Why Advocacy Organizations Must Keep Sustainers Top of Mind During EOY Fundraising

November 22, 2016 Sally Heaven

The results of the election in the USA will have an impact on your mission, for better or worse. Whether your organization feels like your mission will advance or be under attack in 2017, one important area of focus will be revenue. Money funds the mission, and a more efficient fundraising operation will help you direct the maximum amount of revenue toward the mission.

The culture of End-of-Year (EOY) giving is well ingrained in the American donor’s psyche—December is when many nonprofits raise 80% or more of their total revenue for the year, according to Blackbaud benchmark reports. While the tax deduction is part of the reason, it’s also true that the culture of EOY fundraising campaigns perpetuates itself. People give in December because nearly every nonprofit asks them to, every December.

But we’ve also seen in our benchmark reports that the majority of one-time donors never give again, and we can waste valuable time and money chasing a one-time donor who never makes that second gift.

As we enter the EOY fundraising season, especially for any issue advocacy organization that will see stark changes as the result of the election, one thing that should be top of mind is your sustainer program. Sustainers have greater average gifts and greater lifetime value than one-time donors, and retention of sustainers is much higher than annual givers. With built-in automated efficiencies like Blackbaud Merchant Services’ Credit Card Updater, you can retain this valuable pool of donors with even greater efficiency.

This is where American fundraising is going.

Sustained Giving

Blackbaud’s Chuck Longfield recently authored a report, Sustainers in Focus, Part 1:  Uncovering the Value of Retained Revenue, that makes many of these points. The Nonprofit Times discusses how the whitepaper shows that by fully committing to a sustainer program, organizations can realize triple-digit gains in revenue, up to 300%.

I’m not suggesting at this late date that you change your EOY strategy to stress your sustainer program more in your EOY messaging, though. Instead, you should concentrate on maximizing your EOY donations, especially from new sources, by very clear and mission-focused advocacy messaging in your fundraising appeals.

Then, take all your new one-time donors from December and recruit them into your sustainer program in January. Our whitepaper Sustaining Your Mission can give you tips on how to make sure your sustainer program is effective. If you have a major donor who will commit to a match up to a certain amount for the month of January if a certain number of new sustainers sign up, that can be very compelling.

As well, the same Nonprofit Times article mentions how Chuck notes that millennial donors are already used to giving small amounts monthly for services like Netflix and Spotify. Sustainers in Focus discusses how the data makes it clear that getting donors early in their giving lifecycle is important to maximize value. So here’s another idea:  Blackbaud’s social listening platform, Attentive.ly, can help you identify donors between the ages of 25-35 who mention your organization on social media. That’s a ready-made segment of donors who are at the beginning of their philanthropic journey for your organization to invite to become a sustainer at an introductory level, like $5-10 per month. Once you have this segment of sustaining donors, you can work to upgrade them as their ability to give increases over the years.

A healthy and robust sustainer program can help you achieve your mission faster and better. If you achieve your mission more efficiently, then that will help good take over. So invest in your sustainer program—are you ready to be all in?

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