This spring, I had the pleasure of joining a few of my colleagues and representing the Thread team at two conferences: The Nonprofit Technology Conference and the Classy Collaborative. Even though I’ve been going to fundraising conferences for years, I still feel like I’m drinking from a fire hose when I’m there – there is so much information to absorb in such a short amount of time!
One fire hose that was certainly on full-blast between these two conferences was the importance and power of recurring giving programs (also frequently referred to as monthly giving). Fundraising software companies such as Classy and Network for Good utilized the giving data they’ve collected over time to make a strong case for investing in a recurring giving program. According to the data presented at the Classy Collaborative, a recurring donor is 440% more valuable than a one-time donor. In The State of Modern Philanthropy, Classy reports that recurring givers are more likely than one-time donors to make an additional one-time gift within a year, and that having a monthly giving plan does not reduce the size of one-times gifts made by these donors. Network for Good offers an online course called, “The Ultimate Recurring Giving Course” which highlights that retention among recurring givers is typically above 80% while the industry retention rate for one-time donors averages less 23%.
Between the respective conferences, we attended workshops such as “Tips to Building a Successful Recurring Giving Program,” “New Trends Defining Nonprofit Revenue Growth and Sustainability,” and “Recurring Donations in a Rapid Response World.” We saw from various angles how the fundraising profession is addressing the needs of nonprofit organizations as they strive to have balance and diversity in their revenue streams and to create long-term sustainability in their programmatic impact.
Over the past three years, Thread Strategies has partnered with more than 25 organizations in an effort to build fundraising capacity and strengthen development operations and processes. Part of our core work is to define specific ways in which these organizations can diversify their revenue base and then outline annual strategies and tactics to grow each type of revenue. When evaluating options for growing individual revenue, we almost always include plans for either beginning or strengthening a recurring giving program. As many of our partners fall in the “small but mighty” category with annual budgets of $2 million or less, the stable and efficient revenue recurring giving provides is especially important.
A fantastic example of a small organization embracing recurring giving as a new feature of its fundraising program is our partner Art Enables with its recently-launched program: Red Dot donors. During our partnership, we discussed and outlined elements of a recurring giving program and focused on the long-term value adding these donors could bring to the organization. By concentrating on the most important tactics, Art Enables was able to build and launch the Red Dot donor initiative in just six weeks. This first-time campaign to recruit the initial group of Red Dot donors resulted in almost $6,000 of annual giving for the organization and, most importantly, has laid a path for offering a new giving option to individuals throughout the year.
Some of the key elements that Art Enables planned and executed include:
♦ A clear, achievable goal of a certain number of donors to acquire
♦ A short, neatly time-bound campaign
♦ A clear call to action in every communication
♦ Connection to impact on the mission in all Red Dot branding, solicitation communications, and social media posts (Facebook and Instagram)
♦ A unique online giving page for Red Dot donors
♦ Differentiated stewardship for new Red Dot donors
We celebrate the successful launch of the Red Dot donor program with our friends at Art Enables. While the initial funds secured may seem small, it’s important to remember that successful recurring gift programs are built over time. No organization recruits a monthly donor base of NPR or ACLU acclaim upon launch. However, by focusing on excellence in campaign logistics, articulating a strong mission connection, and ensuring rigorous follow-through – all best practices highlighted at the conferences – Art Enables has launched a new giving option in a way that builds a strong foundation for a future filled with recurring gifts. We are already looking forward to checking back in with Art Enables in 2019 to learn how this program has continued