A D4C Guide to Recurring Giving Programs

A D4C Guide to Recurring Giving Programs


19 September 2023


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


I have my own ideas, of course, but I also did a little research into the current data on recurring giving. And discovered that there’s a lot of crap out there. I looked at Network for Good, Classy, and several blog sites. This “guide” is written to cut through some of the hype and give you some practical advice.


First of all, the word “Recurring” is an internal word and should not be used externally. It doesn’t even accurately describe the intended action: Monthly Auto-Withdrawal Giving. Technically, your annual “Members” are also “recurring” donors.

Many people identify with being “Members” when asked unprompted about their affiliation with an organization the give to. Others might say donors or supporters, but virtually No One self-identifies with being a “Recurring Donor.” The word literally has ZERO marketing value.

So don’t use it.


Don’t automatically believe all the hype about recurring giving when applying it to the land trust experience. For one thing, much of the research is derived from the companies that hype it. For example, Network for Good proudly proclaims that 44% of their client’s donors give monthly. Which only shows that their own marketing works for their clients who buy into it.

It’s not wrong. Just be careful. Disraeli is attributed with saying that “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Here are several of them that have grabbed my attention.

The average recurring donor will give 42% more in one year than those who give one-time gifts.

Really? I see a lot of land trusts with average gifts in the neighborhood of $400. Forty percent more would be $560 – a monthly gift of $45. Average? (A Forbes article claimed an average gift of $56!) I haven’t seen the studies, but I suspect that the number are heavily weighted toward education and religion. I haven’t seen anywhere close to that in the land trust community. And it would not be my expectation. Put it this way, if your average gift experience is less than $400, there are easier ways to boost it than launching a recurring gift program.

Having more loyal donors directly equates to an increased donor lifetime value.” This may be true, but the quoted studies I have seen exclude planned giving, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t include gifts of land either.

57% of donors participate in a monthly giving program.” If this was true across all non-profits, it will be extraordinary, but I suspect that this statistic is again overwhelmingly weighted to religion and education. Just because it works there, doesn’t mean it will automatically work here.


So what are we to make of all this? There are six takeaways for me.


  1. Regardless of the hype, encouraging people to give monthly is a GOOD idea. Monthly donors can provide an important and consistent source of income. I strongly recommend that you get your annual renewal ducks in a row first, but establishing a reliable monthly program can be an important supplement. The most common median gift for the land trusts I have studied is $100. $10 per month is $120.
  2. Pay attention to the branding. You should even INVEST in the branding. Give your monthly donor group a catchy name and a separate website page (or pages). Bayou Land Conservancy has their Land Lovers Club for donors giving $15 or more. (I’ve promoted $15/month as a Half Circle and $30 as a Full Circle, but that’s mostly just me being cute.) Find something that works for you and brand it well. Then stage a “launch” that is well-publicized on the website and through social media.
  3. Market the program immediately after their first gift and immediately after their first few renewal gifts. The best time to market your monthly giving program is about six weeks after they have made the decision to join or renew. NOT as an alternative to renewal, but rather as a completely different opportunity to support an organization they have recently committed to. This can and should be a mini-campaign with a letter and a couple of email solicitations. Again – pay attention to the branding. If it comes across as just another “ask,” it can backfire. It needs to be seen as a unique opportunity.
  4. Direct potential donors to a separate Landing Page, just for Monthly Giving. In other words, don’t comingle monthly giving with all other giving. It’s not an “alternative” to one-time giving, as it is too often marketed. It becomes its own separate beast. And it’s marketed that way. Monthly giving donors behave differently than annual donors. They ARE different than annual donors.
  5. Don’t ignore monthly donors after they’ve signed up! Monthly donor programs are among the most vulnerable in times of economic stress. People look at their bank accounts and see the auto-withdrawals all together and freak out, canceling everything. Instead draft a specific communications plan just for monthly donors, with regular communication and opportunities to get engaged in other ways. An important message in all such communication is that their gift is making a difference. Pick out stories that could not have happened without loyal support and openly share the credit with your monthly donors.
  6. Consider a Matching gift in your marketing plan. For example $100 could be released from a matching grant for everyone who signs up within a specific window.



I am very interested in your monthly giving experience. If you’d be willing to share what you have tried and what you have learned from that experience, I’m interested in your takeaways.



Cheers, and have a great week!




PS: Your comments on these posts are welcomed and warmly requested. If you have not posted a comment before, or if you are using a new email address, please know that there may be a delay in seeing your posted comment. That’s my SPAM defense at work. I approve all comments as soon as I am able during the day.


Photo by Wunderphotos1951 courtesy pixabay



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  • Robert Ross
    Posted at 09:52h, 19 September

    David, as you know I am a great fan of monthly or sustaining giving. We have just completed a very successful campaign at The Land Conservancy of New Jersey, and I have worked with 10 other charities that have run successful campaigns.

    If any land trust would be interested, I would be happy to discuss my experience as a matching grant donor. My goal is to help initiate a campaign that will both nurture donors and increase donations. I have helped start 11 campaigns, all very successful. The benefits of monthly donations are manifold.

    If anyone is interested in learning more, I can recommend Erica Waasdorp’s two excellent books on the subject — free on her website: https://adirectsolution.com/

    Regards, Bob

  • Carol Abrahamzon
    Posted at 08:31h, 19 September

    We have monthly givers now but are going to launch a matching gift campaign in Feb. I like the idea of making it a “club” or giving it a name besides our current “sustaining members” name. Great and helpful ideas here David, thank you!