Monthly Giving Is All About Donor Retention

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By Erica Waasdorp

This is always an exciting time of year as donor base providers and analytics groups release their giving trends from the prior year.

We are continuing to see so many changes. Not many were prepared for this disaster. And many, especially smaller organizations, almost froze when the shutdown happened.

Many assumed that their donors did not have the funds to help, so they did not ask at a time when it was most crucial to ask donors for help.

Fortunately, with in person events and face-to-face fundraising cut off, other fundraisers turned to online and social media approaches, the phone and good old proven driver of response: direct mail. And some turned to (finally) growing their monthly donor programs as they now saw the tremendous need for those ongoing donors.

As you know, the biggest factor in driving donor retention is getting that second gift. This is where sending appeals on a regular basis and monthly giving requests come into play. Sadly, I still see and hear so many organizations that only appeal to their donors once a year. That does not help your retention!

You can clearly see this in the recently published “2020 DonorPerfect Fundraising Benchmarks Report.” While the report didn’t focus on monthly giving specifically, check out this chart on page 11. The bigger organizations typically sent more appeals to their donors and thus had more two-plus-time donors and more monthly donors.

Graph from

“2020 DonorPerfect Fundraising Benchmark Report” | Credit: DonorPerfect

While this 2% of monthly donors is not yet at the level where I’d like it to be, it’s growing. Some larger organizations are seeing 15% of their donors giving monthly, so even better for donor retention.

Douglas Schoenberg, CEO of SofterWare and author of the report, shares how the biggest driver in fundraising success in 2020 came from a focus on donor retention.

Sending additional appeals by mail and online were all aimed at keeping the donors organizations had, getting more money from existing donors, building up monthly donor programs, as well as picking up the phone and trying to engage with donors as much as possible.

If one thing is clear from 2020, it’s that donors are tremendously supportive. Donors still cannot read minds! What’s the worst that can happen when you ask a donor for help? And in my monthly-giving-focused world, what’s the worst that can happen when you ask a donor to start giving monthly?

Will it help you improve your donor retention? You bet!

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