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Why Recurring Giving Is So Important

January 19th, 2011

As many of us are reviewing and planning budgets and campaigns for 2011, ask yourself: Wouldn’t it be nice to know that X% of your income is already assured?  Then make certain you add a Sustainer Program to your 2011 agenda!

Certainly, your selling point to your most loyal donors doesn’t begin with, “Help us to depend on a percentage of our budget!”  Instead, study your analytics, find those people who are already regular supporters of your program, and tell them why and how it is important – and (make it) easy! – to provide ongoing contributions to your essential programs.

Although the average single gift of the non-recurring donor is higher, it is worth the investment in a Sustainer Program.  Not only is less time is spent regaining lapsed donors, research shows that the overall value of the recurring donor is greater than the one-time donor.

Bringing these repeat donors on board typically involves further education about the organization, its mission and accomplishments, and often boosts their giving during the transition (e.g., asking the $100 donor if s/he’d care to give $10, $15 or even $20 per month).

There is a danger, however, that some organizations face, once these donors are on board.  Take care to have policies in place so that they are not entered and forgotten, or simply placed on “auto pilot.”

For example, create a Sustainer Acknowledgment Policy that is known throughout the department.  (No one wants to receive the same thank you note every month.  It says, “We don’t even know your name, and nobody really reads this while signing it.”)

Some organizations will send an initial thank you note for the pledge of a monthly commitment, followed by a thank you letter and receipt for tax purposes at year’s end, for example.  When each year’s anniversary of the pledge approaches, a development staff member may call to express gratitude at the donor’s ongoing commitment to the cause, tell of some latest news or progress, and ask for an upgrade or continuing level of support.

Those nonprofits that take care not to leave these sustainers off to the side will see the best retention rates from them.

Because credit card donors are those who are most likely to participate in recurring giving, it is essential that your online giving form(s) have this as an easily visible option on your main giving page.  While you may want to offer several options (e.g., monthly, quarterly, annually), the majority of recurring giving donors prefer the monthly option.

It’s unusual for a donor to contribute on a daily basis, but this is what Carlo Garcia has done, and successfully combined recurring giving with social media, to encourage others to join his microphilanthropy cause.  This technique has flourished among other nonprofits, depending on their messaging, diligence and expertise at social media.  Maintaining contact and communication with donors is essential, regardless, so that they don’t feel viewed as cash machines.

How will you make your donors feel a part of your nonprofit family enough that they will want to sign on to give regularly this year?  And what will you do so that they will want to stay on board for years to come?

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Keep the base of the pyramid strong

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