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Monthly giving programs are worth the effort

Need more proof that your nonprofit organization should be investing in a monthly giving program?

Blackbaud just released its 2019 Luminate Online Benchmark Report, and one key area stands out above the rest: monthly donations. The report, which gathers insights from more than 900 nonprofit organizations, provides a great annual overview of the digital landscape.

After a strong 18.4% rise in 2018, sustainer revenue grew another 13.6% in 2019, according to the new report. And organizations that saw the greatest monthly donor revenue growth were the ones that showed the best overall revenue growth.

In fact, Blackbaud is calling this the “feel-good story of 2019” (our apologies to Baby Yoda).


Trying to convince people to part with their hard-earned income presents a host of challenges for nonprofit organizations.

The first hurdle, as we know, is trying to get a donor to notice you. You need to somehow find a way to quickly and effectively express the values and mission of your organization in order to make an emotional connection to people with an ever-dwindling attention span in a crowded marketplace of groups fighting for the spotlight.

Whew! That’s tough.

If you can break through that and get a donation, you’ve really accomplished something.

The next step is an even bigger challenge: convincing them to give a second gift. You need to somehow thank them for their donation, welcome them to your organization, and convince them to donate again in a short time frame without coming across as desperate or greedy – all while fighting through the same noise and attention spans.

Whew again!

From there, it gets a little easier. The first gift might be an impulse, but the second gift shows intentional behavior.

First-time donors have a retention rate in the 20-25% range. Once they give a second time, that rate jumps up to 60%.

These donors now have a connection with your organization. They’re invested.


You can probably see where we’re going here. Monthly giving programs are a great way to connect with a dedicated group of donors and overcome the challenges of competing for attention.

We’ve seen plenty of companies chasing after this consistent monthly revenue with subscription services — Disney+, Stitch Fix, Spotify, Amazon Prime, etc. — and for good reason. Monthly programs provide a steady, reliable source of revenue.

Nonprofits recognize this, and more are beginning to adopt this “subscription model” of giving. As Sami Sheehan of Lollypop Farm notes, it’s great for both donors and nonprofits.

“Having one more thing, such as a donation, happen automatically on their credit card each month is definitely convenient,” Sheehan told the Rochester Business Journal.

For years, sustainer programs were put on the backburner of nonprofit fundraising because they require a long-term investment with a slow payoff. But those who invested several years ago are seeing the payoff now, as the Blackbaud report shows.


If you’re looking for simple strategies to jumpstart your monthly program, we’ve got you covered in our e-book.

Simple Strategies to Jumpstart Your Monthly Donor Program


Erica Waasdorp is a consultant, blogger, author and expert on monthly giving. Her book, “Monthly Giving - The Sleeping Giant,” is a must read for all nonprofit marketers.

She recently sat down with Justin McCord on a Groupthinkers podcast to discuss how to start a monthly giving program in 2020 and what prevents nonprofits from putting more effort towards this area.

Groupthinkers is the podcast for nonprofit marketers by RKD Group. This is a must-listen experience of thought-provoking content that inspires insight on the industry and strategic decisions. Groupthinkers brings together innovators and curators in nonprofit marketing, branding and direct response to tackle the major issues facing nonprofits today.

Subscribe today on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or Soundcloud.

Jenn Thompson

As Vice President of Digital Strategy at RKD Group, Jenn brings decades of experience working alongside nonprofits to create integrated digital strategies that lead to omnichannel growth and high-value donors. She has been with RKD since 2010, and she provides the digital plan of attack for dozens of nonprofit organizations.

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