Over the past week, WBUR, one of the NPR stations in the Greater Boston area, has run a listener drive to increase sustaining members. Sustaining member is the term they give to a donor who offers to give a monthly donation instead of a once yearly gift. Those who work in and with nonprofits know that monthly giving is the ultimate donor retention tool. Not only does it often mean a higher yearly gift – $10/month vs the average of $100 a year but it means automatic renewal at a level that is quickly incorporated into the donor’s monthly budget.
In the same way that McDonalds or Walmart can change the way chickens are raised because they have the clout, WBUR reaches thousands of donors and what I would guess to be hundred(s) of thousands more listeners. They have the voice to plant the seed in donors’ minds that giving monthly will greatly benefit a nonprofit organization while, as they put it, require a donor to “give less.” By the way, the fundraiser is going to end on Thursday, October 8th so there is still time to tune into the radio (90.9) or online, www.wbur.org and hear the “snowball” rolling down the hill gathering new prospective monthly-donors.
How can this not have a ripple effect across nonprofits in the Boston area and beyond? I think that mammoth organizations, nonprofits with budgets under $500,000, and everyone in between will begin to see more interest in, acceptance of and donations to monthly giving programs. Donors are being taught the benefits each and every time they tune in. Of course, WBUR’s ask for support includes a long list of how the donor benefits from the gift (e.g. continued quality radio) as well as the reasons they need to ask (e.g. WBUR has to pay NPR for it’s programming). But pretty impressive considering that they are appealing to thousands at the same time and getting substantial results.
While this concept is not new, the acceptance of this model effectively creates a standardized system of having to opt-out of giving instead of opting-in each year. An amazing way to increase donor retention at all levels of giving.
To be truly effective, develop a special program of stewardship for your monthly donors. This will allow you to deepen the relationship with these loyal supporters and find ways for increasing engagement..
On the other hand, if you do not yet have a monthly donor program — or you do not offer one and detail its benefits on your web site both to the donor and your nonprofit which they love — make that a high priority this week. And make sure it is working long before end-of-year donations are made.
The next time you ask your donors for something similar, it will not feel like a foreign concept, but more like a natural evolution for an organization they have supported in the past and plan to support in the future. And a gift that feels like a natural evolution is a gift that is given with a smile on their face and a great feeling in their hearts.