What to Do When Your Agency Doesn’t Want to Ask for Monthly Gifts
Sadly, I still hear about direct mail and digital agencies and consultants that don’t see the value of monthly giving. A friend of mine, a nonprofit fundraiser, sent me this email recently:
"My agency is against monthly giving. We asked for it to be added in house appeals, and the agency says, ‘We'll test it if you want, but we see mixed results, so we don't recommend it until proven.’
“We feel that monthly giving is something our donors would like. In fact, many of the services we offer to our beneficiaries are monthly, so there's a great tie in. And every other charity seems to be doing it!
“Monthly giving is a line on the back of the reply form. How do we convince our agency that we can raise immediate income and acquire monthly donors at the same time — that they are not mutually exclusive?”
I understand it. In truth, many agencies feel client pressure to reach a certain goal, and it’s safer to focus on one-time gifts. So how do you convince your agency to add monthly giving to your appeals?
Utilize Stats That Show Monthly Giving Works
What it takes is to really look at the numbers with a long-term goal in mind. Here are some recent stats that will help.
The average one-time gift was $121, according to M+R benchmarks 2023, which focused on digital efforts in 2022. The average monthly gift was $25, with revenue per recurring donor per year reaching $287. For each donor who made one-time gifts, annual revenue was $192 — thus monthly donors give some 50% more in just the first year alone.
Unfortunately, M+R does not look at three-year value, but donorCentrics Sustainer Summit data, which averaged 37 organizations across all channels, does. The three-year value for monthly donors who were acquired as recurring gifts in 2019 was $394. Lifetime value for those as single gifts was $144 — thus worth almost three times more.
So, if agencies really look at the data with long-term glasses, they’d see that for those long-term values are perhaps even much higher, especially when the donors give by electronic bank transfer (ACH).
What does that mean? It’s a good metric for agencies because now they can spend a bit more money to acquire monthly donors. Using a three-year value for recurring donors, they’re able to achieve nonprofits’ goals more quickly.
Nonprofit Case Study
I recently had a nonprofit look at its channel results. First, the organization checked its one-year value and then its three-year value. Everybody was blown away by the recurring donor value. The figures were even higher than the donorCentrics Sustainer Summit data and were almost double for those acquired by ACH. This nonprofit is now in the process of transitioning to a sustainer-first or sustainer-forward organization.
Having that long-term mindset will absolutely matter. So, if your nonprofit wants to grow its recurring donor revenue, ask your agency or consultant to calculate recurring donors differently. I’m sure they’d be happy to oblige. And make sure that you’re working with your in-house budget or goal evaluators to allow for this long-term goal setting to happen.
If you don’t ask your donors to consider a monthly gift, you’ll certainly not convert anybody. It takes time, effort, messaging, possibly multiple channels and definitely commitment.
You and your agency must be committed. And to address your specific situation, how can you prove something if you don’t test it? Make sure to test it with the long-term goal in mind.
An option to give monthly on a reply form typically does not hurt one-time revenue. I’ve tested this several times. There is virtually no extra expense to do it.
You’re not going to pick up a humongous number of new monthly donors, but you’ll pick up some. Then ask in other channels in conjunction with your appeal to start generating more recurring donors — just look at the sources of conversions from one-time donors to recurring.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
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.