Sustained giving. Recurring giving. Monthly giving. It doesn’t matter what you call it. What does matter, though, is making it an integral part of your fundraising mix.

In the sustained giving model, donors regularly contribute a set amount to your nonprofit. Unlike installment giving, this financial commitment is ongoing and not typically designated for a particular program or organizational goal. Instead, it is considered unrestricted revenue. Extremely popular in the United Kingdom, Canada, and other regions, sustained giving has also gained momentum in the United States—having grown from 5 percent of online fundraising revenue in 2010 to nearly 17 percent now.

As the name suggests, sustained giving is designed to “sustain” your mission over time, ensuring that your nonprofit has predictable cash flows that are less susceptible to economic fluctuations. And if that’s not enough to convince you, here are five reasons every nonprofit should start a sustained giving program or renew their investment in a flagging program:

1. It will increase your revenue.

As fundraising consultant Harvey McKinnon points out in the book Hidden Gold, sustainers outperform one-time givers when it comes to long-term value. In fact, he says, the lifetime revenue of these supporters is 600 to 800 percent higher than annual giving donors. Why? Sustainers donate more frequently—whether it’s monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly. So if you can turn your one-time donors into recurring givers, you can increase your annual revenue this year, and in the years to come.

2. It will decrease your fundraising costs.

Sustained giving lowers the overall cost of fundraising. Instead of investing significant time, money, and effort into acquiring new donors—who have retention rates of just 23 percent as reported by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project—your nonprofit should focus on building a successful sustained giving program with existing donors. According to Nonprofit Quarterly, it typically costs charitable organizations two to three times more to recruit donors than donors will initially give. However, once these donors become supporters it’s less time- and resource-intensive to convert them to sustainers.

3. It will boost donor retention rates.

Donors enrolled in a monthly giving program are retained 70 to 80 percent of the time. So, it’s easy to see why recurring giving is critical to your fundraising success. On average, these donors stay active two to three times longer than occasional givers with most remaining active for at least four years.

4. It will create a community of dedicated constituents.

Since they’re active longer than their single-gift counterparts, sustainers are more invested in your cause. But, if you don’t nurture the relationship and regularly demonstrate the impact of their giving, that could quickly change.

5. It will help you develop a pipeline of loyal supporters.

Your sustaining donors are often the best candidates for major and planned giving. They’re loyal, engaged, and have demonstrated their commitment to your nonprofit. Best of all, you’ve had the opportunity to gauge their capacity to give, which can help you formulate a winning appeal.

Now that you understand the benefits of sustained giving, how do you develop a winning program? In my next post, Seven Steps to Ensuring a Successful Sustained Giving Program, I’ll provide you with the information you need to create your strategic plan.

In the meantime, I encourage you to take advantage of these resources:

  • Webinar: Sustaining Your Mission: Tips for Growing Your Recurring Giving Program
    June 23, 2015 at 1 p.m. ET
  • White Paper: Sustaining Your Mission: How to Build and Maintain a Successful Recurring Giving Program

Sally Heaven is a senior client success lead at Blackbaud specializing in sustained giving, online fundraising, email marketing, and advocacy. In addition to presenting on sustained giving at last year’s bbcon, she has hosted numerous webinars and user group sessions on the subject. Prior to Blackbaud, she worked at Convio and GetActive®. She also spent seven years as the deputy field director of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

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