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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Sustaining Gifts: The Benefits for You and Your Favorite Charity


If you’re a public radio listener, you've likely been asked to support your local station on a recurring basis. And, you’ve probably received an email (or two) from your favorite charity asking you to deepen your commitment by turning your annual gift into a monthly one. This concept of automatically donating on a monthly basis is considered sustaining giving - think sustainable support.

Do you feel like there’s a growing movement among the charities hitting your inbox and airwaves to encourage monthly giving? You’re not wrong. Over the last few years, charities have embraced the value and benefits of sustaining gifts and vocalized it to their supporters.

Here’s why you should consider “making it monthly” the next time you’re asked:

For the Charity

There’s a very practical reason your favorite organization has asked you to consider turning your annual gift into a monthly one: stability.

For a long time, charities have primarily relied on the last few weeks of the calendar year to bring in the lion’s share of their annual operating budgets. Fundraising teams spend months working on crafting perfect year-end campaigns that will stand out in your crowded mailbox or inbox and remind you of the important work they’re doing and your connection to their causes. They hold their breath as the clock ticks closer to 11:59 p.m. on December 31 to determine if they’ll hit their revenue goal for the year. 

As a former fundraiser, I can tell you it’s even more stressful than it sounds! I’ve spent many New Year’s Eves tucked into the corner of a party obsessively refreshing reports and crossing my fingers that I’ll hit my revenue target.

And then, after all of the year-end campaign planning and nail-biting, it’s up to the finance team to find a workable way to spread out the donations over the next 11-12 months to ensure the organization has the resources it needs to continue working toward its mission for another year.

Sustaining gifts are one way charities can release some of the pressure from end-of-year fundraising. Recurring donations provide organizations with a reliable revenue stream throughout the year. The stability afforded through predictable income allows them to spend more time on innovating their programs and raising more awareness and funds.

For You

Sustaining gifts provide stability to charities, but what are the benefits for you, the donor?

Practically speaking, monthly giving is easier to fold into your budget than a one-time gift. It allows you to choose an amount that works for you and ensures you’re doing your part to support your favorite cause all year long. And, just like Netflix, but without the price hikes, you’re able to “set it and forget.” 

You won’t have to worry about writing a check, buying a stamp, or remembering to visit your favorite organization’s website on a specific date. You’re also less likely to receive additional appeals from the charity, as they know they have your ongoing support. Without all of the additional paper, consider it a much greener way to support your favorite organization.

Many donors find that sustaining gifts allow them to be more generous. At the end of the year, a $50 gift to your favorite organization may feel burdensome. If you spread your support out throughout the year and give $5 a month, however, at the end of the year you will have donated $60 which is 20% more!

Another great reason to become a sustaining donor is the “insider perks.” Like retailers, charities often offer special incentives to their most loyal supporters. These could be invitations to special events, recognition as part of a donor club, early access to cause-related research and reports, or gifts, like t-shirts and coffee mugs. I know you’re not donating for the “stuff,” but, if we’re being honest, we all enjoy things that help us feel more connected to the brands we love and the causes we support. There’s no shame in repping your favorite organization with a tote bag or meeting fellow donors who share your passion for the cause at an invite-only cocktail hour.

So, the next time you’re tuned into public radio and they ask you to become a sustaining member, or you open your inbox and find a monthly gift request from that charity you love, I hope you will consider making a commitment. 

I want to hear from you!

Do you support your favorite charity with a monthly gift? If so, what inspired you to make the shift from an annual contribution?


Written by Ashley Post, Communications Manager at Charity Navigator.


As a 501 (c) (3) organization itself, Charity Navigator depends on public support to help donors make informed choices. Please consider investing in the future of Charity Navigator by making a donation today.  Donate now >>

22 comments:

Unknown said...

I found your story to be an great piece and highlights something, I am sure some folks have apprehension about.

In my case, I do donate monthly. About 3 years ago during an annual fund drive, feeling both guilt and maybe a annoyed by the repeating calls for a donation, I decided to pony up for the monthly donation to K-Love radio. Afterwards, when I heard an encouraging story of someone finding hope in a song or someone's testimony, I was reminded of my choice, and felt connected to them finding hope. I also never feel guilt during the fund drives.

donoralert said...

On the other hand I find that waiting until the end of the year let's me evaluate what I have left in my checking account making it easier to determine to which charities and how much I will be able to contribute.

Unknown said...

Hi Ashley, I started monthly giving maybe 12 years ago when I was having personal finance and budget difficulties. It seemed that my expenses (particularly year-end) were both manageable and certainly more affordable with monthly giving, on the order of $5.00 to $10.00 per month, in particular during a time when I was working to eliminate my consumer debt. The alternative to monthly giving at least for me would have been to stop charitable donations of any kind. Many thanks for your supportive article about the merits of monthly giving, Thomas

Lyle said...

I can understand why charities would prefer a monthly donation over a year-end donation. But some of us don't live off fixed income or salaries. I am a Consultant whose income varies month to month. I typically set aside 10% of my annual income for the charities I support. I don't know what that number will be until December - when I make my annual donations.

Of course, I could give a modest monthly donation to several charities - and then give a lump sum "remainder" at year-end. But that creates a LOT of transactions in terms of bookkeeping, and IMHO, would be a waste of time for at best modest value to the charities.

Cheers, Lyle

Unknown said...

Excellent article.

I intend to adapt it to my stewardship pitch for our church.

Churches hold their breath on Easter and Christmas in hopes of receiving enough donations to sustain their programs throughout the year.

