I've been canvassing opinion from some of the best American fundraisers of late about the $64m question: why has monthly/regular giving not really "taken off" like it has in other developed fundraising nations?
The views I've had back from some of the best in the business, including the likes of Mal Warwick, have been pretty universal.
Before I go on I should say, for clarification, by monthly gift I mean an auto deduct or automatic payment form someones credit card or bank account. I am not referring to monthly giving clubs that require organizations to send monthly reminders to people. These are two very different things.
Most cite the proliferation and unsophistication of the banking system. Cheques still play a huge role in the lives of people in the US, less so automatic payments, like us Aussies and Brits are used to. As a side note, the UK plans to go "cheque less" by 2018.
There were other consistent reasons given, like trust (both with banks, and from donors).
I feel all of these are excuses. Monthly giving really is the big idea, the next big thing in the US.
Of course there are some brilliant organizations with large monthly files. ASPCA, Amnesty International, Greenpeace. All I believe are riding the monthly giving wave. There are no doubt more. But not enough.
But for me, there are two very simple reasons why ongoing, regular gifts have not (yet) transformed the monthly giving landscape in the US.
1 US charities are a victim of their own success. Direct response, in particular direct mail, programs in the US quite simply, rock. The sheer volume, and on the back of it, levels of income organizations generate from these vehicles is astounding.
There's a part of me that thinks if I was Director of Development of a US charity I too would find the case for monthly tougher if I was bringing in tens of millions of dollars through the door this year with an intensive onetime cash driven program.
It's certainly an easier "sell" in Australia, Canada, the UK or New Zealand, where we are fishing from small pools comparatively.
That doesn't mean it isn't a case worth fighting for. For example, check out the slide below which shows the average 3 year net value for monthly gifts versus onetime cash gifts. This varies by method of recruitment, and of course varies depending on other factors, but gives you a sense of the difference over the long term of the power of monthly gifts.
When you put it like that, its a tougher proposition to ignore.
2 Poor execution. To be fair, this is not exclusive to the US. There are many cases of not getting the implementation right, and I've blogged about it lots, including back here.
However the point I want to make here is its easy to do something once, not get it right - reflected by poor results - and then be heard to say "we tried that and it didn't work". I also talked a little while back specifically about this topic, why poor execution can get in the way of a solid approach.
I hope this doesn't happen for lots of US organizations in the pursuit of serious fundraising transformation.
Monthly giving has changed the way we fundraise in the UK, Australia, Canada and many other countries.
The US is next.