When it comes to maximizing your end-of-year strategy, a question that often comes up is, “Should I include a sustainer ask?”

This is a good question. Typically end-of-year campaigns stick to a single gift ask. But this is not a typical year.

To Test or Not to Test?

Of course, the first thought would be to test. But end of year is not the time for testing. It’s best to test throughout the year and then apply what you learn to your endofyear campaign. During the time of year when organizations bring in roughly a third of their annual giving revenue, you want to go with what works. I would hesitate to test at end of year and potentially leave money on the table.

So, with that in mind, my recommendation would be to continue to lead with a single gift ask. You want to focus on converting your annual donors and acquiring larger one-time gifts at the end of the year, when people are most likely to give.

Let There be Light (box)

But organizations can and should still look for ways to incorporate a sustainer ask in their end-of-year campaign. One way to accomplish this is to provide supporters with the ability to upgrade their one-time gift to a monthly one. An intercept lightbox is a great and simple strategy for organizations to maximize sustainer conversion while still optimizing one-time gift performance.

In a nutshell, an intercept lightbox gives one-time donors an easy way to increase their impact by converting their initial gift to an ongoing payment, with a monthly amount that feels comfortable for them. Because this ask is presented immediately after a donor commits to a onetime gift but before their credit card is actually processed, it lets you more aggressively market the convenience of monthly giving without the risk of losing the one-time gift.

An example of an organization using this feature is Freestore Foodbank. Charity Dynamics partnered with them to implement the lightbox on their main donation form, and since COVID-19 began, approximately 12% of the Food Bank’s new sustainers have come from the lightbox. This translates to over $16,000 in additional projected annual revenue.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Another strategy is to upgrade the overall value of sustaining donors by asking them to make an additional one-time gift as part of your end-of-year campaign. A good time to do this is during a special match opportunity when their additional gift can go further or to ask for their help to achieve a specific fundraising goal.

For example, you can send a targeted email to sustainers on #GivingTuesday asking them to help you reach your goal or again just prior to the end of the year to help you take full advantage of a matching gift. What’s critical is that when you ask for that additional donation, make sure to include personalized copy that recognizes and thanks them for their ongoing monthly gift and then asks them for the additional help toward reaching your goal.


A third strategy that comes to mind is to target a select group of donors with a monthly ask toward the end of your end-of-year campaign. With the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing — and the economic impact to affect people even longer — many of your donors may be cutting back during this time. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to contribute.

Donors who are part of your active donor segment and who you see are opening your emails but not responding could be provided with a monthly ask toward the end of your campaign. This may be more comfortable than a larger one-time ask and increase the annual contribution from that donor.

For example, you may typically suggest a $100 donation, but instead you could ask for $15/month, which would increase their annual contribution from $100 to $180. For example, you may typically suggest a $100 donation, but instead you could ask for $15/month, which would increase their annual contribution from $100 to $180. You can pair the ask with a message to help you start strong in the new year. This is when paying close attention to your donor segments, staying on top of your results and remaining nimble throughout your campaign can pay off.

Year In, Year Out

A final thought on sustainer giving: Growing your sustainer program should be a year-round strategy. With retention rates much higher than that of a one-time donor, a strong sustainer program is critical to having a steady stream of dependable income you can count on during good times and bad. 

Outside of your endofyear fundraising, be sure to:

  • Run a dedicated campaign to grow your sustainer program at least once a year, emphasizing the need for ongoing support. There’s never been a better case for this than COVID-19. Support from monthly donors provides a safety net so when the unexpected happens, you’ll be prepared. 
  • Make sure to promote the option to become a sustainer on your website, ensure it’s part of your donation form (with reasonable amounts), and provide the option before the donation is processed (see the intercept lightbox example above).
  • Look for ways to upgrade your existing sustainers. If given the option, when monthly donors are provided with an easy way to upgrade and a compelling reason to do so, many will take you up on it. A few dollars a month per donor can really add up.
  • Continue to steward your monthly donors at every turn to ensure they stay loyal and feel good about the impact of their monthly gift.

Do you have other end-of-year questions or would you like help with implementing some of these ideas?

Loved hearing from Tara and wondering how she can help you plan for end-of-year fundraising?