Irreg­u­lar­i­ty – is it the future of reg­u­lar giving?

Recruit­ing reg­u­lar donors, increas­ing engage­ment and reduc­ing attri­tion are three things that fea­ture in plen­ty of fundrais­ing strate­gies. But, in this arti­cle, Han­nah Moy­sey asks if fundrais­ers should recon­sid­er how they look at reg­u­lar giv­ing. Read on to dis­cov­er how to encour­age donors to respond, engage, and give mon­ey mul­ti­ple times a year – even if those gifts aren’t part of a tra­di­tion­al month­ly giv­ing programme.

Written by
Hannah Moysey
February 02, 2023
© Blue State

One of the most important questions facing fundraisers today is: 

‘How can we create a model that sustains giving – outside of emergencies or end of year (EOY) appeals?’

Historically, promoting direct debits, regular giving products or other monthly models have been the main ways that fundraisers have engaged with and attempted to answer this question. 

However, over the past few years, we have seen emergency fundraising set key response moments in the giving calendar. Some examples of these moments include the pandemic, climate emergencies (earthquake in Haiti, floods in Pakistan, food crises in Somalia), military withdrawal in Afghanistan, conflict in Ukraine or the continuing long-term crises in Yemen and Syria. 

For many charities, these moments have led to an unprecedented opportunity to build connections with potential and existing donors. However, these connections can be short-lived – only lasting for as long as the issues lead news headlines. And while they drive critical short-term revenue, they don’t necessarily lead to meaningful, long-term relationships with donors.

Additionally, uncertainty is rising across markets, with two million fewer people in the UK recently saying they had donated to charity. This is in part due to growing fears about the cost of living, and a recent survey in the USA found donor confidence is faltering there as well. 

The long and the short of this is that regular giving programmes may soon (if not already) start to see a decline.

It’s important to remember that some charities are continuing to see a rise in one-off cash donations, particularly among younger audiences. While they may not commit themselves to a monthly giving product, donors are showing an appetite to respond, engage, and give money multiple times across the year when they are asked in the right way.

These donors are ‘non-traditional’ in how they give (e.g. irregularly), but interestingly, they still see themselves as regular givers. 

We’re not just talking about small shifts here, either. Amongst our clients the estimated number of people giving multiple one-off gifts has doubled in the last three years, every year.

So, with these changes in the giving landscape, what should fundraisers keep in mind? Is it time to reconsider and redefine what ‘regular giving’ means and looks like? 


Supporters tend to respond on their channel of choice, but they don’t live exclusively in one channel. Increasingly, digital channels are used as a driver of enhanced integrated experiences, keeping the brand front-of-mind. 

While attribution (monitoring and tracking of a channel’s impact) becomes more difficult as you increase communication channels, it’s often true that revenue grows as channel involvement grows.

 So here are a few tips to consider when developing an integrated view:

1. Short message services (SMS)/texting acts as the perfect reminder

Looking for a way to prompt your audiences to look at an offline pack or to take an action online? SMS can be the perfect prompt for doing so and often encourages immediacy of response. Tailoring the message based on the content they’ve recently read adds a personal touch and could further drive effectiveness. Again, this may not be about getting that direct debit given the current environment but about sharing a matched giving opportunity or tangible follow up one-off ask.

2. Bringing together direct mail and email with programmatic/social activity

Looking for a way to prompt your audiences to look at an offline pack or to take an action online? SMS can be the perfect prompt for doing so and often encourages immediacy of response. Tailoring the message based on the content they’ve recently read adds a personal touch and could further drive effectiveness. Again, this may not be about getting that direct debit given the current environment but about sharing a matched giving opportunity or tangible follow up one-off ask.

This doesn’t have to mean spending a large amount with each campaign, but subtly integrating these channels to help drive response rate and we have seen doing so can increase lifetime value (LTV). Bring together your plan for all three channels and consider where content can create a journey – e.g., if a direct mail (DM) pack is introducing a new concept or product idea, have it followed up days later with a more direct ask or call to action on social or digital display. For our client UNHCR, we have seen this triple response rates.


