Good News About Monthly Donors...
I hope you’re still doing OK. I haven’t really left the house now for five weeks, except for a few walks in the neighborhood. Frankly, I dream of being able to go to the grocery store or to some store — it doesn’t really matter which. The good news is that our attic is all cleaned up. Now we’re onto the basement and I’m feverishly scanning in pictures.
I know that some organizations are still struggling with asking for money at this difficult time. I’m one of those consultants who tells clients that they must ask online and through the mail, with empathy of course.
Some of you may have seen or heard that monthly donors are canceling in droves. That’s not necessarily true And it’s certainly not true for every organization.
I’ve been chatting with many wonderful nonprofits over the past few weeks, so let me share some good news with you:
- One organization (environmental) shared that some 20% to 30% of canceling sustainers are either lowering their monthly gift or pausing their monthly gift. The organization is ramping up a campaign to get back to their past lapsed sustainers to see if they can win them back six to nine months from now.
- One organization (meal service to critically ill patients) shared that it generated 40 new sustainers from just one email appeal, in addition to many one-time gifts.
- One organization (animal welfare) shared it generated 20 new monthly donors in the past two weeks from putting a give monthly button in its emails (sent out every two to three days).
- One organization (animal rescue) asked monthly donors to increase their gift. Three percent of their monthly donors increased with an average upgrade of 15 (or 180 a year) more a month and 1.5% changed over from credit card to EFT/ACH, thus saving the organization funds and increasing their sustainer retention rate. No cancellations.
- One organization (a food bank) shared that it is getting more new monthly donors every week than ever before without much outreach at all — between 30 and 40 new monthly donors every week when it normally sees between three and 10 per week. The organization only had three cancellations, and three dozen monthly donors asked to increase their monthly amount.
- One organization (religious) shared that they had a substantial number of donors call to increase their gift without asking.
So you see, the trends are not necessarily bad overall. Let’s not press the panic button, and let’s certainly not give up on acquiring and retaining monthly donors yet. Rather, ramp up your investment of time and effort, and see what happens.
Finally, let me share a few more pieces of good news from the annual Blackbaud donorcentrics™ Sustainer Summit, which was held virtually early March, with 33 bigger organizations that shared their vast amounts of data. Blackbaud looked at five years of sustainer and one-time giving, and here’s what the recent report said:
“Trends since fiscal year 2017 illustrate that those organizations with clear, direct and consistent messaging for sustainer acquisition during that turbulent year clearly benefited from those donors’ rising rates of retention that followed, versus declines in retention rates for emergency donors acquired with single gift donations.” (Source: Blackbaud donorcentrics Sustainer Summit 2020)
And as you can see from the chart below, those organizations that have focused on growing their sustainer programs have seen improved percentages of sustainer giving.
Organizations always ask me this question: “How many of my donors should give monthly?” Of course, the answer depends on how much effort you put into it, but the following may be good benchmarking for you.
Nonprofits with fewer than 20,000 sustainers see about 15% of their donors give monthly, compared to 16% of organizations that have between 20,000 and 75,000 and 37% of those nonprofits that have more than 75,000 sustainers.
No matter what percentage of donors are giving monthly to you right now, you can always go up. And it’s very likely that monthly giving becomes even easier for donors, and you’ll be better prepared for the next disaster.
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.