Research & Reports

New Insights About Recurring Donations and Stewarding Donors

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A new report, The State of Modern Philanthropy 2019, reveals the donor patterns and behaviors that take place after someone makes a first, one-time donation to an organization—unearthing new insights about the continued value of recurring donors and opportunities for better donor engagement.

A key finding from the study: Recurring donors are even more valuable than their monthly gifts. One-quarter (25%) of all one-time donors who returned to start a recurring plan went on to make another one-time gift as one of their future interactions. This unique behavior adds to the already-known value of recurring donors, who are over five times more valuable than one-time donors, according to the 2018 report. Ultimately, recurring donors are more than just a passive, automatic transaction—they actively give on top of their subscriptions, proving their investment in an organization’s cause.

The State of Modern Philanthropy 2019, conducted by Classy, leverages proprietary data from both 2017 and 2018, spanning nearly one million transactions over 15,000 campaigns and almost 4,000 recurring plans from 875 organizations ranging in size.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Return donors tend to give in a similar fashion between gifts. Across all campaign types, over half of return donors used the same device to make both gifts—77% of donors who first donated from a mobile device made their second donation from a mobile device, while 90% of donors who first donated from a desktop made their second donation from a desktop.
  • The more a donor initially engages with an organization, the higher their return donation amount is likely to be. Return donors who initially gave to a donation page gave noticeably more to that same organization's peer-to-peer page.
  • 94% of all return donors gave another one-time donation as their second interaction.
  • Donation pages yield the highest donor return rates, while ticketed events yield the lowest donor return rates.
  • Of return donors who became recurring donors, 25% then gave another one-time donation at some point within the same year.
  • Roughly 50% of return donors will come back between 300 and 400 days after their first gift. Of all return donors who made a second donation, 19% returned within the first three months after their first donation and 29% returned within the first six months after their first donation.
  • While it’s important to pay close attention to the behavior and retention of individual donors, focusing on fundraiser retention could yield significant results for organizations. Analysis found that return fundraisers typically raised over twice as much (126%) as one-time fundraisers.

In addition to the data analysis, the report also offers a worksheet to allow organizations to benchmark their own performance and identify opportunities for improvement, as well as “Thought Starter” sections to help apply the report findings to your own work.

To read the full report, please visit Classy’s website.

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