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How Small Recurring Gifts Lead to the Ultimate Gift

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If you have some monthly donors now, congratulations. Please allow me to share some recent statistics with you on why these small recurring donors are so powerful:

  • Average monthly gift between $24 and $36, that’s between $288 and $432 a year!
  • Typical way monthly donors pay: 80% credit card, 10% EFT/ACH, 10% other (PayPal and checks, where the organization sends reminders by mail). So, retention rate is much higher than the typical 45% retention rate you’re seeing now for those
  • 6% of monthly donors make at least one extra gift during the year, when asked
  • 12% of monthly donors upgrade their monthly gift once a year, when asked
  • Engagement levels for email are higher for monthly donors than other donors.
  • Digital and online is the way most nonprofits are generating both new, recurring donors and convert existing donors to give monthly. Of course, they’re driven there by direct mail, telemarketing, email and social media.

If you’re still not convinced why it would be a good idea to spend a bit of time on growing your number of monthly donors besides these latest statistics, let me add one more.

Monthly donors are 6 (six) times more likely to leave you in their will. They can’t write big checks now, but they are committed and care about your organization.

This particular statistic came from the UK where donors have been giving monthly for much longer than here in the U.S. Smee and Ford, a company there, reads every will written, so there is a ton of research available.

So what does this look like in the U.S.? Recently, Michael Rosen wrote a blog post about the best planned giving prospects. He quotes: “The leading factor that will determine whether someone will make a planned gift to your organization is their level of loyalty, according to legacy researcher Claire Routely, PhD.

Monthly donors fit that exact bill superbly. For two reasons:

  1. They make small regular gifts and tend to keep giving for a very long time.
  2. They’re typically very engaged donors as long as you indeed keep them engaged!

I’d like to remind you that legacy giving is the best approach for monthly donors, because of their small gifts now. They may be interested in other planned giving vehicles, but it’s unlikely.

I recommend keeping it simple. In fact, Richard Radcliffe, a well-known legacy consultant from the U.K. says: “Just ask for 1% of the donor’s estate.” Just like with recurring gifts, keep it small and manageable. Many donors will give much more than that, but it’s a good way to start the conversation.

I’ve written about engaging monthly donors in a recent blog. Your monthly donors will love hearing from you. But how do you best plant the seeds for legacy gifts?

  • I recommend you have a donor testimonial in every newsletter you send to your (monthly) donors.
  • You include a tick box on your reply form or the back of your reply envelope.
  • You can include a little buck slip in the donor’s tax letter in January.
  • You should have a page on your web site you can link to from your e-newsletter (and yes, it’s okay to repeat the donor testimonial from the print newsletter if you have one).

But the most powerful way: ask the donor in an engagement survey.

Bloomerang has written about surveys before and incorporating a donor engagement survey. At some point, include a question about the donor’s interest in leaving the organization in their will. Have they done it? Would they like to do it? Do they need more information?

Surveys are a superb way to find out from donors and recurring givers if they’ve taken action, or if they’d like to find out more.  

Donors will tell you if they’d like to hear more about that particular way of giving. You really will not know until you ask. What do you have to lose by asking your donors? It’s just a question, right?

And if you’re still not sure, check out this presentation right here.

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