Successful Sustainer Programs Driven by Technology

Sustainer. It’s the buzz word in nonprofit fundraising for the past few years. And there’s good reason for it — sustainer programs are one of the most valuable segments within a fundraising program because of the compound effect of the gifts. 

Twelve gifts of $12, $19 or maybe even as much as $25 within a single year typically total more than the amount most single gift donors give during that same period. And for many organizations, single-gift donor segments are either remaining flat or shrinking, so sustainer giving helps to compensate for that loss and more.

Sustainers have a higher lifetime value than a single gift donor. Sustainers have a better retention rate, and their lifetime revenue per donor is higher due to the increased frequency of their giving. Industry reports have shown that over five years, this segment of donors is consistently worth two, three and even four times as much as a single-gift donor.

And even with all of those benefits, for many organizations sustainer programs never really reach their full potential as they are often overlooked and under-managed due to lack of resources. But, this does not have to be the case!

Technology: A Sustainer Program’s Best Friend

If we live in a tech-filled world where you can book an entire vacation with a few clicks of a button, then why is it so difficult to manage what should be a low-maintenance fundraising program? From where I sit, and based on feedback from our clients, the primary problem is program visibility.

For many nonprofit organizations, it is difficult, if not nearly impossible, to have a full 360-degree view of their sustainer program. Many organizations have their online sustainers in a different database than their direct mail sustainers. And many times database companies make it either time- or cost- prohibitive to sync disparate data sources and create “customized” reports.

Not having full visibility into your program makes it difficult to not only manage the “giving” aspect, but also makes it difficult to ensure that program benefits are being fulfilled and to cultivate donor relationships.  And I’m sure if your day is similar to mine, it is filled with meetings and curve balls making it difficult to find even a few moments to tackle some daily tasks, never mind trying to cobble together a few new reports.

In true Merkle RMG fashion, we have listened to your pain points and have built Aeon, an integrated sustainer processing and management solution that is flexible and cost-effective. No longer do you need to wait for a credit card decline or a missed monthly gift — you can now be proactive in managing and cultivating your sustainer program.

Aeon is a centralized database that manages all transactions and touch points for an individual sustainer, providing program managers with visibility into sustainer donor activity and status. It has the ability to aggregate donor-level data from disparate data sources allowing for that full 360-degree view. And Aeon allows for seamless credit card and payment updates from various data sources, including automated updates and those that are called in or emailed.

Because Aeon was developed with sustainer program managers in mind, key sustainer program reporting is already built into the solution. Reports like:

  • Daily Dashboard Reports — the dashboard report will show monthly and fiscal year program metrics like new joins, retention rate, total program revenue and average gift allowing you to know exactly where your sustainer program stands (and for easy reporting to your executive team).
  • Credit Card Expiration Reports — these reports can be filtered to see upcoming credit card expirations 30, 60 or 90 days out, but can be easily customized to fit whatever time frame you need.
  • Invoice Reports — for those sustainers who have not provided a credit card and prefer to fulfill their monthly pledge by mail, a mail file can be generated to send reminder notices.
  • Lapsed Reports — these reports detail those individuals who have missed a monthly gift due to either a declined credit card or missed mail gift.
  • Fulfillment Reports — these reports help manage program benefits, whether it is a sustainer welcome kit or a webinar invite. Aeon is able to generate reports based on join date (and others!) to ensure membership benefits are being fulfilled.

These are just a few examples of the robust reporting that Aeon is capable of — not to mention the ease of use and customization. We will collaborate with you to develop a comprehensive program management and cultivation strategy to help you realize the full potential of this program.

Whether or not Aeon is the right solution for you, leveraging your technology to create a full 360-degree view of your program is an integral piece of creating and maintaining a successful sustainer program.

People Remain Your Strongest Asset

But even with technology as an integrated piece of your sustainer solution, people remain the most important resource in managing and executing a successful sustainer program. It is your people who will transform a pre-lapsed or just-lapsed report into a communication and retention strategy. It is these same people who will execute this strategy, reaching out to and engaging with donors.

And if people resources is a concern, Merkle RMG can help with that, too! We can work with you to develop a sustainer management strategy and handle the execution on our end through our Fulfillment and Contact Center services. Our Fulfillment team can send sustainer welcome kits, cultivation thank- you cards, anniversary gifts, and can fulfill any associated benefits with your sustainer program. And through the Contact Center, our team can send email reminders and follow-ups, and make personal phone calls to help ensure that donors don’t lapse and those who do are quickly recaptured.

No nonprofit organization should feel like having a successful sustainer program, or even starting a sustainer program, is out of reach. The technology is available to make the management side of the program a breeze, as are companies to help with the execution of the overall strategy. 

Merkle RMG can be a one-stop shop for all of your sustainer program needs. We have the technology, the execution resources and the strategic insights to help you reach your sustainer program goals.