Fight for Your Right to Keep Your Monthly Donors (…and Party) | npENGAGE

Fight for Your Right to Keep Your Monthly Donors (…and Party)

By on Feb 12, 2014


The investment in a good defense wins championships, or at least it did for the Seattle Seahawks, and I’d argue a similar level investment should be made to retain your monthly donors.

Okay, maybe without the flair of a Richard Sherman, but certainly an equal amount of tenacity.

Your organization has worked hard to create a branded sustainer experience (more about the Sustainer Bump) to convert and upsell donors, why do you let them leave so easily? Acquisition is sexy, I get it, and your executive team loves to see the growth but that may be shortsighted.

If this inaccurately describes your program, please let me know. I want to hear more about your monthly donor retention strategies, but my overall sense is that retention has taken a back seat to acquisition.

How did this happen? This is tough to answer, but one potential culprit may be at the hands of the fundraising adage: set it and forget it.

The strategic consideration afforded to setting-and-forgetting is zero to none; hoping that your donors forget about their gift to your organization is not a strategy. Actually, it’s more like livin’ on a prayer. (And for those keeping score, that’s two 80’s band references in one blog post:)

We sometimes tell ourselves crazy things to challenge what we already know are true, but why any organization would help pull the wool over the eyes of their donors is foreign to me.

In retaining your monthly donors, here’s the first step: denounce set-and-forget mindset.

Good, now that is complete, you can develop a strategy that actively engages your monthly donors and reminds them why their gift is critical to the population your organization serves. And if you don’t, how will you ever upgrade their monthly gift amount? Learn more about International Justice Mission’s annual upgrade strategy.

In building your retention strategy, you must first understand why your donors are leaving you. It’s not you, it’s me just won’t suffice. You have to know if expired credit cards are the cause or if the donor cancelled due to financial constraints. Either way, both happen and are part of any program but there are steps to take to reduce the number of failed credit card payments.

Below are three steps to establishing a solid defense when a failed credit card payment occurs. This is just one component of your monthly donor retention strategy using the Luminate Online platform, but an important one nonetheless.

Step 1: Turn on the gift service center. The Service Center allows your donors to manage their gift to your organization, which is a real benefit to them and reduced staff resource time for you. At the end of the day, don’t we all want to be in control of our money?


Step 2: Review your autoresponders. Autoresponders are awesome, but can sometimes fall off the radar. Asses the five sustaining autoresponders to ensure the messaging is consistent, engaging, and allows donors to choose what’s best for them (see above).

Sustainer Autoresponders

Step 3: Enable triggered messaging (i.e. recurring delivery). Once your Service Center is enabled and sustaining autoresponders are updated to reflect your program’s goals, create two triggered messages – one before the credit expiration date and one after to remind the donor of the impact of their gift and importance to update their credit card.

Sustainer Triggered Messaging

Lastly, when all else fails, the final tool in your bag may simply be to pick up the phone and call the donor. As my mother would say, never underestimate the power of a phone call.

A shameless plug:

If you like this post (and even if you didn’t), and want to hear more detail around how to strengthen your monthly recurring program, please join me next Wednesday at 2pm ET.

Sustainer Webinar


Chas  Offutt is a senior fundraising and marketing professional with more than 10 years experience in the nonprofit sector. He joined Convio, now Blackbaud, in 2008 and has worked with more than 75 clients across all verticals to develop and implement acquisition campaigns, fundraising strategies, and integrated marketing programs. Prior to his current position, Chas was the Director of Internet Strategy at American Rivers where he was responsible for the management and execution of all online programs.

Chas has spoken at the Association for Fundraising Professionals (Greater Atlanta Chapter), Convio Customer Summit, NTEN, Blackbaud Conference, Forum One Communication’s Web Executive Seminar, and other public speaking engagements on a variety of topics including mobile fundraising, generational giving, and online marketing strategies.

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