Recurring Revenue Found In Sustainer Donors

Monthly giving programs have been on the rise, thanks in part to consumers getting used to automatic monthly payments, for things ranging from electric bills to streaming video services.

David Ballinger, online fundraising and advocacy manager for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), shared his organization’s experiences with monthly giving during “Sustainers: Everyone Wants Them But How Do You Get Them?” (#19ntcSustainers), a session at this year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference (#19NTC) in Portland, Ore.

The Washington, D.C.-based PCRM launched its program in 2007 through mail and telemarketing, with 1,466 sustainers. Today, its Remembering Rodney Society has 7,000 monthly donors who are responsible for 22 percent of annual revenue. More than 1 in 10 donors give monthly and the organization enjoys a nearly 75-percent retention rate.

    The program use about three to four annual sustainer invite email campaigns timed with telemarketing and mail efforts. Ballinger outlined several different variations of sustainer invite campaigns that were tested by PCRM:

  • Try a match. In one mailing, PCRM announced that all new monthly gifts would be matched, with a goal of reaching 200. The results saw a 0.34 percent conversion on appeals, and 0.03 conversion percent on prospects.
  • Highlight the benefits of joining the monthly giving program, such as, special invitations to conference calls with researchers to keep up with specific campaigns, and updates on behind-the-scenes work made possible by their donations.
  • A dual ask in renewal emails — to renew both their membership and their monthly gifts — resulted in reaching its sustainer goal of 87 new donors to the program.

Bollinger also suggested contacting sustainers with three to four fundraising messages at year-end. In those messages, PCRM used a victory announcement, proclaiming a positive end to a recent campaign against live animal use by a local hospital. Another tested the use of upgrades, asking for a $3 increase in monthly gifts, (“just 10 cents a day”).