Does Your Small Charity need a Monthly Donor Program?

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I think the short answer to this question is yes, but I think Diana Schwenk has described the rationales and the “how to do it” in one of the most concise ways I have seen. The link to her blog post is listed in the references below. One of the things I like about her blog post is it not only describes the advantages of this type of program to your organization but also the benefits to your donor. Designing fundraising approaches that make sense to your donors- certainly makes sense for your nonprofit. Schwenk point out one of the prime reasons for considering a monthly donor program; “More affordable giving and easier to manage within their monthly budget.” Monthly giving programs are a great way to build a base of donors who will stay with your organization for a long time and some will give progressively larger gifts. I think monthly giving programs are a great tool in your fundraising tool kit. Our own monthly giving program has built slowly and progressively. We have not thought of it as a quick fix to our revenue generation needs, or that it will ever be largest program in our fundraising program. With that being said the first time I really became familiar with these programs was when I was introduced to a local University run radio station fundraising efforts. The station received over 90% of its revenue from monthly donors.
Makes sense lots of their supporters first become donors as students. We don’t have the phrase “starving students” without a reason –most students wouldn’t consider a $1000 gift for many a $100 gift would be a big deal. However lots of students would consider a $5 a month gift. I heard about this organizations program from a consultant who was doing some work with us –she had been one of their fundraising staff in the past. I asked her how they figured out how to build this type of program. I had really only seen this type of giving promoted by the huge international charities like Oxfam or World Vision. I couldn’t see how a small local charity could capitalize on this type of program. She told me they had applied the principles and techniques described in the Bible of Monthly giving programs text written by Harvey McKinnon, Hidden Gold. McKinnon describes a number of reasons why a charity might start a monthly giving program but two of these reasons were most compelling to me; donors give more and they stay with you a long time. For example McKinnon (1999,p. 9) describes:” In the studies I have conducted donors have generally given at least 100% more money once they sign up for a monthly giving program. In many cases their giving is dramatically higher up to 1200 percent.” Reading that sentence for the first time – I was pretty much convinced, however this second rationale sealed the deal for me. “I’ve learned that monthly donors are going to be with you for 5-10 years (McKinnon, 1999. p.10). From the standpoint of financial sustainability can you imagine if all your donors were likely to stay with you for 10 years. Or the impact on your organizations cash flow if all your annual donors divided their annual commitment by 12 and sent you that cheque every month. However one of the great benefits is that monthly donors don’t divide their commitment by twelve, they usually give more per year than they would if they gave you a one-time gift at Christmas.
Besides providing some great rationales why to have a monthly donor program, his text is a great “how to guide” I have a paper copy of the text, but on his website you can buy a traditional copy of get an e-book version emailed to you immediately. If you are considering a monthly giving program it is a great resource- his website is
In a future blog post I will talk about how we developed our own monthly giving program.

McKinnon, H (1999) Hidden Gold: How monthly giving will build donor loyalty, boost your organizations
income, and increase financial stability: Chicago: Bonus Books Inc.
Schwenk, D (2014) What Are Monthly Donor Programs and Why Should You Have One?; The Other
Bottom Line, as retrieved from:


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