Thursday Thoughts | Sustainable Fundraising for Nonprofits

April 13, 2022 | Grace Duginski
Thursday Thoughts: Sustainable Fundraising for Nonprofits
Welcome to another installment of Thursday Thoughts, a dedicated space for our friends in nonprofit sector leadership to reflect on reports, statistics, and other trends—because when our community shares knowledge, we can all do more good. Check out last month’s post here!

Earth Day is coming up, and that means sustainability is top of mind for many of us in the nonprofit world. While sustainability is often used to refer to natural resources and the environment, fundraisers and other nonprofit professionals often think of sustainability in a different way: creating reliable and steady income and audience engagement in order to scale up and move the mission forward. We asked some of our partners, what are some of your favorite tips for nonprofits who want to fundraise and mobilize audiences in a sustainable, predictable, and consistent way? Here’s what they said.

Adam Rosenscruggs, Gambit Analytics

When it comes to sustainable, predictable, and consistent fundraising, nothing beats developing a strong sustaining giving program. Most commonly, we think of these programs as comprised of monthly recurring payments, but organizations of all types and sizes are developing consistent revenues with an ask that is easier for some donors to say yes to: annual recurring commitments. These commitments automatically charge the donor once per year at a set amount. They appeal to donors looking to make their annual contributions automatic, and they appeal to organizations (especially though not exclusively membership organizations) looking to simplify their fundraising and forecasting.

Developing sustainable and consistent audience mobilization is often a question of understanding the complex relationships between the giving and activism that your supporters engage in. This type of analysis allows organizations to link giving and activism by understanding what certain channels, donors, and types of gifts are “doing for you” on the activism side, and vice versa, what certain types of actions and activists are “doing for you” on the fundraising side. By understanding both parts of this equation, you can leverage this information to implement fundraising strategies that efficiently feed audience mobilization and audience mobilization strategies that effectively feed your fundraising in a powerful positive feedback loop.

Adam Rosenscruggs is the founder and principal of Gambit Analytics, a boutique analytics firm dedicated to helping progressive nonprofits optimize their fundraising. With more than 15 years of experience helping nonprofits make better decisions with data, Gambit helps nonprofits leverage their data to make faster, better fundraising and investment decisions. Visit their website to learn more.

Erica Waasdorp, A Direct Solution

As a sustainer and monthly giving growth and retention consultant, monthly giving is a tremendous way for nonprofits to generate sustainable revenue. But it’s not just helpful and important for nonprofits: it’s also a sustainable, convenient, and donor-centric way for your supporters to give.

Especially in a moment like now, when expenses are rising for so many, monthly gifts are wonderful ways donors can help. Even if their budget shrinks, donors still want to support your mission, and since most monthly gifts are smaller than one-time lump-sum gifts, that kind of support is sustainable and financially accessible for more of your donors. Offering this option for giving can help you retain donor support longer, which helps your fundraising bottom line.

Monthly giving isn’t just sustainable for donors, it’s also convenient—and that convenience helps make it a donor-centric experience. Especially when it comes to initiating sustaining gifts online, organizations can make sustaining gifts easy and secure to set up, and ensure that the donor is always in control of their giving.

Ultimately, sustainer giving benefits both the nonprofit and the donor, and it helps sustain both. You won’t regret offering them the option to give monthly.

Erica Waasdorp is the founder and president of A Direct Solution, a boutique nonprofit fundraising and executive support firm based in Massachusetts. She leverages her multi-lingual expertise and more than forty years of experience on both the client and agency side to help nonprofits improve their fundraising outcomes. Learn more from her website!

Katie Damico, TrueSense

The most direct route to sustainable, predictable revenue is automatic recurring giving. That generous monthly donor who has set up an ongoing payment through credit card, EFT or ACH is the gold standard of fundraising. However, it’s important to recognize that recurring giving at any frequency builds your base of reliable revenue and presents opportunities for more donors to give in a way that suits them best.

Many donors won’t commit to 12 gifts a year. However, if you can secure their commitment to continue giving at some other frequency, you’ve still won their retention! The efforts you make now to establish annual, bi-annual, and quarterly giving options—as well as monthly—will grow your base of recurring donors and give you valuable insights into your donors’ preferences.

This base of devoted donors can funnel into another valuable giving group: planned giving candidates. About 5 percent of donors make planned gifts, but 30 percent would consider it if asked. Sustaining gift history is one way to monitor a donor’s long-term interest in supporting your cause and build a pool of possible planned giving candidates. A targeted, data-driven, and donor-centric campaign can yield a wealth of leads and opportunities. Consider ways to target these supporters with planned giving education and story content outlining how other generous donors decided to make their planned gifts, and cultivate these long-term supporters to become the reliable pillars of your fundraising program.

Katie Damico is the Vice President of Digital Operations at TrueSense, an agency dedicated to helping nonprofits grow their relationships with their donors from transactional to transformational. Whether your organization is looking to win, keep, lift, or grow donors, TrueSense can help—learn more from their website.

Chris Strub, The Giving Day Guy

Our collective cultural dependency on social media offers nonprofits an unprecedented opportunity to stay top-of-mind with supporters on a daily basis, at minimal cost. Rather than simply posting randomly and instinctively, nonprofits can leverage strategically planned content marketing to stay engaged with their audiences. By using consistent brand colors, fonts and thematics in a planned content strategy, the nonprofit’s voice and message will become part of the audience’s day-to-day routine.

To supplement a consistent curated content strategy, nonprofits can use a platform like Instagram Stories to provide more human-first, ephemeral content—in my latest book, Fifteen Seconds of Fame, I write about how nonprofits like Be The Match are using the Stories platform to do just that. By staying top-of-mind on a regular basis, nonprofits can build up trust and establish rapport throughout the year in a way that humanizes the brand, and breaks the monotonous reliance of continuously making cold financial asks.

Chris Strub, the “Giving Day Guy,” is an instructor, speaker, producer, and storyteller focused on helping nonprofits use social media to make meaningful change. Since 2017, he has partnered with many community foundations and other organizations to help them maximize the impact of their giving days through social media—and, specifically, through live video. Learn more from his website.