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Are You Leaving Money On The Table For Your Sustainer Program?

Telemarketing – It is the channel that sometimes just the thought of proposing can leave you wondering how many objections you’ll have to overcome.


The September 17th Lunch and Learn “Leverage Telemarketing to Fuel Sustainer Growth and Revenue” presentation given by Molly Barker, Director of Marketing for Hillary for America and Meg Kross Lee, Vice President Client Services for Chapman Cubine Adams + Hussey provided listeners with not only the case for implementing a telemarketing sustainer program but also included many tips for a successful campaign.


Putting the Naysayers to Ease

If getting everyone on board is your biggest challenge, then don’t delay building your case for implementation.

Not only is telemarketing a great channel to build strong donor relationships, but you gain immediate feedback and can easily make strategy adjustments.  For cost concerns, encourage naysayers to look at the long-term value. If numbers aren’t enough to ease concerns, don’t forget that you have complete control to change scripts or stop calling specific segments due to performance.

The Path to Success

Before you get too excited now that you have the naysayers on board, establish benchmarks early (i.e. months to recoup, number of new sustainers, or monthly revenue).

If you are using multiple channels to gain sustainers, make sure the offers and branding are consistent. And always, apply testing and new findings across programs.  When determining your audience for your TM campaign, don’t limit your audience to just one channel. For results showed during the presentation, multi-channel donors had the lowest time to recoup initial investment of three months compared to DM only, TM only, and online only donors that ranged from four to nine months.

Make sure you perfect the script to show the value of becoming a sustainer and train callers. The better they understand you, the more they can connect your mission and have a genuine conversation.

For donors who are on the fence, follow-up with a chaser email within a day or two. The second touch point maybe just what the donor needs to get to yes.

Developing a plan for the long-term

After the initial invite, have a cultivation and upgrade plan in place for your new sustainers. And even if you have an established program, it can benefit from an overhaul by focusing on urgent/updated scripts, training and testing new firms, or expanding the audience.

Overall, regardless of the stage of your program, TM can be an essential channel.

If you’re not using it and are serious about growing your sustainer program, then don’t delay starting conversations today.


Alicia Toles is a Sr. Account Executive, providing expertise on direct mail strategies for CDR Fundraising Group, an integrated marketing agency serving nonprofits in a variety of areas, including online fundraising, direct mail, advocacy, list brokerage and management and mission-specific marketing. She has 11 years of direct marketing experience, and she is passionate about helping nonprofits develop strategies which address the full cycle of a donor from acquisition to higher levels of giving.  She can be reached at