Those early months with new supporters are so important

We’ve found supporters are most engaged at the start of their journey with you. For this reason, the best place to start diversifying and testing supporter asks is right at the beginning – in your welcome programme. For one of our clients, when we made the ask in the welcome programme, it increased the click through rate by more than 300 per cent.

Don’t be tempted to speak to your audience all the same way  

Have a tailored journey ready after second, third, and fourth gifts that could convert them further. This could be in the form of an email series is personalised based on previous gifts/activity or push notifications in a mobile app/digital product that are based on previous donor interactions.

Look for patterns in your data and plan conversion campaigns 

Look for length of time between gifts, number of gifts before converting, amounts given in relation to previous cash contributions and time between first cash gift and ways to upgrade which doesn’t just have to be monthly gifts but could be about upping average gift value/presenting more opportunities for one off donations.

Consider the opportunity for a quarterly or annual gift that is perhaps lower in frequency but higher in value. This gives the opportunity for a value added thank you for the supporter like a personalised direct mail pack or an email that says something like ‘this year your support has helped us…’.


Respond to the interests of your supporters

Donors want to feel like their money is hard at work. This starts with the welcome programme and talking to donors about the themes and issues they care about, before introducing them to the full extent of your work and asking for additional gifts.

Acknowledge past behaviour and the impact it has made 

Donors want to see the difference made possible thanks to their kind gift. Third party tools like Nifty Images and Moveable Ink activate data into personalised content for the audience allowing for conditional email content or bespoke landing pages. Some organisations use ‘membership expiry’ asks to secure second cash gifts if a donor hasn’t yet upgraded to a monthly gift.

Is your landing page working as hard as it could? 

Tools like Optimizely use artificial intelligence (AI) to try out new features and allow for testing mechanisms that bring down your cost per acquisition and increase average gift. We’ve seen, for clients such as the Movember Foundation, that a simple change of imagery can lead to increases in session income of 50 per cent. 

Consider if a subscription model could offer greater value exchange for your donors

UNICEF’s Paddington’s Postcards has helped them acquire brand new supporters in key markets with an insight that young audiences love to receive post. The product invites parents, grandparents or extended family and friends to sign up so their little one can receive something each month. The monthly donation feels much more like a by-product rather than a direct ask – and the postcards are packed with activities, stickers and stories, offering a unique engagement experience.


Build a community of dedicated supporters 

For individuals who have hit a certain annual or gift threshold in their first six months, a branded mid-tier programme helps to build a sense of community, and gives the opportunity to create a proposition that encourages supporter buy-in. It helps donors feel like they’re a part of something, alongside like-minded people. It also offers the opportunity to introduce ‘early access’ match donation/participation opportunities that will help add value to their experience and your relationship.

Incentivise your programme 

Another advantage of branding your programme for givers who have reached a certain threshold or frequency for gifts is that it allows you to create merchandise and incentives to encourage donations. Relevant merchandise will also increase the sense of community your supporters will feel. Never underestimate the power of a personalised tote, t-shirt, pen or sticker pack to convert a sustainer/regular donor – if feasible, maybe even let them choose from a few options. You might want to consider eco-friendly, or more sustainable items that aren’t too costly. 

These are just a few thoughts and ideas that can allow your organisation to look toward a more evergreen, always-on giving programme outside of rapid response. We’d love to hear what’s worked for you – comment below in SOFII’s discussion box or get in touch with me, Hannah, and the rest of the Blue State team

About the author: Hannah Moysey

Hannah Moysey (she/her) has worked at Blue State for four years. Her work encompasses a range of clients and work that spans brand and identity development (PepsiCo, Google and Lloyds Banking Group), paid media campaigns (Ofgem and Equality and Human Rights Commission), international engagement strategies (International Rescue Committee and Movember), progressive movements (Forward Majority and HOPE not hate) and high level fundraising campaigns (Heifer International). 

Prior to Blue State, Hannah worked in the charity sector for five years focusing on digital fundraising, comms and digital marketing. She has worked at charities including British Heart Foundation and Parkinson’s UK overseeing successful mass-participation campaigns, digital transformation and strategically driving online fundraising through digital platforms. 

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