What Really Motivates Donors to Give Monthly?
I’m so excited! I just received “The 2017 Burk Donor Survey Report,” and this year’s study has a huge section on sustainers—comparing this year’s donors’ answers to ones from 2012, when they last had this major focus on monthly gifts.
The top reason why donors want to give monthly is because it assures nonprofits of stable funds, immediately followed by: “More convenient for me,” “It reduces cost of fundraising,” “It’s a way to budget my philanthropy” and “I can give more generously over the year this way.”
The next reason is very interesting: an increased interest in donors being motivated by fewer solicitations. I do see that this holds true, especially among environmental organizations that typically promote monthly giving as a way to “go paperless.”
However, it’s important to also remember that this does not mean not communicating with your donors. In fact, elsewhere in the survey report, it states that donors want to continue to see and hear about the impact of their gift. If they don’t, they’re more apt to cancel their sustainer donations. And what’s also very encouraging is that for special purposes, donors are absolutely willing to make extra donations.
So, my recommendation is to look at your overall fundraising and communication schedule. Look at your thank-you messaging, newsletters and email messaging (and other channels if you have them), then see which items you could consider for sustainer cultivation, update and thank-you purposes. For example, newsletters or impact reports are great, and they can still include a reply envelope!
Next, take a look at which appeals you’d consider “special” enough to send to your sustainers and receive additional gifts while updating them on your activities and making them feel good. If you only send two appeals a year to begin with, I’d absolutely keep those two.
If you’re sending out 12 “hard-hitting” appeals, you may wish to cut down and keep those that are unique to your organization and that you know the donors really want. This could be your calendar, a membership card, a match appeal, a donor survey and an invitation to your special gala. When you flow out your plan, you’ll see exactly what you can keep and the areas you may be able to cut. In my experience, as long as you recognize the sustainers in each appeal, they’ll be very happy to respond with an extra gift. But, every organization is different so you must decide what works for you!
Note: You can download “The 2017 Burk Donor Survey Report Executive Summary” here (see the button in the left-hand corner). I purchased the report. It’s a great study with lots of insights on sustainers—and that’s what I live for. Sustainer giving has really grown over the past five years, and I suspect that all monthly donor and retention “motivators” have had a little hand in that growth!
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.