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Sustained Giving: 4 Questions To Ask When Getting Started


Early in my career as a fundraiser for arts organizations, I heard about a sustained giving program during my local NPR station’s pledge drive. Of course, I went right into work and asked my boss if we had any plans to launch a program of our own. Very quickly they replied that “Arts donors don’t give like that, it would never work for us”.

That was a looong time ago, and thankfully many arts organizations have begun to realize the huge benefit that sustained giving can offer and that donor giving behaviors in the arts are shifting. Hopefully you’re reading this because you and your brilliant organization have made (or are about to make) the very smart decision to begin building a sustained giving program.

As you start strategizing about how to get started, here are a few questions you can ask around the table at your next Development Committee meeting to get you headed in the right direction.

1) What are we missing?

Anytime we think about taking on a new initiative, we should make sure that is addressing a current opportunity in our funding portfolio and that we’re not just adding new initiatives because we love adding new work to our plate.

  • Are we seeing direct mail donations taper off?
  • Is our giving pyramid becoming way too top heavy?
  • Are we looking for an outlet to bring in millennial donors?

2) Who should we invite?

Opposition to sustained giving programs can sometimes view it as “cannibalizing” another segment of donors or simply diverting fundraising from one area and into another. This is where being clear about who you will choose to invite will become really important. Some “low hanging fruit” could include:

  • current donors who make several gifts a year (obvi!)
  • current donors who make their gift via credit card
  • ticket buyers
  • first time donors
  • VOLUNTEERS (who loves you more than these guys??)

3) How will we talk about the program?

Having a firm and well thought out messaging plan from the start is essential to making sure you are giving your program the best chance of success. Many successful sustained giving programs provide a sense of place and belonging to their donors by branding the program with a unique name and logo. This also helps differentiate the sustained giving program from your membership program or existing giving circles.

  • How often will we communicate with donors? Through which avenues?
  • How will we coordinate our messaging with existing communications plans in our membership/marketing departments?

4) What do we want to accomplish?

Setting goals for a brand new initiative can be difficult and scary, but creating goals at the outset of your program, however terrifying, will keep you on track and insure that your program gets the time and attention it deserves. Try these ideas:

  • Set a goal for conversion of a specific segment group (i.e. 5% of donors who give one gift per year of under $100)
  • Set a $$ amount goal—Even if it’s an educated guess, it will give visibility to the program within your organization if there’s a budget number tied to it.
  • Enroll x number of donors in the program

Now that your wheels are turning, go ahead and jump in with both feet! There’s money out there waiting for you!

Need a little more help to get you started? Altru Optimize has a package designed just for you! Our Altru experts will work with your team and goals to create a new or enhanced revenue stream through sustained giving. Make the next campaign the best that it can be. Learn more at

Posted by Jerusha Schmalzel on Dec 19, 2016 2:38 PM America/New_York