Accidental Culture Change: The Awesome Power of Monthly Giving
Two decades ago, Human Rights Campaign introduced “Partners,” our new monthly giving program. But we did so much more than that—in large part, unknowingly. We didn’t just create a program. We embarked on a journey to create an organizational culture. A culture of sustained giving.
As a fairly early adopter of monthly giving, we didn’t have a lot to go on except gut instinct and determination. Truth be told, I came from Greenpeace, and I had some strong indicators that monthly giving just made sense—I mean, that’s how I lived my life, a month at a time. Maybe it is because I was a struggling young professional trying to make ends meet, and my life revolved around making my monthly rent and utilities. Maybe it was because I was lazy, and it was easier to have someone else manage my finances. Regardless, this concept received tremendous support from Human Rights Campaign’s senior leadership and board, and we were off and on our way. Across the board, we all believed in this concept.
A lot has changed since then. Technology. Compliance. Security. The economy. And, of course, the political landscape. But one thing has not changed: our core belief that, as fundraisers, we have an obligation to ensure maximum resources for our programs and deeply committed long-term relationships with our donors.
Most donors want to be involved and support you—they just lead extremely busy lives. Busier than ever.
Monthly giving is a benefit to you, but, first and foremost, it’s a benefit to them. Monthly donors give more, are more loyal and stick around longer than anyone else. They are deeply committed to you and your work.
Today, monthly giving is our primary ask across all channels and giving levels. Roughly 60 percent of our direct-response revenue comes from monthly donors. But wait, there’s more.
Our culture of sustaining giving at Human Rights Campaign means the large majority of our revenue—including 85 percent of our mid-level donors and 97 percent of our major donors—are sustainers. This represents nearly 60 percent of our total individual giving. This is the donor pyramid at its best.
Even as we continue to introduce new donor-friendly options—like allowing donors to conveniently and automatically renew their annual membership contribution (yes, we have donors who have yet to hop on the monthly bandwagon, and probably won’t)—it is with our core belief as fundraisers and our sustainer culture in mind.
Why does all this matter? Predictability, stability and the ability to get stuff done.
Over the years, Human Rights Campaign’s work has helped change the hearts and minds of a nation.
It has made the lives of LGBTQ Americans safer and better. In the wake of marriage equality—a significant milestone—there was some trepidation about what that might mean for the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization. But we had our monthly donors to count on. In the aftermath, as we faced some of the biggest threats we have ever faced in cities and states across the country, we had the resources to face those threats head on.
Establishing a culture is not easy. It requires a clear and consistent vision. It requires determination. It requires investment. It requires a shared belief among stakeholders. And it requires a willingness to fail.
It’s easy to look back over the last 20 years and turn our organizational sustainer culture into more of a Cinderella story than it really is. But culture change, whether intentional or unintentional, can have a profound impact. It certainly has for us, and will continue to long into
Dane Grams is the director of membership for Human Rights Campaign. He has held senior positions at Amnesty International, Greenpeace USA and Care2. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.