue to focus on all revenue channels and continue to maintain a healthy, balanced program. It will be especially important to focus on new donor acquisition. You can expect your file to grow if you maintain new donor rates coupled with the increased retention that sustainer growth brings.
  6. If you’ve been mailing sustainer conversion appeals to your donors, over time you are likely to see those results begin to decline as the “low-hanging fruit” is harvested. You may want to cut back on the frequency of those mailings, but don’t eliminate them entirely. They are an important part of your messaging about monthly giving, and mail-responsive donors will continue to convert that way. Consider producing these mailings alongside other sustainer appeals, like upgrade and EFT conversion letters, for more efficiency. And, as always, keep concentrating on acquiring new donors directly into the monthly giving program in all of your appeals, via every channel.

The “Sustainer Revolution” has been a game-changer for many nonprofits. If your organization has reached the “Sustainer Majority” threshold, it’s likely that you have a new normal in your shop. And while it may be a little more challenging to fundraise from the non-sustainer portion of your file, it’s a great opportunity to up your game and apply your best direct response techniques. Challenge accepted!

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