Hello, I Must Be Going

What should a nonprofit do when sustainers lapse? Get them back, of course.

Kristina Williams, senior manager, membership, for Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign (HRC), shared some perspectives during a session titled “Sustainers: Everyone Wants Them But How Do You Get Them?” (#19ntcSustainers) at the recent 2019 Nonprofit Technology Conference (#19NTC) in Portland, Ore.

Washington, D.C.-based HRC has two types of recurring gifts: “Partners” is for monthly donors who give less than $100 per month, and “auto-renewal” is for donors who opt into having donations charged automatically at the same time every year. 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)

HRC can recapture half of all credit cards in the first month using a credit card updater. Other avenues to get them back could be an email decline series, text messaging, and promoting electronic funds transfer (EFT), said Williams. And if you can’t get them back right away, set up an automated email to reactivate them after six months, she said, put them back into your regular renewal efforts or telemarketing reactivation.

Auto-renewal was launched in 2016, first tested in mail and online. In the first year, HRC saw 7,000 donors choose this option, with 78 percent acquired via the web, generating an average gift of $48.

Some 60 to 70 percent of auto-renewal gifts are successful at first run. A recapture email is sent one month after billing information is declined, she said. Today, 10 to 20 percent of campaign donations choose auto-renewal option, according to Williams, and more than 15,000 current donors have this pledge with a 70 percent retention rate. About 7 percent of all monthly donors have this one-time gift, in addition to the monthly pledge.

    For sustainer recruitment and upgrade, Williams suggested:

  • Making it multi-channel;
  • Mixing up your email formats;
  • Making joining feel exclusive;
  • Highlighting what the donor gets out of it; and,
  • Segmenting if possible.