7 Ways to Rev Up Your Monthly Sustainer Giving Now, Part 2

In Featured, Marketing & Ministry by Scott VanderLey

Welcome to the second installment of our two-part blog series on sustainer giving.

In Part 1, we talked about how we got to where we are today. If you’d like to go back and read the first posting, you can find Part 1 here. But bottom line, a decade of declining results among single-gift donors has made sustainers more crucial than ever to nonprofit income and file growth.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “I already knew this. Old news. We’re on top of it.”

But I challenge you to be completely honest with yourself. Go look at your website, for example. If monthly giving is not the MOST prominent call to action on your homepage, then you have not fully digested this message.

I don’t blame you. You’re in good company. In writing this post, I reviewed the websites of the top 10 charities on Forbes 2017 list of The 100 Largest U.S. Charities. Of that august group, only two — Feeding America and Food for the Poor — are currently leading with monthly offers.

Six others have relegated sustainer to a “make this monthly” checkbox on their donation form, and, shockingly, two make no evident mention of monthly giving on the homepage or main donation form.

We all have plenty of room for improvement. And to help you get started, here are 7 ways to immediately rev up your sustainer giving:

1) Respond to your donors’ felt needs

Why would a donor give you a monthly gift? It might be for a certain kind of offer. But it could also be for benefits, improved experience or even convenience.

Would a donor be interested in giving monthly if it meant they’d stop receiving mail? Would a donor give monthly if it meant they’d receive monthly, personalized updates about the impact of their support via Facebook? Think about all of the potential motivations that might attract contemporary consumers to give monthly. Then think about how they relate to your organization.

2) Don’t bury the lede

If monthly giving is THE key to your future growth, as these data suggest, then it shouldn’t be relegated to a checkbox on a donation form. Consider that the bare minimum, and then think about how to effectively reengineer your user experience to feature monthly giving as a preferred option.

3) Test your way to success

As you’re coming up with the components of that sustainer-first experience, don’t just roll them out. Use A/B or multivariate testing to determine the combination of elements that maximizes sustainer conversion and minimizes total conversion rate drop-off.

4) Videos, lightboxes and branching paths, oh my!

I’ve found a few conversion tactics to be especially successful in driving sustainer growth. I’m happy to share these and more. Just give me a call at 360-394-4300 or email me at svanderley@Masterworks.com

5) Make it easy

Online “form friction” — any sign-up or donation form design or copy that slows down or halts sustainer conversion — can be a game-ender. Be ruthless in your efforts to simplify and improve your sustainer sign-up form through A/B testing.

6) Worry about ongoing treatment, but not too much

Traditional sponsorship agencies housed massive internal bureaucracies to manage mail-based sponsor billing, communication and cancellation processes, and to enable the flow of information between donor and field. This should now be a thing of the past.

In fact, I would say that you shouldn’t even offer to take cash/check payments for your monthly program, and you should build a digital-only retention model to support it.  To offer the unique, affirming treatment that will keep monthly donors on board, you need only customize your email and social communications by audience.

7) Catch up with user communication preferences

I find it remarkable that, as our donors have moved to social media almost wholesale for family correspondence, we continue to mail and email them letters from the field. Our donors are talking to their kids, friends, and parents on Facebook. Why are we snail-mailing our letters from the field?

I think that moving forward, one-to-one and field correspondence should be founded in social media, with other media serving as a complement where it makes sense.

In the meantime, if you’d like to discuss this further, feel free to comment below. Or better yet, call me at 360-394-4300 or email me at svanderley@Masterworks.com