Even if someone had stolen my calendar, I’d know it was the end of the year just by looking at my email inbox. Every advocacy organization, alumni club, and health organization I’ve ever supported has sent me at least one message saying thank you, and another one reminding me that it’s the END OF THE YEAR and that TIME is RUNNING OUT to make my tax-deductible donation.

Wearing My Nonprofit Professional Hat

But what will happen in January? Some of the organizations will keep engaging with me in a meaningful way, and some won’t. As an online fundraising professional, if I make a gift in December then I hope I see a thank you, and an invitation to become a sustainer in January.

Sustaining donations are the best way to maximize lifetime value of a donor, and to increase donor loyalty. If you read The Agitator like I do, then you have probably absorbed that donor retention is a much better value proposition than donor acquisition. The best way to retain a donor from a strictly financial perspective is to ask them to give monthly, and to make it automatic.

Wearing my Donor Hat

As a donor, what I want to see is exciting news about the mission of the nonprofit, the great programs that are planned for the upcoming year, the problems this work will solve, and how I can help support all of it. And I want the organization to explain how becoming a sustainer is the most valuable kind of support I can offer.

Not the “inside baseball” messages about loyalty and lifetime value – rather, how making a monthly recurring donation by credit card or bank account (ACH), I’m enabling these tangible results. Whatever they are. And after I finally make that leap, I want the organization to keep me posted and talk to me differently. I don’t want my name in lights like the millennial generation does (heh), but being GenX, I want to know that the organization knows who I am and values my contribution.

With my charitable giving, it’s all about the mission. One exception is when I donate to a friend who is fundraising for a cause that I might not be connected to – then it’s all about my friend. But for my direct contributions – especially a sustaining contribution – it’s because of the mission. Stewardship and planning for upgrades then becomes about acknowledgment, mission, and my connection.

Wear Your Testing Hat

To find the right mix of messaging, timing and tone, you’ll want to test different messages. Throw a bunch of spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks. Remember to be authentic, and be real. Happy converting!

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