If any organization knows how to ask their base for ongoing support, it’s National Public Radio. No matter the station, you are guaranteed to hear a local NPR staff member or volunteer ask for your “sustaining pledge” of support during a fund drive. And it works!
Public Radio Knows All About Stewardship
Blackbaud’s Target Analytics donorCentrics identified 10 radio stations that were outperforming all other stations in collecting sustaining member revenue. At these stations, nearly $4 of every $10 in member revenue came from sustaining monthly donors. Some stations secured as much as $6 or $7 of every $10 in member contributions from sustainers.
At Current, News for People in Public Radio, analysts argue that the difference between these stations and lower-performing stations comes down to “each station’s commitment to adopting a new set of best practices that allows them to reset their relationships with donors.” Basically, better-performing stations had a strong strategy and implemented it consistently.
They further found that “Collectively, over five years, the top sustainer stations have tripled their total revenues from sustaining gifts, from roughly $11 million to about $33 million, while nearly doubling retention rates among these donors. Within this group, seven of 10 new donors continue giving in the second year… This means that, on average… every 1,000 new donors recruited as sustainers over five years will donate about $67,000 more than traditional new members.”
Long-Term Growth Requires Long-Term Vision
Your nonprofit can pull in these same numbers! Let’s look at the stats further to understand why developing a sustaining donor strategy pays off so well. The 2018 M+R Benchmarks Study found that when comparing new donors to repeat donors (those who gave in at least one previous year, including 2016), first-time one-time donors had an average retention rate of 25 percent, while repeat donors had a 60 percent retention rate.
Why is this? Because “generosity is a habit, and relationships strengthen over time.”
The conclusion is one you may know: long-term, sustainable growth will come from reliable monthly, don’t-have-to-think-about-it revenue.
Start Your Sustaining Donor Strategy Now
These are real results! So how can your nonprofit start or improve your monthly giving strategy? Here are some ideas to get you started.
One: Understand your data
Complete an analysis of your current donations (if your CRM makes this difficult, you should probably drop us a line). Look to see who is already giving you multiple donations per year.
The gifts are probably coming from a combination of strategies: event tickets, campaign support, annual gifts, and honorary donations. Individuals in this camp who already give to you in multiple ways are primed to become sustained donors. They’ve demonstrated a clear interest and commitment to your nonprofit.
Similarly, look at organizations that support you. In exchange for becoming a sustaining supporter, consider promoting them as a sponsor (you determine the level!) at a few of your key events.
Depending on the type of business or organization they are, smaller monthly donations may be easier to commit to, while still getting the recognition and promotion that event and campaign sponsorships provide. This way, they also know now what you’re asking from them for the year. No short-notice surprises, which can be frustrating for businesses and more difficult to swing financially.
Two: Develop a plan
One of the great benefits of recurring donations is that they can provide more unrestricted funds. With unrestricted funds, you’ll be able to finally fix that leaky toilet, which just doesn’t photograph as well as your other current needs. Yes, we’re joking, but in all seriousness think about what you want recurring gifts to support.
Your plan should make it clear what importance sustaining pledges has in your donor strategy. We especially like Network For Good’s Ultimate Recurring Giving Course.
Three: Commit to the plan
Don’t let your scheming and dreaming die at the meeting table. Once you’ve identified your strategy, make sure your entire development team is onboard and ready to implement. Everyone should know their role in rolling it out.
This requires that your team is knows how to handle other fundraising opportunities as they arise. You will need to think through how (and perhaps more importantly, if) those opportunities fit into your strategy. This keeps your fundraising plan from becoming reactionary. You can’t criticize your strategy until you have actually proven its effectiveness.
Four: Make it easy
This is all about technology and design, two of our favorite things. Your payment processor should be able to process recurring contributions. Weird, right? Not all of them do. You donors should be able to easily find a monthly giving option on your website, no matter their device or screen size. Learn more about the anatomy of an effective nonprofit donation page.
Five: Say thank you
Did we mention that recurring gifts are all about relationships? It’s critical to say thank you (whether via email, handwritten card, phone call, tin can and string…) promptly after every gift, every time. Make sure to include in your thank-you message what impact the gift is having or will have on your mission. Tax receipts and generic thank yous won’t cut it. Tell your nonprofit’s story. This will make your donors feel confident and proud in their ongoing support of your work.