Elyse Haines  ●  6/18/2018

A Long-Term Look at Sustainer Donors

Sustainer Donor

Throughout this blog series, the experts at TrueSense Marketing have covered a wide variety of topics on sustainer donor fundraising strategies and best practices.

Here are 9 highlights from the series you need to put into practice in your sustainer donor marketing:

  1. Sustainer donors don’t have to give monthly or by credit card. A sustainer donor is anyone who has committed to support your organization at any interval. Some commit to quarterly, bi-annual, or even annual gifts. A donor who writes a check each month is a wonderful donor. “Monthly” and “automated” are criteria that have unnecessarily restricted the sustainer donor group. The key issue is “commitment,” not frequency.
  2. Telephone is a great channel to convert your organization’s warm prospects into sustainer donors. Warm prospects are those already familiar with your organization, such as your event donors, pet adopters, or grateful patients.
  3. Donors are more likely to make a sustainer commitment when they are emotionally impacted. You must demonstrate real need and indicate how the donor can solve a problem they care about in an ongoing manner.
  4. When a sustainer donor stops giving, knowing why is invaluable. A two-way conversation will get to the root cause of why a donor is dropping out and gives you the option to resolve the issue immediately. The most common reason a sustainer drops out is an expired credit card. When a donor has made a sustaining commitment, organizations now have license to (respectfully) speak to this commitment if her giving stops, without fear of alienation.
  5. Optimize your general online donation form to acquire sustainer donors. You can do this by defaulting to a recurring gift or changing your ask string. Digital fundraising is the secret sauce for your sustainer program.
  6. Communicate with your sustainer donor at the frequency and in the channel she prefers. Organizations must pull the sustainer out of the bulk of their annual giving/cultivation appeal cycles. Don’t forget to let her know the impact of her gift! While extra gift appeals can bring in additional revenue from sustainers, be mindful of any commitment you’ve made with regards to the type and frequency of your ongoing communication.
  7. Provide an annual opportunity for the donor to upgrade her commitment. These donors are among your best because they are emotionally and financially invested accomplishing your mission. So don’t be afraid to ask for an increase in gift amount and/or frequency.
  8. Recognize your sustainer’s annual impact. If you have a sustainer that is giving $100 or more on a monthly basis, she undoubtedly qualifies as a Mid-Level donor. So treat her with additional respect and attention and build your relationship with her by engaging in high-touch stewardship such as thank-you calls (no ask!) and personalized notes of appreciation.
  9. Maximize cross-market additional involvement opportunities. Again, because sustainers are among your best donors, invite them to events, give them opportunities to volunteer, and certainly include them in your Planned Gift communications. Loyalty is the number one factor when evaluating those most likely to make a planned gift, even more than gift amount. And sustainer donors are your most loyal!


Applying these tips will help you create a robust sustainer program. We want to hear about your sustainer donor successes and answer any additional questions you may have about sustainer donors. Let us know in the comment section below!



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