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5 Ways to Turn Your Nonprofit into a Recurring Donation Powerhouse

Nonprofits are no strangers to fundraising, but many of us have yet to take advantage of the latest shift in fundraising, Subscription Philanthropy.

What is Subscription PhilanthropyThe Subscription mindset is all about following trends in consumer behavior to create experiences + magic moments that create lifelong donor relationships. 

Here at Harness, we love Subscription Philanthropy because we care about the long-term health & sustainability of your mission & know it can work for any nonprofit, from churches to animal shelters, from youth leagues to animal rescue organizations.

With just a little know-how and a shift in focus/priority, you can transform your organization into a recurring donation powerhouse!

1. Understand the Value & Have Courage to Shift

Perhaps your organization is really great at collecting surges of one-time donations from donors at special events and end-of-year appeals & we know it can be a little intimidating to shift priority and take a "risk" to ask a donor for a monthly gift instead of a one-time donation.

Here are a few cool things to consider on the other side of your risk:

  1. From a bandwidth perspective (we know your time, staff, budget is limited), it takes you just as much effort and energy to ask a donor for a monthly gift as it does a one-time gift, so we encourage you to go for it! Worst case scenario? Donor gives you that 1x gift anyway.
  2. A $10/month donor has a greater lifetime value than a one-time $100 donor because you'll actually end up receiving $120 from that donor annually. Fun Fact: The average monthly gift is $25 & most donors keep that gift active for 4+ years!
  3. From the donor's perspective, giving a smaller amount monthly is easier on the budget, more manageable & saves them from the donor fatigue of feeling pressure to engage with ongoing 1x solicitations - especially when you're texting your donors regularly showing them how their gift is making a difference!
  4. You're building sustainable support for the LONG run! How awesome would it be to NOT have to start your fundraising plan each year from $0? It's kind of like planting a tree - a seed 🌱 starts small & doesn't produce any fruit for a while, but once it does, it is fruit can feed generations. 

Here is some quick napkin math:

Examples of One-Time vs Monthly Donations math

Convincing a donor who normally gives $1,000/year to switch to a $100/month will produce 20% more over the course of the year.

This may seem obvious at first, but the real magic begins to happen in Year 2: Whereas you will have to spend time and/or money to collect Donor A's $1,000 gift (as well as risk not receiving it whatsoever), Donor B will continue to give their $100/month uninterrupted for close to 8 years (seriously, the retention rate of monthly donors is 87%)!

Which scenario would you prefer? Having to continuously convince Donor A to give $1,000 a year for 8 years in a row and receiving $8,000 (at best), or asking her to donate $100/month and collecting $9,600 effortlessly during that same time?

This is subscription philanthropy at its finest.


2. Supercharge Donor Engagement Through Storytelling & Marketing

While there are many, many ways to engage people with your organization, one of our favorites is through storytelling. After all, everyone loves a good story, and it’s something that most of us can relate to in some way.

Tell stories that bring your mission and values to life so donors feel as though they’re part of something bigger than themselves.

The #1 reason donors give is because they're asked, the #2 reason is they believe their gift will make a difference and there's nothing better than a heartwarming, genuine story of how your mission has impacted someone's life for the better.

This is also a great way for new or on-the-fence donors to learn more about you—and if they get emotionally invested, they just might be ready for that recurring donation option!

In short, focus on storytelling (in whatever form works best for you), and watch those donations start pouring in! 

Pro Tip 💡 Record a quick 20-30 second video telling donors what a donation of X amount could do for your cause. Post that video EVERYWHERE. Not literally, but repurpose that video by posting it in multiple places.

Ways to incorporate storytelling in your messaging:

  • Send as a bulk text message to your contacts
  • Post of your Facebook page or in a Facebook group
  • Send in your monthly newsletter

Now that you have a great story to share, we need to cut through the "noise" & clutter & scrolling paralysis donor's experience to SEE your story. Best way to do that? Have a clean, compelling, colorful visual to stop the scroll & catch a donor's eye! 

We are BIG fans of a free design tool called Canva that is perfectly designed for folks who don't have much design skill or time to create fancy marketing - we've put together some tips to help you get started! Check out how our partner created a great visual & call to action 👇

UW CentMN EM Campaign


3. Options + Direction

You may have heard it said that donors want MORE options of ways to get involved in your mission - this is certainly true! You are constantly engaging with a variety of audiences (ex: clients, major donors, board members, volunteers, etc.) that have varying interests and capacities to move your mission forward.

It is ALSO true that donors want MORE direction - "Tell me what you need the MOST right now! How can my gift stretch the farthest? Make the most difference?"

Here's a great example:

A local food bank conducted year-round food drives. They decided to host a targeted food drive (cereal & breakfast items only) for a targeted group (children who experience hunger) for a targeted amount of time (over the summer).

The food bank received nearly TRIPLE the amount of food & support in that 2 month period than they did in the ENTIRE YEAR of collecting food drive donations! When asking donors why, they said, "Well, you made it easy for me! I didn't have to question or think about what you wanted when I was buying groceries & I knew you had a deadline and you told me what you needed most right now!" Amazing! It is now the food bank's most successful annual food drive event!

We encourage you to prioritize & market monthly giving (whether year-round or seasonal depending on your other competing appeals) as the "best way to support us!" while still providing "other ways to give" close by for donors who are not able or willing to contribute monthly at the time or are looking for alternative options.

Check out how this partner created a hierarchy of giving on their donation page starting with recurring giving options at the top!

4. Start by Finding Your Super Fans

The best way to get started is to launch "internally" to your "super fans".

Not sure who those are? Most often they are your:

These are the folks who know your mission best & understand the need for sustainable funds to scale your mission for the long haul.

You can let them know "You are our best supporters and we wanted you to be the first to know and get an inside scoop about new ways to keep our mission moving forward..."

The benefit of reaching out to these folks first is:

  1. They can give you valuable feedback so that when you're ready to launch publicly you have additional ideas & insights of things your donor might care about
  2. Now that they've signed up to support you monthly, they can become an easy extension of your development team - they can walk others through the process of giving monthly

Stay tuned for more tips next on how to launch to donors! (Here's a sneak peek!)

5. Get started with Subscription Philanthropy

Harness Giving lives and breathes the subscription economy to make the entire donation process easier for donors and nonprofits alike. Whether you are a major player in your local philanthropy scene or just starting out, we can help make your organization a recurring donation powerhouse.

Ready to launch your Subscription program? If yes, consider speaking with the Harness Giving team to see how we can help you get results.

Speak to the Harness Team
Want to learn more? Check out these Pro Tips
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