5 Ways To Sustaining Your Sustainers

April 9, 2018       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

Imagine that you’ve been able to build your monthly sustainer program to a pool of thousands of supporters. It’s a problem that many fundraisers wouldn’t mind. But, fear can creep into that — with much success — there is much to lose.

Michelle Vargas, direct response director for Wounded Warrior Project, Philip Schmitz, CEO of CharityEngine, and Leigh Kessler, vice president, marketing for CharityEngine addressed these concerns during their session “Help! I Have Thousands of Monthly Donors! Now What?” at the DMA Nonprofit Federation’s 2018 Washington Nonprofit Conference. The presenters offered five areas of focus for maintaining sustainer program success during the session. They were:

  • Dedicated donor care. Have all of your ducks lined up so that your organization can hit the ground running as new donors come aboard. This might include having answers prepared for likely common questions, keeping staff and vendors up to date when ads go live so that they can be ready, having a system in place to thank and clarify information for donors, and maintaining systems to reverse or edit gift amounts or notify donors of large gifts that might have been made in error;
  • Stewardship. Make your donors feel like they’re part of something big within your sustainer program. Consider branding the program. Track how sustainers might be participating elsewhere within your organization such as peer-to-peer events and advocacy initiatives so that you can thank them;
  • Data governance and integration. Ensure that your data is not siloed so that organization technology is capable of “talking” to one another for real-time donor management capabilities;
  • Managing trends and key-performance indicators. How valuable is a declined credit card to your sustainer program? Not very. Credit card updates, declines, and deactivations are major performance indicators for sustainer programs and need to be managed. Somewhere between 15 and 30 percent of credit cards expire each year. That means nearly a third of sustainers can go out the door without some level of intervention just by not updating payment information; and,
  • Billing management. Research credit card companies’ Credit Card Updating Services to avoid losing donors to expired credit card numbers. Also look into automated clearinghouses — sustainer payments taken out of checking accounts — as fees tend to be lower than credit card transaction fees and bank accounts expire less frequently than credit card accounts.
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