Website traffic is down and website conversion rates are stagnant – yet online fundraising continues double-digit growth. So Chas Offut told us back in April when he and Dennis McCarthy presented a sneak peek of the Blackbaud 2013 Online Marketing Benchmark Study for Nonprofits at NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference.

What’s responsible for this growth in the face of other declining metrics? Sustainers and repeat gifts.

That’s right! For years now nonprofit experts, including npENGAGE, have been trumpeting the value of having a sustainer program. David Glass from World Wildlife Fund spoke at the Convio Summit in 2011 to challenge nonprofits to raise the profile of sustaining gifts and educate donors in the United States about the value of supporting an organization with a monthly gift.

And it’s paying off. The double-digit growth in online fundraising would have been less without the sustainer bump. Total fundraising grew around 11.6%, while repeat gifts made up 20%, and sustaining gifts accounted for a whopping 27% of growth. I’ll reprise one of the graphs Chas used in his post to make this easier to see.

sustainers grew by 27 percent

The Sustainer Bump

This means that nonprofits added sustainers to their house files, and retained the sustainers they already had.

And speaking of retention, The Agitator’s raison d’etre is to bang the drum about it being cheaper and easier to retain donors than to acquire them. And it’s way, way easier to retain a sustainer than to retain a single-gift-giver. Here’s a question I’d like to see some research on – is it easier to convert a single-gift-giver to a sustainer, or to convert a non-donor to a sustainer? Should we be asking for a sustaining gift as the default?

For a savvy discussion about why other metrics are down, check out this npENGAGE post by Mike Snusz. He examines what might be behind the decline in website traffic rates, and gives you actionable steps to analyze your own results to try to boost your performance.

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