Grow Your Monthly Giving Program: Part 1

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” (Mark Victor Hansen)

Building a strong monthly giving program is like planting seeds. Just like any crop, it will not grow until it is planted, and it will not be planted unless you get started. Today may be the right time for your organization to start planting a monthly giving program.

But first, a definition: “Monthly giving is a program that cultivates an ongoing, committed giving relationship between a donor and your organization. Monthly donors are those donors in your database who have agreed to support your organization with a determined amount each month.” They are also called systematic donors or “sustaining” gifts. An organization will often name their monthly giving program, such as the Champion’s Club, Circle of Friends, Faith Partners, Foundation Builders, or some other name that ties in with their brand or mission. For example, a local Christian school calls their monthly giving plan the “Partner Program.”

If you look at a typical giving pyramid for an organization, monthly donors are usually sandwiched somewhere between “major” and “occasional” (or sporadic) donors. These are the wonderful and committed donors who can make a difference in a recession or other downturn. They are NOT generally your major donors. Having just emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations reported their giving was stable or, in some cases, even increased over the prior year. Much of this can be attributed to monthly givers. Organizations without a program are more susceptible to spikes in their contributions during trying times or change.

One good thing about monthly donors is they will typically stay with you through thick and thin. Ten years or more is not unheard of for a monthly donor life cycle. Retention rate industry wide for monthly giving is close to 50%. And the even better news, with a little bit of work and some investment, these monthly donors will perhaps leave you the ultimate gift—a bequest or planned gift.

Here is a real-life example1:

“Beginning with a single $25 gift in 1983, a generous individual made a total of 279 monthly gifts of $25 or $30 each over a 22-year period ending in 2005. Unfortunately, that is when the donor passed away. One year later, the organization received a $25,000 bequest from its former, loyal donor. The total value of these 280 gifts: $31,250.”

Harvey McKinnon, President of McKinnon & Associates, British Columbia, discovered that “monthly giving appeals not only to younger donors who find it convenient and easy, but also to older donors, who are more likely to live on a budget. But, regardless of their age, monthly donors will often give for decades, are more loyal than even the most consistent annual donors and are far more likely to leave bequests.”

Twenty-one percent of Baby boomers (50-67 years of age) give monthly. Fifty-two percent of millennials are “interested” in monthly giving. Some organizations have difficulty converting even 1% of their active donors to monthly givers; others convert the average of 5% to 10%. Some have even reported 50% plus. These are unique organizations whose mission and services lend themselves greatly to this approach, such as an international relief organization where you can give $35 a month and cover a single child’s basic life needs.

So, is it time to grow, enhance, or start you monthly giving program? There are plenty of resources available help you. The Timothy Group can help guide you with some practical steps to take. Other professional organizations, such as Association of Fundraising Professionals, can also help you design an effective program.

Next month we will share some pointers and “best practices.”

Resource: 1Warwick, Mal. January 2008. Email newsletter.

About the Author: Kent Vanderwood, Vice President – Kent offers clients over 35 years of non-profit experience including teaching, administrative, consulting, and directorships. Through his work as Development Director for The Potter’s House, Gospel Communications International, and Mel Trotter Ministries, Kent brings a wealth of experience in fundraising and development. He currently serves as a board member for the West Michigan chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). His passion for seeing Christian stewardship principles applied in a systematic way helps the non-profit organization or ministry be successful in fulfilling its mission.

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