The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

The Only Thing You Need to Know About a Successful Sustainer Strategy

Two words: Lifetime value

OK, it’s a little more complicated than that. But understanding lifetime value is where a successful sustainer strategy starts.

Too often organizations don’t recognize the tension between lifetime value and immediate budget goals. They want a sustainer strategy to increase their donor pool’s lifetime value, but they don’t want to sacrifice immediate revenue in the door.

Rather than get that $15 a month gift (which averages to $180 in year one alone), they prefer the one-time gift of $100 because it looks better on the balance sheet for February.

Internal attribution wars further complicate things. One group I work with actually attributes online sustainer revenue to an offline sustainer pool—disincentivizing the online team from deploying a sustainer strategy (e.g. disincentivizng increasing the value of a donor).


Before you start listing out all of the tactics for soliciting new sustainers (of which there are many), first ask yourself:

  • Is my organization judging the success of this program by lifetime value?
  • Do we have the dashboard in place to track and report clearly on lifetime value?
  • Do we understand the tension between lifetime value and immediate ROI?
  • What are our business rules for attribution? How can we incentivize all fundraising staff to increase donor lifetime value?

Once you answer these questions, you’ll be better prepared to develop and optimize a sustainer program.

Editor’s note: This post was written by Alia McKee, Principal at Sea Change Strategies. Alia is a veteran online communications and fundraising strategist with strategic chops and practical “in the trenches” experience developing brand-perfect integrated marketing and fundraising campaigns.


Ready to rev up your monthly giving program? Take the Recurring Giving Challenge for access to Network for Good’s e-course on building a strong sustainer program. You’ll get the guidance you need to gain (and retain) more donors—plus, Network for Good clients are eligible to win Challenge Bonus Rewards for top campaigns. Find out more and sign up today!

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About This Blog

Carrie Saracini
Content Marketing Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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