Giving USA report on philanthropy 2010 report coverCan we talk about an embarrassing subject?  Recurring gift donors; the ones who give at regular intervals (usually monthly) throughout the year with no end in sight.  The reason this is embarrassing?  Most organizations don’t have enough of them.

According to Giving USA 2011– The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the year 2010, “In the United States, just 10 percent of all donors, on average, are recurring donors.”  Far fewer than our international counterparts.  By the way, this sub-group of donors gives 21 percent of charitable revenue according to the report and are the most predictable, reliable and sustainable source of revenue.

The report goes on to give some characteristics of recurring-gift donors:

Text box with bullet points that read: Generally younger than single-gift givers, No difference in income level, Give significantly more per year than single-gift donors, Are less likely to come back if they lapse in giving, Retention rates are significantly higher, Did I mention they give more?

The findings do reveal one downside of recurring gift donors versus single gift givers. “Single gift donors tend to upgrade their gift at a greater percentage of the original gift than do recurring gift donors.”  I believe that most often this is due to a strategic misstep on the part of the organization.  We don’t give them a reason to upgrade and we don’t ask.

There are several lessons on how to grow a successful recurring gift program to be learned and applied from this information. The plan can be summed up in the three important measures:

Retain – take care of your recurring gift donors and they will stick with you. Upgrade – Give them a reason to grow by offering specific, in-budget opportunities.New - Recruit new donors to consider a recurring gift plan and multiply the impact of their giving.

Ok, I know that the first two are actions and the last an adjective, but it works better if it spells a word.  It also works best if you actually do it.  One more embarrassing topic eliminated.

For more information about The Fundraising Resource Group’s relational fundraising services, visit our website at

Leave a Reply