Embracing the Subscription Economy With Your Fundraising Strategy

Chad WarrenVice President and Senior ConsultantFebruary 10, 2020

In our industry, we often pose the question on what to call an advancement office or when it might be time to rebrand. Should we say Annual Giving or Individual Giving? Recognition Level or Giving Society? Many times, we apply internal jargon and “industry speak” and apply it to our solicitation and marketing strategy. That’s not the best motivation. We should rename ourselves or a channel because we recognize it is outdated, not striking a chord with our constituents or not yielding the results we desire.

Take for example monthly giving, which has been a giving option in many higher education shops for some time.

There is real value in monthly giving programs

Turning monthly giving into a fundraising subscription
  • 49% of GenX and Baby Boomers say they give monthly.
  • You’ll receive 4x to 8x lifetime giving from monthly givers
  • Monthly givers show 2x to 3x new donor retention

Monthly giving has been around for a while, and everyone refers to it differently. Some institutions call it sustaining giving or use some variation of reoccurring or recurring. Does this philanthropic lingo resonate with donors?

The first answer is in how our lives have changed. As I was paying my bills last month, I noticed that I have fewer (paper) bills. The amount of automatic deductions from my checking account had increased. As I began to review each transaction, line by line, I realized that over time, I had opted into automatic payment deduction. Many of my standard utility bills and even my mortgage are now conveniently being deducted from my account. We’ve all done this.

But, something did not add up.

I was astounded to see how many of my monthly deductions were subscriptions. Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Sirius XM, Amazon Prime, a local gym membership—even a pet preventative plan had become a subscription and part of my monthly spend.

As I was calculating the cost of these monthly subscriptions, it added up to a nice chunk of change. I was reminded how subscriptions had become the new normal in my life—in all of our lives. When did signing-up for a subscription become second nature? How can we leverage this change with fundraising?

Monthly Giving as a subscription
With donors paying monthly fees for so many subscriptions, why can’t we channel that into subscription fundraising?

It’s time to get with the trend. A subscription is essentially what we have been promoting as monthly giving for the last decade. It’s a good strategy, as retention of first-time donors has been a challenge for quite some time. The conversion rate to obtain once-a-month donors has also been difficult for most fundraising organizations. When I speak to colleagues they often admit that their staff do not ask for monthly gifts; recognize it’s difficult to sign-up online as a repeat donor at their institution; or worst of all, they do not even offer it as an option.

We can do better. Three things every organization should do with their monthly giving program are:

  1. Make it easy to give on a recurring basis, and also convert a one time donation to a recurring donation, online.
  2. Ensure that every donor engagement team member in your organization, all the way up to the major gift officers, know about the value of recurring giving.
  3. Make monthly donors feel special, like they’ve joined something, and subscribed. This means special communications and helping build a sense of belonging,and group impact.

As consumers, signing-up for a subscription has become second-nature. Joining a subscription is quick and easy in the commercial world, and can be canceled at any time. By becoming a subscriber or member, you are making the organization you commit to part of your lifestyle. This is what we want to accomplish with donor engagement, making donors feel part of a unique cohort. Shifting your strategy on monthly giving to something you sort of have available to embracing the full value of the subscription economy is a key part of maximizing this joy of giving.

Let’s talk about creating a “subscriber” strategy for your fundraising

Changing monthly giving to a subscriber model

RNL’s experienced donor engagement strategists can help you craft a successful monthly giving subscriber strategy. Contact us today to find out how our omnichannel engagement tactics can amplify your results, immediately.

About the Author

Chad Warren

With over 2 decades of experience as a senior higher education leader, Chad Warren is an expert in maximizing donor engagement and meeting goals with the best use of resources. Dr. Chad Warren serves RNL partners...

Read more about Chad's experience and expertise

Reach Chad by e-mail at

Read More In: Fundraising
Read More Blogs By: Chad Warren