Best Sustainer Retention Rates Are Online

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has been in the monthly giving business a long time. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit started its sustainer program, Partners, during the 1990s with 2,000 members. Today, it has more than 83,000 sustainers, responsible for more than $1.1 million in revenue per month.

Kristina Williams, senior manager, membership, for HRC, joined a panel session during the Nonprofit Technology Conference (#19NTC) in Portland, Ore., called “Sustainers: Everyone Wants Them But How Do You Get Them?” (#19ntcSustainers) to share best practices and experience around the HRC monthly giving program.

Almost one-quarter of HRC’s overall revenue each month is via monthly gifts and 37 percent of its donors give monthly. The best retention rates are found via online (75 percent) and direct mail (79 percent)

Among HRC’s monthly donors, Baby Boomers are the most likely group to make recurring donations, Williams said. Street canvassing brings in the highest number of new Partners but it requires a large infrastructure and support. Since 2016, HRC has experienced 47 percent growth, with more than 31,000 last year. While canvassing boasts the highest revenue of any channel — $2 million in 2018 — it also has the lowest average gift and retention of any channel.

HRC’s direct mail welcome kit uses a monthly-first mantra from the beginning in new one-time donor welcome packets. Telemarketing focuses new donor conversion every other month and is seeing a 3-percent sustainer rate.

Make it easy and obvious to make a monthly gift on your organization’s website, Williams said. The toggle form is key — try pre-selecting a tab for monthly donations. Invitation campaigns should vary based on prior giving. Switch it up between text and graphic-heavy mailings. Threats and urgency are motivators, so use a goal and a deadline, and include broad themes.