6 Steps for Successful Sustainer Fundraising at End-of-Year
The end-of-year season is when many nonprofits are setting big fundraising goals—not just goals to meet by December 31 but also to work toward in the coming year. That’s why building your sustainer program can be so useful right now: with their longer donor lifetimes and higher lifetime values, attracting and retaining recurring donors can be a great way to meet your long-term fundraising goals. We asked our own VP of Payments and Online Fundraising, Lily Ickow, for her top strategies, tactics, and functionalities to make the most of your year-end sustainer fundraising campaign. Here’s what she said.
Q: How can my nonprofit prepare for a successful year-end sustainer push?
A: It may not be the most conventional approach, but I think a sustainer push at end-of-year is a really great idea—especially if you set the right goals and make the right asks.
1: Set internal expectations
My very first suggestion would be to make sure that your organization is setting your fundraising goals accordingly. Obviously, with a sustainer push, your donors are likely to give a little bit less for each monthly gift than they would for a one-time gift, so make sure it’s understood around the office that although you might actually see a little bit less revenue on December 31st, the value of each sustainer gift will grow over the course of the year to be much higher than most one-time gifts you’d receive. So, I think it’s a really great approach, but you want to set clear expectations around the organization and make sure no one’s surprised by that.
Next, there are a few tactics you can use in your asks and donation pages to carry out that sustainer push and make sure it’s successful.
2: Try a new default ask—and be very clear that it’s recurring
One thing I recommend is, you can always make the default ask on your forms recurring. For a lot of folks, that default ask is one-time most of the year, but you can switch it over to recurring on key fundraising days if you really want to make that push for new recurring donors. We’ve seen organizations like Audubon do well with switching to a sustainer-first strategy, and it’s one that could be worth testing with your own audiences even just at year-end. However you choose to approach your default asks, you always want your forms to be very clear that the donor is giving a recurring gift. For example, you can include the frequency right there on the ask amount button, so that it reads “contribute $5 monthly,” instead of just “contribute” or “contribute $5.” This kind of care and transparency is important, and it also helps you build trust with your donors, since they will have clear expectations for how they’re contributing to your mission.
3: Tell donors why sustaining gifts matter
I recommend that if you do prioritize sustaining gifts at year-end, you really focus on your messaging as well. Your supporters may not know why you’re asking for a recurring gift instead of a one-time gift, so make sure you’re being very clear and specific with them about what the value of that recurring gift is to your organization. What will their regular support allow you to provide to the community in terms of services, or what is that going to help you to accomplish over the course of the next year if they make that recurring gift? Tell them why it matters.
4: Ask for the right amounts
You also want to look at the ask amounts that you’re presenting to your donors, if you’re making a push for sustaining gifts. Typically, a donor’s not going to give the same amount recurring that they are one time. Again, over the course of the year and hopefully longer, you can expect the value of that recurring gift to be higher, but the initial gift might be a little bit lower. That’s why it’s important to make recurring ask amounts smart: if I’m coming in to give $100 one time, I’m probably not going to give a $100 monthly gift; I’d probably prefer to give a $20 or $30 monthly gift. So try presenting ask amounts that feel appropriate and don’t scare the donor away from that recurring option.
5: Focus your asks
You can also find smart places throughout your form experience to present your recurring ask. For example, in EveryAction, you can use a recurring upsell lightbox on your forms. Once the donor clicks submit on their one-time gift, your page will actually present a pop-up lightbox that asks, “are you sure you don’t want to convert this to a recurring gift at an appropriate amount?” That can be a really great way to make your sustainer ask one more time in a very focused way, when your donor isn’t distracted and can spend another second to read through your content explaining why this matters to you.
6: Automate updates to payment methods
Lastly, it’s really useful to sign up for Account Updater in time for your year-end sustainer campaign. Account Updater, also called Credit Card Updater, is a service that the major credit card companies provide through payment processors, and it helps organizations get updated payment information on your recurring donors. This means if a donor loses their card and gets a new number, you can get that new number—securely and automatically! This helps you save time and offer your donors a smoother giving experience, since you don’t have to have staff reach out and collect updated information or risk losing recurring gifts, which is especially helpful in a busy season like year-end. Automating payment updates like this is pretty straightforward, because you can reach out to your payment provider, sign up for it, get it done, and watch this tactic work for you all through next year and the years to come.