I've been mulling over some research on online monthly giving reported last month by M+R Strategic Services.

Their findings are based on a survey of nearly 70 organizations plus analysis of the hard data from eight large high-profile nonprofits.

Some interesting data here against which to benchmark your own online monthly giving program …

  • Average monthly gift of $28 for international aid groups (driven I assume by child sponsor groups).
  • Average monthly gift of $16 for other organizations.
  • Retention averages 70% in the first year, dropping to 52% in the second year.

What was most striking to me was the degree to which programs differ on key aspects like timing (when donors are first approached for monthly giving) and cultivation (how donors are acknowledged and communicated with once they've become monthly donors).

For example, only 41% (a surprisingly low figure to me) send their first monthly sustainer invite out within eight weeks of the donor first coming on board; about 30% attempt to acquire monthly donors within six weeks of the one-time donor's first gift.

More than half of respondent groups conduct appeals for monthly giving only “infrequently” or not at all. Compared to quarterly or annual campaigns at 16% each, and monthly campaigns at 14%.

Patterns are equally diverse on sending acknowledgements and on whether cultivation copy or additional money appeals are included.

Most direct response fundraising agencies have a “testing bible” of one sort or another. Based on what I've seen, for example, I'd be quite surprised if consultants didn't advise against letting too much grass grow under the feet of new donors before soliciting them for monthly giving.

So I'm a bit surprised that there isn't more of a concensus around “best practices” when it comes to such a lucrative fundraising approach for most nonprofits.

To the degree that these programs seem to be all over the place, I'd like to believe that organizations were acting on the basis of relevant testing.

But that might be too much to hope for, given how “slack” the reported programs seem to operate and given how frequently online giving programs lack supervision from seasoned direct marketers.

Any consultants want to weigh in on this?


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