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Sustainers, from a different angle.

At the end of September, DMAW organized its first Sustainer Week. It consisted of a session every day, totally focused on sustainers (of course), from a different angle.

As someone who is totally committed to recurring giving, I’m really excited about the DMAW and the education committees with such a sustainer-focused approach.

If you too are a sustainer aficionado you may have attended sessions in the past during the Bridge conference, sustainer pre-Bridge workshops, then Sustainer Day, Sustainer World and now Sustainer Week.

In an earlier blog I described the session held on the first day of Sustainer week, all about having a Sustainer forward approach.

Now I’d like to give you just a few highlights from some of the other sessions.

In one session, several nonprofits shared how they have really grown their number of sustainers using digital approaches. One of the presenters was the USO who shared how they grew their number of sustainers to a tremendous level.

The approach used is so wonderfully simple, but oh so wonderfully successful. It’s all about engaging donors with a few questions. Creating the little yeses if you will.

Then just before the end of the survey, there’s a request to consider a monthly gift. Here is just one of the questions and the monthly giving ask.

Another session was focused on retention, including trends in recurring giving and payment processes. Save the Children shared some of the neat things they’ve implemented to improve retention. And if you’ve not yet heard of NACHA, I highly recommend you check out these free resources on

Debbie Barr from NACHA presented recent statistics on retention rates for Electronic Bank Transfer (EBT). That’s the way most donors best understand what you may also know as ACH/EFT/Direct debit/automatic bank withdrawal/e-check.

If you can offer electronic bank transfer, that’s tremendous as it will really help you improve your sustainer retention rates. No more ‘pesky’ lapsing credit card expiration dates. No more trouble with cards that decline.

Right now, only 25% of donors are using ACH for their recurring gifts, so there’s plenty of room to grow. ACH recurring donors will also give more frequently, and they give even more money than other payment types.

Yet another session focused on the way the Humane Society of the United States implemented Face to Face (canvassing) for sustainer giving.

Just remember, donors want to help!! We as fundraisers must let donors know that they can do exactly that, even with a (smaller) recurring amount. Canvassing can be a really great way to grow your number of sustainers and it can be done safe and secure, even during a pandemic.

Finally, several nonprofits shared some of their test ideas. I’m not going to give away all the ideas, they were all great.

For some nonprofits, ‘gamers can present a big opportunity. Users are motivated to make digital monthly donations to receive advantages in app games and programs (so-called mobile game currency).

Other nonprofits may wish to start testing quarterly and annual giving. I’ve found that this works especially well for Face to Face or telephone approaches where you can ‘negotiate’. If you can get $240 a year, that’s a great way to break even. For digital and mail approaches, you may wish to do some testing with frequencies first, monthly gifts there are often still more lucrative. Just think, $10 a month is still more than $35 a year.

I love the wonderful sharing all these organizations did. New ideas are great. It’s how we learn. What works for one, may not all work for every organization. Some nonprofits may not have the budget, but you may be surprised as to what and how you can implement new ideas in your organization.

I’m so grateful for this year’s DMAW Sustainer Week team, consisting of Joanne Wilson, the Humane Society of the U.S. and Karin Kirchoff of K2D Strategies, supported by the wonderful DMAW team. Keep ‘m coming!

Erica Waasdorp is President of A Direct Solution, located on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, working with non-profit clients nationally and internationally on appeals and monthly giving.

Erica Waasdorp published Monthly Giving. The Sleeping Giant and her second book Monthly Giving Made Easy came out in early June 2021.

She created the Monthly Donor Road Map and several e-books to include the Top 7 Questions about Monthly Giving, the Monthly Donor Retention Playbook, and more.

Erica is a Master Trainer for the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the former International Fundraising Congress US Ambassador. She regularly presents in person and virtually on appeals, direct mail, and monthly giving.