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5 reasons why sustainers are more important now than ever

March 24, 2022
A nonprofit professional sits at a desk and smiles at her colleague as they discuss the importance of sustainers to their organization.

If you’re like many nonprofit organizations, sustainers are one of your core revenue streams, and their reliability can be especially meaningful during challenging financial times. While your average sustainer may give less than a major donor at first, their contributions add up to provide support you can count on now and—with the right stewardship efforts—into the future.

Here are five reasons that sustainers are more important than ever, plus easy next steps that you can take to build a strong sustainer program.

1. Sustainers are a reliable stream of income.

Especially during tumultuous times and periods of economic uncertainty, sustainers help make planning and budgeting easier by providing a reliable stream of monthly income

Financial turbulence may cause a dip in your new donors, but sustainers have already made an investment in your nonprofit and factored giving into their monthly budget. This means building and maintaining a sustainer program is one of the best ways that your nonprofit can prepare for challenges and know that you’ll have income every month.

Next steps: Prime your donation pages to maximize sustainer conversions! A strong donation page can go a long way toward promoting your sustainer program to new donors. Try adding suggested one-time and monthly giving amounts and a “peer nudge” (often styled in a handwriting font) to demonstrate how regular monthly giving is a low-cost way to make a big difference. 

2. Sustainers turn moments of grassroots energy into long-term support.

When your organization or issue area is in the spotlight, you might see a burst of support with new people eager to get involved. Make sure your organization is prepared to harness this enthusiasm and turn it into long-term support that helps you do even more to address your cause and create the change you’re seeking. 

For example, your nonprofit should create a new donor welcome series to engage supporters who are unfamiliar with your cause. These should include educational materials such as links to blog posts, reports, and videos, as well as calls to action for other engagement opportunities like your volunteer program or an upcoming event. 

By pushing for sustaining donors, you’ll keep benefiting from increased awareness long after the news cycle has moved on.

Next steps: Save your team time by providing donors with self-service tools. During an influx of support, your team is going to be especially busy. With a self-service portal, supporters can update their contact information and preferences, saving your team time that can be spent on building relationships rather than rote administrative work.

3. Being a sustainer is an economical way to make a big difference.

Even during economic uncertainty, supporters maintain their devotion to the causes they believe in. However, many donors may look for other, more economical ways they can support the causes they care about rather than making a large one-time donation. 

For instance, it might be more feasible for some donors, especially members of the millennial and Gen Z generations, to give a smaller donation each month rather than a large sum at the end of the year. Plus, you can use your regular communication with sustainers to highlight other ways they can get involved, such as volunteering or helping promote your nonprofit on social media. 

Next steps: On your donation page, tell one-time donors about the impact that monthly gifts have on your work and ask them to consider contributing a smaller, monthly gift instead. Your technology can even help you do this with a tool like a sustainer upsell lightbox!

4. Sustainers have a higher lifetime donor value than one-time givers.

One-time donors can contribute a lot to your nonprofit, but on average sustainers have a higher lifetime donor value. This means that they can help you hit your current fundraising goals, and that they’ll continue to give more to your organization over time.  

This is because sustainers have made an investment in your nonprofit and know more about your purpose and impact. The stronger the relationship is, the more likely they will be to respond positively to a request for increased support

Next steps: Good donor cultivation is key to ensuring high lifetime donor value. Use automation to help streamline thank-you messages and program updates. This will make them feel appreciated and committed to your nonprofit, increasing the likelihood of long-term support.

5. They’re your biggest promoters.

Because sustainers deeply care about your purpose, they’re your organization’s biggest promoters. In addition to regularly giving gifts, sustainers often spread awareness of your nonprofit to friends, family, and their social media networks, letting their connections know they support your cause. 

For your nonprofit, this means finding new donors and increasing your fundraising potential. For your sustainers, it’s rewarding enough to give monthly contributions, but being able to share the cause that matters to them is also a reward.

Next steps: Allow your sustainers and supporters to easily share links across different social media platforms. This includes building in a quick, convenient button to share right after donating or in a thank-you email after an automatic gift has been processed.

Sustaining donors: The bottom line

Sustainers are reliable, valuable donors who provide monthly revenue you can count on, even during challenging times. Retain the sustainers you have and convert more one-time donors to sustainers by building relationships and making giving as easy as possible. 

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