What Smaller Nonprofits Can Do With More Communication and Recurring Gifts

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By Erica Waasdorp

Recently, I shared statistics from large organizations here and here. Now, it’s time to look at what smaller nonprofits are doing when it comes to monthly giving.

I was excited to read the “Small Nonprofit Fundraising Benchmark Report,” published by Network for Good and the NextAfter Institute based upon 2019 data and 2020 surveys.

This report publishes the key findings based on a survey of 1,222 nonprofit employees and an analysis of donation data from 2,832 organizations using Network for Good’s fundraising software. Small nonprofits were defined as those raising less than $1 million, and often even $500,000 or less. The organizations reviewed had different types of missions.

Here are just a few highlights:

  • 13% of revenue came from recurring donors.
  • Average recurring gift $42 a month (or a total of $504 annually).
  • 54% of revenue came from online channels.
  • Average one-time gift size online: $110.
  • 60% have an email list of fewer than 1,000 contacts.
  • 82% of small nonprofits send fewer than one email per month.
  • 79% of small nonprofits have mailing lists of fewer than 1,000 names.
  • 89% of small nonprofits send direct mail fewer than twice per year.
  • Multichannel donors are worth 234% more than online-only donors.
  • Overall retention rate 49% (before the pandemic).
  • Recurring donor retention rates were 92%!
  • 77% of small nonprofits do not have a lapsed donor reactivation strategy. This ties back to the fewer than twice per year appeals.
  • 31% of small nonprofits indicated they did not have a stewardship strategy. Most thought that an email receipt is the thank-you, which, of course, it isn’t.
  • Those organizations that sent a combination of donation appeals and had at least weekly emails saw a 41% of increase in revenue.

I work with a mix of organizations of different sizes. Some are smaller than $1 million; some much larger. Most are afraid they’re overdoing it. Most are afraid to communicate with their donors and ask them for money. Whether it’s a one-time ask or a monthly ask, that doesn’t really matter.

In my mind and based upon my almost 30 years of experience fundraising with direct mail, email and monthly giving, there is a huge difference between sending something once a month and once a day.

I see so many organizations with so much great content to share. It’s often all squished into one humongous monthly email update. Just think how much more exposure you’d get and how much more money you’d raise if you only broke it up in smaller chunks and spread it out over the month.

Let’s link it back to recurring giving approaches:

If you’re a smaller organization that only sends an email once a month, try sending something once a week, make at least one of those a monthly giving ask and see what happens.

If you’re sending something once a week, try adding another email a week, make that a monthly giving ask and see what happens.

Are you raising more money?

One of the conclusions of the report was not surprising: Organizations with the most successful recurring giving programs are the ones that make recurring giving a priority.

That’s a universal truth for small and large organizations. Donors cannot read minds. You must ask them to help with a (monthly) gift. If they can help, they certainly will!

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