Now, I’m sure giving to charity via a monthly gift isn’t dead. But you could argue that we should be starting to worry about its health.
A very brief history lesson.
Since the mid 90’s the overwhelming focus of the UK fundraising sector has been the recruitment and upgrade of monthly givers. It’s become the key individual giving fundraising product for almost all charities, in many cases to the detriment of maintaining active cash files.
In the mid 90’s monthly givers were converted from the warm cash file. Then there was a step towards massive levels of cold acquisition using direct mail, door drop and latterly television. Finally, along came face to face, door to door and the telephone as volume sources.
Over time cold recruitment has become much much tougher. The less direct channels like traditional print and television have become less effective than they once were and we are now in the place where volume recruitment is pretty much reliant on the direct dialogue channels, face to face, door to door and telephone fundraising. Many charities I work with will recruit over 50% of their new monthly givers from direct dialogue channels in this financial year.
So what’s the problem with that?
Well nothing really, these direct dialogue channels will I’m sure, continue to deliver significant volumes of new monthly givers for a long time yet.
But you could argue that none of these sources are going to grow over the next few years. And if monthly giving is going to remain a key fundraising product, this will become a big problem for charities.
In the last couple of weeks both Manchester and Liverpool councils have reduced to three the number of days they will permit face to face fundraising on the streets of their cities. If this were to be repeated in other cities there is likely to be a reduction in the number of supporters recruited this way.
The telephone is only successful if there is enough high quality lifestyle, sponsored or profiled data to support charity demand. This is a real issue, volumes are reducing along with response rates at the same time data costs are increasing. Not a recipe for growth!
So if the key volume channels are likely to shrink, what comes next?
Well if the sector remains focussed on monthly giving, which it must in the short term as there are few viable alternatives, other sources must be found.
This really is the time to remove the notion of ‘data/supporter ownership’ from fundraising teams and encourage collaborative working across all of fundraising and campaigning. Cross selling to existing supporter groups is a method in the short to medium term to grow or maintain the monthly giver file.
The basic premise being that a group of supporters who have interacted with your organisation in any way, are more likely to be receptive to the offer than someone who you approach on the high street or who is called because they have completed a lifestyle survey in order to win a holiday.
- Event participants, especially those that didn't return any sponsorship money.
- Raffle ticket sellers, who sold the most tickets.
- Online campaigners, those who take action the most frequently.
- Catalogue buyers, that add a top up donation.
Are all examples of supporter types that have been successfully approached for a monthly gift and there are lots and lots of other examples.
A common concern is that approaching supporters for a monthly gift will mean they will become less responsive to their initial product. If you’re worried, test it. In the majority of cases you will find that the overall financial value of a supporter will increase with the number of relationships that they have, not decrease.
Oh, and when you’re asking them, make sure you acknowledge and thank the supporter for everything else they do for you. There’s nothing quite as rude as being told that the way you’ve been supporting for years is rubbish!
In the longer term it is likely that successful individual giving charities will invest budget in a much wider range of entry level products with the explicit aim of creating their own prospect pools for cross selling higher value products. With this will come innovation in the mechanisms for financial support and with that, probably the death of monthly giving!
But that’s a long way away right?