Picture it: You’re through the end of the month, dotting i’s and crossing t’s to see where your nonprofit’s online fundraising has landed, when you see something different. Something amazing. Not only did you exceed your goal for the month, but you’ve doubled the amount of recurring monthly contributions – boosting that all-too-important sustaining revenue for your organization.

It’s actually not out of the realm of possibility, and incremental sustainer growth – month after month – can add up to game-changing revenue to fuel your nonprofit’s mission. We’ve helped a variety of nonprofits expand and maintain their recurring programs. Tactics and strategies diverge across programs: For one organization, a single optimization in the user flow of a lead generation journey doubled the number of monthly gifts. Optimizations over email for another organization led to a 4,850% year-over-year increase in monthly revenue.

Thinking about our experience across nonprofit partners, we’ve identified a handful of key strategies that are essential to growing your sustainer program.

Diversify your paid media strategy & acquisition sources

Acquiring new donors may be the most obvious pathway to growing your monthly donor base, but it’s not necessarily the most strategic. We often recommend retargeting ads that speak to a base that’s already in your corner: your existing online donors. That’s right, by serving an email donor a social media ad, you can remind them of their interest and affinity for your organization – coupled with an ask to become a monthly donor and content that leans into how much monthly donations impact your nonprofit. While these ads may have a smaller reach, they’ll likely have a higher return.

While using the power of social media’s data to retarget existing donors is great, organizations may be wondering how to bring new, high-qualified prospects into the fold – prospects with the highest likelihood of becoming monthly donors to your nonprofit. It’s also about using the power of data, but taking it to the next level with powerful AI technology. This is our Advantage AI digital co-op in a nutshell, and it has a machine-learning ability to uncover – from a pool of more than 60 million prospective supporters – which ones won’t just donate to your nonprofit, but have a high likelihood of becoming monthly donors. (Read more about our Advantage AI co-op and modeling services here!)

Targeted Asks, Segmentation, Upsells

At bare minimum, nonprofits should be serving targeted asks and customized experiences to donors that have given more than once. For direct fundraising emails, that can take shape in messages that are versioned heavily for your prospects, one-time donors, and donors – in which the latter group receives copy and creative that compels them to become a recurring donor. Careful segmentation is also necessary to ensure the right asks go to the right audience.

But non-direct fundraisers – like engagement or cultivation experiences – are equally important to building sustainer revenue. Testing our different user flows, including when and how to ask for a monthly gift via a fundraising upsell, can help organizations uncover how to boost monthly revenue across a diverse cadence of content. For example, one organization we work with found that directing one-time donors to a user journey after donating – one that primed them with motivating content before asking for a recurring gift – doubled the number of sustaining donors acquired.

Optimized Donation Pages

Every touchpoint of a digital experience is important when it comes to increasing your sustainer base – and donation pages are no exception. If your platform allows, nonprofits should begin testing monthly ask copy and various graphics on donation pages to learn which iteration of creative leads to the highest conversion of monthly donors. Small tweaks over a number of months can add up to a world of difference. The most ambitious and sustainer-first programs often lead with a sustainer ask on the donation form, with the recurring donation option pre-selected and highlighted.

Yearly Sustainer Drives 

Pick a time of the year – most organizations find January as an optimal moment – and dedicate an online campaign to a sustainer drive that aims to convert existing donors into monthly donors on the heels of a big end-of-year campaign. One enticing way we’ve seen organizations drum up extra recurring support? Offer a premium. Because who doesn’t love free stuff?

Are you looking to build a sustainer program for your organization? Contact us at nonprofit@annelewisllc.com!