Build an Annual Cultivation Plan
Once the initial acknowledgement phase is complete, it's vital that a sustainer program does not become a "set it and forget it" element of your fundraising. The closer your sustainers feel to your station, the more likely they will be to respond positively to credit card issues, and to remain with you for the long term, even when you air a program they don't appreciate or make a station decision they don't agree with.
The bottom line is: never take a sustainer's ongoing monthly support for granted. As a valuable member of your station, and as part of the machinery that keeps you on the air on a daily basis, it is important to make sure that your sustainers feel included in their investment all year round.
While stations of all sizes have varying levels of resources with which to build a robust stewardship and cultivation plan, a good starting rule of thumb is to make sure your sustainers receive at least two special, non-request touch points across the year. Here are some ideas:
Send a postcard once or twice a year with a nice image on the front, and a warm message on the back that also reminds them of the benefits of their support. Summer or Valentine's Day are good targets for this type of initiative
Develop a sustainer-specific newsletter or e-newsletter
Email a special message from the CEO with insider information
Offer a special community event benefit — such as free tickets
Send a small, special token gift like a bookmark, window cling, or notepad for example
Make regular thank you phone calls — use staff, volunteers or hire a service to do this
Segment general membership cultivation communications with a line that recognizes that the donor is a sustainer to make that status feel special
Develop a thank you spot that specifically thanks sustaining members for their on-going support – this not only acknowledges your sustainers, but also builds awareness of the program amongst non-sustainers
Use your required year-end tax statement to include some warm, appreciative impact information beyond the business of deductible dollars