Growing your sustainer program

Mal Warwick | Donordigital Senior Account Executive Wendy Marinaccio Husman joined forces with Jeanne Horne of Share Our Strength, to present a dynamic session on “Growing Your Sustainer Program” at Blackbaud’s BBCON 2015 in Austin in October.

The session covered numerous facets of growing a sustainer program with a discussion of strategies for retention, stewardship, and upgrades. Wendy and Jeanne outlined No Kid Hungry’s multichannel promotion of monthly giving, with efforts spanning email, online advertising, social, direct mail, and telemarketing. They provided exclusive examples for how to improve retention, create a communications calendar for monthly donors, and more.

Here are the presentation slides:

Build a robust monthly giving program for long-term growth

Organizations with robust monthly giving programs fared much better during the recent economic downturn than those with stagnant programs.   The most profitable programs have specifically harnessed the online medium to recruit, cultivate, retain and upgrade their monthly donors.

My colleague Mwosi Swenson and I presented examples of robust monthly giving programs in July 2011 at the Direct Marketing Association of Washington-Association of Fundraising Professionals Bridge Conference at a session entitled “Anatomy of Hot Monthly Giving Programs,” as we were joined by colleagues from PETA and the Human Rights Campaign.

These two dynamic monthly donor programs incorporate some of the following techniques to keep growing their file:

  • Rolling online campaigns inviting recent donors and non-donor action takers to become sustainers.  The messages highlight the urgency of why sustainers are needed “for the long haul,” and why monthly giving is the best way to support a cause
  • Create month-long “campaigns” to recruit and upgrade
  • Monthly giving opt-in option on donation pages (especially renewal campaigns) and links from offline campaigns Monthly giving option on every donation page
  • Feature monthly giving button on the homepage (in addition to Donate Now button)
  • Use email to capture declined credit cards … making it easy for the donor to update information and fulfill the gift … using a Netflix-like declined credit card message.  Make it easy!
  • Use a hot premium to secure the upgrade from current sustainers

With year-end planning happening now, it’s important to not forget how monthly giving strategy plays in with these plans.  Even subtle opportunities to offer the monthly giving option can go far in building a robust program for long-term growth.

Dave Dogan is Vice President of Client Services at Mal Warwick Associates, Donordigital’s sister company.  Dave has two decades of experience directing the membership and fundraising programs of progressive nonprofit organizations from both the agency and the client side.