Why the Time is Right for Healthcare Organizations to Cash in on Sustainer Giving | npENGAGE

Why the Time is Right for Healthcare Organizations to Cash in on Sustainer Giving

By on Oct 11, 2019


sustainer giving, fundraising trends, healthcare

There’s a lot of change happening in the healthcare industry – from mergers and acquisitions to changes in funding. That makes it a perfect opportunity for healthcare fundraising to change, too.

Healthcare organizations have an incredible opportunity with sustainers – donors who choose to give using an automated recurring payment through their bank account or credit card (most of the time monthly).

According to the 2018 Blackbaud Luminate Online Benchmark Report, sustainer revenue made up just 4.49% of total online revenue in hospitals and hospital foundations, compared with 10.87% of all included organizations.

Why have healthcare organizations not embraced sustainer giving?

Fundraisers in healthcare have long been dependent on large individual gifts. They have been slow to adopt digital fundraising practices and reluctant to emphasize online giving.

But, with the recent shifts in consumers, organizations and the market, the time is right to cash in on sustainer giving.

Changes in consumer preferences

People are now very comfortable using their bank account or credit card online and, thanks to Netflix, they also expect automatic withdrawal, reducing what they pay to a manageable monthly amount.

You don’t mind paying $10.99/mo. for Netflix, right? But would you pay $132 per year? Trick question. It’s the same cost, just written differently.

Sustainer donations for hospitals and hospital foundations average $36.52/mo. That is $426 per year. Which is an easier ask?

The fact that sustainer revenue in hospitals and hospital foundations grew by 40.45% in 2018 proves that consumer preferences have changed and healthcare donors are more comfortable with modern ways of giving than fundraisers think.

Changes within organizations

Healthcare organizations are realizing they can’t continue to be dependent on annual fundraising and solicitations. It is forcing them to diversify funding sources and adopt new fundraising tactics.

Traditionally, hospitals and hospital foundations have been resistant to use digital channels because they didn’t want to take away from their high-touch donor programs. But, with a change in funding sources, digital tactics can come into play.

Fundraising emails, online donation forms, and other digital channels are essential to a successful sustainer giving program. In FY 2018, 33% of all newly-acquired donors were acquired through digital properties, according to information from the Blackbaud Target Analytics donorCentrics Sustainer Summit.

Changes in healthcare landscape

As healthcare funding models shift with decreasing margins and declining clinical revenues, many health systems are now looking to their foundations to provide a steady funding stream. This change makes it the perfect time to cash in on sustainer giving.

Sustainers offer predictable cash flow, which makes it possible for organizations to project revenues and provide related realistic budget numbers. When a hospital foundation is able to do this and provide a reliable funding stream, the hospital system is more likely to give them “a seat at the table.”

In addition to being a consistent revenue source, sustainers also have higher value and are more engaged. At an average value of $426 annually, sustainers are worth almost four times the value of a traditional online donor ($135/yr.). Sustainers also have a higher lifetime value and become a pipeline for high-annual or mid-tier giving because over time they self-select as donors worthy of 1:1 engagement from a gift officer.

Changes in market

Access and advancements in technology is the driving force behind changes in the marketplace.

The digital tools needed to implement a sustainer giving program are now widely available and easy to use.

Plus, new technology and marketing automation make it simple to keep sustainer revenues flowing. As referenced in Sustainers in Focus Part 2, credit card updater services and monthly giving defaults are now best practices.

Credit card updater services work directly with the credit card companies to update expiration dates and new card information so you don’t miss a payment. You can now set your online donation forms to default to monthly giving instead of just a one-time gift.


One of the founding members of Blackbaud’s interactive services team, Bo Crader works in various capacities as a business architect, implementation advisor and strategist. Recent projects include developing a multi-site rollout approach for a large healthcare organization, advising on the launch of a rebranding effort for a national federated nonprofit, and leading enterprise-wide organizational and technical assessments. A Blackbaud veteran, Bo has held positions in communications, consulting and business solutions.  He worked previously in publishing and served in the military. Specific areas of expertise include interactive strategy, emerging technologies, solution architecture and design, and project planning. Bo has been published in a number of publications on topics related to technology and fundraising trends. Bo holds a Master’s degree from the University of Georgia.  Bo is a frequent volunteer in his local community of Clemson, South Carolina, where he recently led an effort to start a nonprofit, and now serves as the organization’s Board Chair.

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