Books for Nonprofit Staff & Volunteers

You Absolutely Need a Monthly Giving Program, and Here’s Why

By Harvey McKinnon

This is an excerpt from How to Create Lifelong Donors Through Monthly Giving.

Chances are you have to persuade others in your organization to embrace a monthly giving program.  The first reason alone—more money—should convince them. But, as you know, rational thinking doesn’t always prevail. Some in your organization will object because they want to focus on major gifts, not invest in a new program. Or they think using monthly giving will only raise a small amount of money.

To help you address these objections, I’m going to detail seven compelling reasons why a strong monthly giving program will provide you with more security, and improve your impact:

Reason #1: You raise more money

Sustainers will give you two to four times more money annually than they would by making single gifts. For example, if you convert a one-time $50 donor into a $15-a-month donor, your organization realizes nearly four times more money ($180 versus $50).

Reason #2: You develop a more positive relationship

One reason you may face attrition is that your relationship with supporters is based on repeated asks: “Can you give us another gift?” Some organizations are great at stewardship, but the majority of donor interactions involve asking for more money, rather than offering authentic gratitude and sharing the impact of the donor’s gift.

If a friend calls every few weeks to ask you to buy lunch, it can negatively impact your feelings toward the individual. Soliciting donors ten to twenty times a year can produce the same effect. When giving is automatic, however, you can focus on strengthening the bond because you don’t repeatedly ask.

Reason #3: Monthly donors give for more years

Sustainers stay active for more years than single-gift donors, as dozens of monthly giving audits prove. Sustainers can easily be worth ten times as much over a lifetime of giving.

Reason #4: You can rely on sustainers 

Monthly giving helps you plan better because it provides stable, predictable income. It is close to recession-proof; we’ve seen very few cancellations, even during hard economic times.

Reason #5: You lower your costs

The public’s perception is that the lower fundraising costs are, the better. Recurring giving lowers your expenses. You don’t have to send monthly donors every appeal—therefore you save in design, printing, and postage costs. That adds up to a lot of money when you have thousands of regular donors.

Reason #6: Your income will grow over time

A $15-a-month donor gives $180 a year. Each year you should ask them to increase their monthly pledge a bit (upgrading). A $5 upgrade is 33 percent more money each year. So even if your program is not adding net sustainers, income will increase.

Reason #7: Convenience

When I wrote Hidden Gold twenty years ago, I claimed that donors find monthly giving more convenient. A few years later, Rosemary Oliver at Amnesty International surveyed sustainers to discover why people join. She discovered that “9% joined Amnesty’s monthly giving program to stop torture, while 51% said they became a sustainer because it was convenient for them.” I knew that convenience played a big factor. I didn’t understand how much.

Your donors appreciate the convenience of automatically paying their Netflix or utility bills. Businesses have embraced the “subscription economy” because it’s profitable. In some countries, people don’t use checks. All payments are automatic, online or via cell phones.

About the Author

Harvey McKinnon is known as the “Guru of monthly giving.” He wrote Hidden Gold, the first book on the subject. It has helped fellow fundraisers raise many billions of dollars through sustainer programs.

His bestselling book The 11 Questions Every Donor Asks is used as a major gift training manual at organizations throughout the US and Canada.

McKinnon is also the co-author of the #1 international best-seller The Power of Giving: How Giving Back Enriches Us All.  It won the Nautilus Gold Award for Best Books on Social Change, and it was also selected as an Amazon Best Book of the Year. It has been translated into nine languages (all royalties have been donated to charities).

He has produced many award-winning documentary films that have been aired on the BBC, CBC, PBS, and networks around the world. They include Side-By-Side: Women Against AIDS, The Black Sea in Crisis, and biographies of David Suzuki and William Shatner.

He is a keynote speaker and highly rated trainer who has taught fundraising around the world. His consulting company, with offices in Vancouver and Toronto, works with dozens of clients in Canada and the USA. He has served on many nonprofit and foundation boards.