How Well Do You Know Your Monthly Donors?

Survey pinpoints traits, actions and motives of monthly donors

Do you know which arguments work best to convert single-gift donors to monthly donors, who automatically give to your charity time after time?

The fact that these regular donations will create some stable income for the not-for-profit is the most successful argument in persuading a donor to commit to monthly gifting, according to the 2012 Cygnus Donor Survey. Other effective arguments for transitioning single-gift donors to monthly donors are that monthly giving is more convenient, reduces the cost of fundraising and allows the donor to give more generously.

Among other things, the 2012 survey investigated monthly gifts — also called sustaining or automatically recurring gifts — for the first time in its four-year history. Approximately 11,000 U.S. donors completed the survey. Here are some other findings about people who give monthly:

Demographics. Of the total respondents to the survey, slightly more women (30%) were active monthly donors than men (26%). And a larger percentage of those in the 35-64 age group (30%) were monthly givers than those 65 and up (28%) or under 35 (23%).

Gift amounts. Gifts from male monthly donors were higher than those from their female counterparts. Last year male donors gave an average of $181 per month, while female donors gave only about half that amount ($95).

Reasons for staying in a program. Survey participants were asked to indicate the most important reasons for staying in a monthly gifting program. Rated highest was “having confidence in the charity’s security measures regarding automatic deduction or recurring charges” (6.0 on a scale of 1 to 7). Good security was followed by “receiving a single annual receipt for gifts made over the year” (5.7), and “being confident about a no-hassle opt-out if donors decide to stop contributing through monthly giving” (5.7).

Reasons for dropping out. Monthly donors showed great loyalty — only 22% of respondents had canceled a monthly gift commitment after being in a program for some time. The top reasons for leaving were: shifted support to another charity that has become a higher priority (39%), financial circumstances changed for the worse (34%) and dissatisfaction with the nonprofit’s performance (24%).

If you’re like most not-for-profits, you consider monthly donors to be “plums” that you want to retain. According to the survey, the average tenure of monthly donors is 30 months, their average annual contribution value is much higher than that of those who give sporadically, and less fundraising money is spent on them.