4 Things to Consider When Setting a Monthly Donor Goal
At the recent Bridge pre-conference sustainer workshop I co-hosted, one of the attendees asked this question: “What is a realistic goal for monthly donor percentage as a percent of active donors?”
Let me explain why there’s no one good answer to this other than that the current typical nonprofit has between 5% to 30% of their donors giving monthly.
But if your percentage is lower, do not worry. The overarching answer is: “Your goal should be higher than where you are now!” As long as you’re growing, you’ll get closer to your goal.
Let me explain why there’s no right or wrong answer to the question.
1. It Depends on Monthly Donor Acquisition History and Results
How much have you done to get to where you are now? If you’re just starting out (sent out your first appeal and now dabbling into some emails and perhaps some digital ads), you may only be at 1% of your active donors. Use your experience, and then start projecting out. You can then set your goal for the next one.
2. It Depends on Overall Number of Active Donors
If you have 1,000 active donors (which I define as those donors who have made a gift in the past year), and you’re able to bring in 50 monthly donors, you can be at 5% quickly. If you have 100,000 active donors, and you bring in the first 200 monthly donors, that 5% goal can be a bit more daunting.
3. It depends on Source of Donors
If you have a substantial number of donors who participate in a walk/run through peer-to-peer campaigns, it’s going to be much harder to convert them to give monthly than through other sources, like mail or online on their own accord. It’s simply harder to convert event donors to give monthly, so it may take longer to get to your goal.
4. It depends on Monthly Donor Channels at Your Disposal
I always say that there is not one standard plan. Rather every monthly donor plan is tailor-made. Some nonprofits have big email lists, others are smaller. Some do lots of acquisition, others virtually none. Some do many appeals and can include a monthly donor ask, others do very little. Some have great success with digital, others not so much. Some are on TV, radio, streets. Some do events where a monthly giving ask fits well, others less so. Some have been successful asking for monthly gifts right off the bat, others have to do the two-step, donor-to-monthly-donor conversion approach.
Your best bet is to look at when and where you can have a monthly donor ask opportunity and build upon that.
If we look at some industry statistics, I’ve seen smaller organizations (raising less than $2 million) with smaller numbers of active donors get to some 11% monthly donors pretty quickly with a nice average gift. Unfortunately, this study is no longer done, so we have to depend on some other sustainer stats, which you can find right here. If you know of any other sustainer statistics not yet listed, I’d love to add it to the list.
So, to get back to the original question: “What is a realistic goal for monthly donor percentage as a percent of active donors?”
If you strive for a percentage of active donors, 5% is a good starting point and simply go up from there. If you want to look at your existing number of monthly donors, doubling that number may be more realistic. No matter what, you’re always going up!
Erica Waasdorp is one of the leading experts on monthly giving. She is the president of A Direct Solution, a company serving nonprofit organizations with fundraising and direct marketing needs, with a focus on monthly giving and appeals. She authored "Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant" and "Monthly Giving Made Easy." She regularly blogs and presents on fundraising, appeals and monthly giving — in person and through webinars. She is happy to answer any questions you may have about this great way of improving retention rates for your donors.
Erica has over 30 years of experience in nonprofits and direct response. She helped the nonprofits she works with raise millions of dollars through monthly giving programs. She is also very actively supports organizations with annual fund planning and execution, ranging from copywriting, creative, lists, print and mail execution.
When she’s not working or writing, Erica can be found on the golf course (she’s a straight shooter) or quietly reading a book. And if there’s an event with a live band, she and her husband, Patrick, can be found on the dance floor. She also loves watching British drama on PBS. Erica and Patrick have two step sons and a cat, Mientje.