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The secret behind monthly giving
Research demonstrates that recurring donors are incredibly beneficial to nonprofits. Studies show they often prove between 4 and 5.2 times more valuable than one-time donors!
This value is a combination of monthly donors giving more on average than one-time donors, and monthly donors being much easier to retain than one-time donors. In one study, monthly donors gave 42% more on average over the course of one year than one-time donors. And perhaps more importantly, monthly donors are much more retainable than one-time donors (to the tune of 2-4 times more!).
We hypothesize that retention of monthly donors is easier due to the status quo bias. The status quo bias suggests that it is cognitively easier to continue going with the flow than to make a decision to alter the status quo. For monthly givers, this means it is easier to keep their monthly giving going.
Who are recurring givers?
Recurring givers are donors who have opted in to automatically contribute to your nonprofit on a recurring basis, typically monthly. We’ll use recurring and monthly interchangeably throughout this guide. Some nonprofits offer quarterly, bi-weekly, or annual recurring donations as well, but monthly giving is the most common and the most in line with some of the theory behind why recurring giving is in the best interest of both the fundraiser and the giver.
Why is monthly giving more beneficial than one-time giving?
Individual giving campaigns are also often seasonal and cyclical whereas monthly givers sustain you all year long. A robust recurring giving program allows you to plan your organization’s activities based on what you know will be coming in from your monthly donors.
You can then build your other fundraising activities on this sustainable foundation. This allows development professionals to spend more time cultivating your supporters, talking with major donors, and getting creative with your fundraising appeals, rather than desperately trying to meet fundraising metrics.
Monthly givers are not more retainable because you’re tricking them into doing something they don’t want to do! People want to give more than they actually do. As the Center for Advanced Hindsight puts it, they exhibit an “intention-behavior gap” when it comes to charitable giving.
A successful monthly giving program makes it very easy to cancel, with clear links on your websites and at the bottom of receipt emails. It simply makes the default decision giving rather than not-giving, like your one-time donors who need to decide anew to support you each time they give (in addition to hauling out their credit card or checkbook to enter in their payment information!).
Essentially, monthly donors are easier to retain, give more, and are not much harder to recruit (if at all!) than one-time donors. This is key to understanding the value of recurring donors and why you should craft your fundraising around bringing more of them to the table.
Donors want the option to give monthly
People have become comfortable with paying for something they want on a monthly basis rather than a large, one-time, up-front payment. People’s comfort with subscription models for diverse services and products normalizes monthly giving and presents a huge opportunity for creative companies or nonprofits looking to innovate.
People have become comfortable with paying for something they want on a monthly basis rather than a large, one-time, up-front payment. People’s comfort with subscription models for diverse services and products presents a huge opportunity for creative companies or nonprofits looking to innovate.
This prevalence and comfort normalizes monthly giving. Many donors will already recognize the benefit of setting something up once and just letting it continue. Because people also often think about their cash flow on a monthly basis, a monthly giving program fits right in.
Offering recurring giving meets a need your donors have. In addition, a consumer is used to the smooth checkout processes of the entire e-commerce industry. Just because you’re a nonprofit and they’re giving you a donation rather than buying a product doesn’t mean you get a total pass on customer service. Sure, your supporters may be more forgiving of a clunky checkout system, but you may be losing potential donors because of this and you wouldn’t necessarily know. The smoothness of the for-profit checkout process should be your aim.
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