Thank you for your insights.

RockFox said...

Since I am now at an age where I have to take a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from my IRA I take advantage of making Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCD) to my charities. My IRA RMD is therefore tax-free.

I have check writing capability on my IRA account and the minimum check amount is $250. So almost all of my charitable donations are on an annual basis.

Unknown said...

For me, it makes a lot of sense. Currently, I write around 15 checks from June to October; and then 25 to 30 checks in December. It takes a lot of time and becomes stressful during the holiday season. It also is a large hit at the end of year on my budget.

I am a sustaining donor to a few of my favourite charities am am seriously considering becoming a sustaining donor to all of my favourite charities.

Unknown said...

It depends on the level of support.

My small annual donations at the end of the year are made from excess income (after expenses and savings) when the size of the pool is known. It varies from year to year.

Large donations are made by stock transfers.

Those best suited to monthly payments are the ones with modest annual donations, and are known to be charities that will be around for years in the future.

And, finally, I have still been badgered monthly by several that promised not to do that for an annual donation.

I am not a robot but would prefer to be anonymous to the public.

Unknown said...

I find monthly gifts to be too frequent but I have several charities where I give quarterly or semi-annually

Unknown said...

The minimum contribution from our charitable trust is more than I wish to give on a monthly basis.

busplanner said...

Sadly, being a "sustaining" donor does not appear to stop the mail, e-mail, and telephone calls requesting "special" or "emergency" or "extraordinary" or "legacy" contributions. And this, to me, means the charity has money to burn. I have discontinued donating to a number of four star charities that had solicited me at least three times a month asking for even more money.

So, I prefer to donate annually. If the charity respects my request for a once a year solicitation, I try to increase the amount as my finances allow each year.

Unknown said...

I enjoyed reading your email. Even if I do not agree with your suggestion to pledge monthly.
Not every one has cash flow that is equal every month. Bonds pay every 6 months. Stocks can pay dividends monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, and annually.
I support many charities during the year. Their need for cash flow is not necessarily the same each month. There can be various factors impacting a charities cash needs such as
bad weather, seasonality.
If I am donating to 30 charities during the year I may have 30 checks or on line transactions during a year. So if I move them all to monthly I would have 360 transaction! What a mess
to keep track of.
I have served on the board of directors of various charities. None of them would have needed your monthly recommendation. Therefor I do not support your blanket recommendation.

Sue from CA said...

I signed up for a sustainable gift to Organize for America, soon after President Obama was elected. I was promised by their web site that I would be able to stop the automatic donations at any time. However there was no way to stop them online and it took several phone calls to the organization and to the DNC, their parent organization, before I could stop the donations. I will never set up such an arrangement again unless I have real assurance that ending the donations is in fact easy to do.

Unknown said...

If you put your monthly payment on a credit card, it is a pain when the card expires and you get a new one. It is not easy to remember who is on your card.

rcn said...

I donate to multiple charities annually but am gradually shifting from late-year to mid-year to early year - which will hopefully help the organizations. I've resisted late-year monthly donations partly due to tax deduction confusion. However, switching to early-year *monthly* donations probably wouldn't help organizations, as I'd still give roughly the same amount per organization per year, with no possibility of later cancelling any payments. Most likely I'm an exception to individual givers but thought you'd like to know my take regardless.

Unknown said...

But remember that for donors 70 and older, using a portion of the income from a stock can allow the full deduction of charitable donations. Please summarize and send the details of this program.

Unknown said...

I support 15 different charities with monthly donations ranging from $5 to $15 a month. However, I have seen no decrease from these charities in their continued mailers and e-mails asking for MORE. The ones that really annoy me are the ones that ask me to become a monthly donor (Sierra Club) when I have already set up monthly donations with that charity

Unknown said...

Good article. I do give monthly to different charities. Monthly giving does work more easily on the budget.

Unknown said...


Like many others, my income varies through the year and I prefer one-time gifts. I realize it is important for organizations to e able to budget monthly income, but the donor needs to consider what works best for him/her.
ALSO, I found it extremely difficult once to stop monthly withdrawals from my checking account. It was not a charity, it was a large commercial organization, and it took many calls and visits to the company and to the bank to cease monthly withdrawals. So I am loathe to start again.

Ellen

RockFox said...

I agree with @busplanner. It seems that the more often I donate then the requests for more increase. I give to four (4) religious charities and each of them send me 3 or 4 solicitations per month.

Unknown said...

I do give to some of my charities monthly, some quarterly and some annually. My faves get the lion share divided into monthly installments. My monthly giving began when I was still working (I'm recently retired) and my employer would give a partial matching payment. They made it easy to give by taking my donation out of my paycheck before I ever saw it and then matched a portion of my gift. They also made it easy each year to renew my gift as I needed to do absolutely nothing unless I wanted to increase the amount (which I did every other year). I have used Charity Navigator to help me decide which new charities to add. I have been interested in giving to an organization working to provide clean water to those that do not have access. I thought I knew which one I would donate to until I checked Charity Navigator and found an organization with a much better rating. Thank you Charity Navigator for helping us to spend our money wisely!

Irene Carlyle said...

I found your article useful and understand why recurring monthly donations make sense to an organization. I have been giving $25 annually for about 4 years You almost convinced me until i checked and discovered that last year my amount DOUBLED becasue it was matched by your Board. I therefore decided to keep my donation on an annual basis and hope its matched again. In the meantime, just a few words to let you know how valuable/useful Charity Navigator is to this person who cares deeply about the environment but has a limited and fixed income.