Live From AFP: 7 Great Reasons to Add Monthly Giving to Your Fundraising
Donor retention, donor retention, donor retention. Fundraisers cannot seem to stop talking about it and for good reason. It's the lifeblood of fundraising and the key to building a base of loyal, longtime donors.
So why is that, according to the Fundraising Effective Survey Report, donor retention has seen seven straight years of decline in the sector?
"New-donor retention is down to 22.9 percent, and repeat-donor retention is down to 60.8 percent," said CFE Rosemary Oliver, fundraising director at Amnesty International Canada. "That means we are not keeping three out of every four donors we get to give that first gift."
So what can fundraisers do to improve these results? During their session at the Association of Fundraising Professionals 51st International Conference on Fundraising in San Antonio, "How to Hang on to Your Donors: Successful Donor-Retention Strategies," Oliver and Harvey McKinnon, president of Harvey McKinnon Associates, said the very best way to keep donors is to sign them up for monthly giving.
It starts with better cultivation and stewardship. That includes respecting your donors and making them feel valued.
"You hear in fundraising all the time, the numbers justify doing this or don't justify doing that," Oliver said. "They're donors, not numbers. These are people we want to build a relationship with, not just faceless numbers."
Monthly giving allows fundraisers to do that by taking some of the pressure off of the ask.
McKinnon shared seven more great reasons to focus on monthly giving to help increase donor retention.
Monthly giving increases your income
"Monthly donors give one to two times more money per year on average," McKinnon said. That's 100 percent to 200 percent more dollars for monthly donors, simply because they give 12 gifts a year.
Monthly giving helps build better relationships
"Most of our communication with donors goes like this: Can you give me money? Can you give me more money? And, oh, here's a follow-up — can you give me more money?" McKinnon said. But with monthly donors, that relationship changes because fundraisers don't always have to keep asking in every communication. Since monthly givers give those 12 gifts a year, it allows fundraisers to interact on a more personal level, providing more information and having more real discussions with donors since the focus doesn't always have to be on asking.
Monthly donors stay longer
Overall, donors tend to give for 18-24 months and then drop off, and it's getting harder and harder to renew donors. But monthly donors stay much longer.
McKinnon relayed the story of when he was working with Oxfam back in the 1980s. He was working late one night, and from across the street, a few of his journalist friends saw his light still on and invited him over to the restaurant they were at for coffee — as he tells it, because they had no money and needed him to pay for their coffee.
So McKinnon picked up three monthly giving forms for Oxfam and filled out his friends' information on them. He brought them over, passed each out and told his friends he'd be happy to pay if they'd sign up for monthly giving to Oxfam. One signed up for $15 a month, another for $25 a month and the third for $40 a month.
"That was $960 a year for Oxfam in exchange for the $15 I spent on coffee that night," he said.
One person dropped off after eight years of giving, while the other two continue to give and upgrade. They've been giving for more than 35 years and have donated more than $133,000 total. And McKinnon never had to ask them again — they simply signed up for monthly giving and have given every month for 35 years.
"That's the power of monthly donors. It's not a one-off gift," McKinnon said.
Monthly giving is predictable
Since monthly donors tend to stay on for a long time and give consistently every month, it's predictable income. On top of that, you tend to unearth the attrition in the first year or two to adjust your projections and strategies accordingly.
Monthly giving saves money
Since monthly donors already give, you don't have to send as many appeals, which in turn saves money. That doesn't mean you forgo communications. You simply don't have to send as many expensive appeals to try to get them to give again since monthly donors already give more than one gift a year.
Monthly giving income grows over time
Monthly donors tend to continue giving, and over time, those donors increase and upgrade their monthly giving levels. On top of that, the loyalty of monthly donors makes them prime candidates for major gifts and legacy gifts, since they have been such committed donors to the cause.
Monthly giving is convenient
In an Amnesty International survey, 52 percent of respondents said convenience is the number one reason they sign up for monthly giving. Convenience is a big deal for donors, and the fact they can automatically give every month without having to respond each and every time is a huge plus.