Digital Must-Haves for Fall Fundraising Success Part 4: Sustainer Upsell Lightbox

August 10, 2022 | EveryAction Team
Digital Fundraising Must-Haves: Sustainer Upsell Lightbox
Editor’s note: this post was originally published in October 2020 and was last updated in August 2022.

It’s never too early to start planning for your nonprofit’s GivingTuesday and year-end fundraising efforts. In this 6-part blog series, we’re highlighting key digital features your organization can start implementing now to boost fundraising this fall. Last week, we went over Cover Costs. This week’s topic: sustainer upsell lightboxes.

What is a sustainer upsell lightbox?

A sustainer upsell lightbox is a pop-up box that appears during the donation process to make a pitch for converting a one-time gift into a monthly gift that is a smaller initial amount, but adds up to a larger annual contribution. Although it might seem counter-intuitive to go out of your way to ask a donor to give less money to your organization, sustainer upsell lightboxes are an effective tactic for converting one-time donors to recurring donors. That conversion helps nonprofits grow their donor base, hang on to an especially hard-to-retain donor segment, and increase their fundraising revenue for the long term.

Example of an upsell lightbox

Why should my nonprofit use a sustainer upsell lightbox?

Investing in a sustainer program can be a smart choice for nonprofits to make in light of economic uncertainty, major year-end giving events like GivingTuesday already on the horizon, and sustained (no pun intended) donor interest in recurring giving programs.

Sustainer giving can help nonprofits navigate economic uncertainty

As you may have read, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) found that for 2021, the donors who were the least likely to be acquired or retained were those that gave less than $500. Donors who gave only one gift per year were also less likely to stick around.

While the same FEP report found that dollars raised grew by 3 percent in 2021 compared to 2020, those funds came from a shrinking group of donors. This reflects an ongoing trend, supported by research from Grand Valley State University, that suggests “the widening wealth gap is becoming a giving gap.” Put another way, more and more philanthropic dollars seem to be more and more concentrated in the hands of a smaller and smaller group of donors, and some organizations are asking themselves about the programmatic and power dynamics-related implications of this trend.

At the same time, with chatter across the nonprofit community about high inflation and economic uncertainty, many fundraisers are wondering how to engage donors with appropriate asks, especially those who aren’t major donors. Giving a smaller amount each month is one useful tactic for removing barriers to giving for donors who may find themselves with less disposable income than expected.

Major fundraising events like GivingTuesday are coming up

Many people default to making one-time gifts, especially on high-traffic days like GivingTuesday. Upsell lightboxes can be especially effective on busy giving days for explaining why monthly gifts are important. They educate new and returning donors alike on the importance of recurring gifts without cluttering your donation page.

Given the popularity of sustainer programs, a sustainer upsell lightbox could also serve as an organization’s first step toward running future sustainer-first campaigns on major fundraising days. After a few months of building, testing, and optimizing their digital marketing program, the National Audubon Society took their GivingTuesday sustainer-first for 2020 and grew their sustainer base by a whopping 900 percent!

Sustainer giving is growing in popularity

Research from our friends at Network for Good suggests that Subscription Giving(SM)—a specific technique within sustainer giving that encourages nonprofits to mirror some of the more effective marketing tactics of for-profit subscription services—can be an especially effective way to run a sustaining donor program. Network for Good’s research found subscription giving is popular with donors of all ages: “Roughly three-fifths of subscription donors (62 percent) were aged 55 or above in our survey, compared to 57 percent of all non-subscription donors from this age group.”

Other research about Gen X from RKD Group also found these donors appreciate the ease and accessibility of recurring giving. Additionally, M+R’s Benchmarks for the year 2021 found that monthly giving increased by 24 percent—it even made up 22 percent of all of 2021’s online revenue! The common thread in all these findings is that recurring giving is becoming more and more popular—which means now could be the right time to start or grow your nonprofit’s program.

How can my nonprofit make the most of a sustainer upsell lightbox?

Get the most value out of a sustainer upsell lightbox by planning for the right supporter experience on your forms, promoting your recurring gift program to the right donors, and finding the right language to use when discussing it.

Supporter experience

If you want to harness the energy of the year-end season and funnel it into your sustainer program, start planning now to make sure your forms can meet your needs on busy giving days. Think about all the steps you can take to give your donors a smooth sustainer giving experience on your online forms:

  • Enable credit card updater so busy staff don’t need to connect with donors in real time to gather updated payment information;
  • Use self-service pages so donors can alter their gift if needed;
  • Tap into the power of one-click donations to make it easy for donors to complete their gifts; and
  • Fine-tune your fraud settings to make sure you aren’t missing out on potential gifts.


Any donor who gives digitally can be served with a sustainer upsell lightbox. This means whether you’re sharing your forms across email, ads, or mobile messaging, you can make sure to ask donors to consider giving on a monthly basis.

That being said, it’s important not to blast every single supporter in your CRM with the same exact message or donation ask—if a donor has already given you a $10,000 gift, asking them for a $15 monthly gift could come across as out-of-touch, which is why segmenting your donors and sending each one the right ask at the right time is still very important.


When you’re crafting the message you’ll show donors using your sustainer upsell lightbox, it’s important to remember two things: one, you have limited space to make your case; and two, this could be their first step in a lifelong relationship with your organization. That’s why it’s important to use ethical and effective creative that reminds donors of their connection with your mission and clearly explains what their recurring gift helps your organization accomplish.

Key takeaways

The bottom line? Sustainer upsell lightboxes help nonprofits grow their recurring gift programs and raise more funds in a more predictable way. Planning and testing now can help you make the most of this functionality and even give your busy staff time back in their day—something every fundraiser wishes they had more of during end-of-year.

If you’re ready to strengthen your sustainer program and increase your revenue with an upsell lightbox, start using this feature with just a few clicks or learn more about EveryAction’s digital tools by getting a demo today.

Looking for more ways to boost your nonprofit fundraising? Download our guide to Three Strategies to Boost Year-End Fundraising Starting Now for proven techniques that convert volunteers into donors, increase your fundraising efficiency, and raise more money.