Most effective donation: recurring monthly, or seasonal matched?
June 24, 2016 2:55 PM   Subscribe

I have several charities that I donate to each year. Some of these charities reliably have a period during the year where all donations are matched by some program. But I also know that charities like having reliable recurring donation streams as it allows planning etc. Is it better to set up a recurring monthly donation to them, or to wait and make single annual donations during their matching programs? Assume that I will donate the same amount of cash either way.
posted by the agents of KAOS to Work & Money (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
As a former nonprofit worker - ask your charities.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:07 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]

Lots of those matching programs have limits (up to $25,000 etc.). If they regularly hit the limit then they're not going to get more money if you donate during that time. If they don't usually hit the limit, see if you can make a yearly pledge. Since you'll have pledged the money they'll know it's coming (sort of) and they can plan accordingly.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 3:29 PM on June 24, 2016

Ask them. They can better tell what works best for them. One time gifts are usually the easiest to deal with on the charity side. Monthly donations are frequently ongoing and regular bumay require follow up if it's cc based. They may participate in campaigns where there is matching or a additional rewards for having the most donations in a time period so that is why it may be nice to ask.
posted by oneear at 3:42 PM on June 24, 2016

Sounds like a consensus - it hadn't occurred to me to ask them at all! Does it make any difference if I'm talking about a big organization like the ACLU?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:26 PM on June 24, 2016

I imagine charities encourage monthly regular contributions for the same reason that for-profit businesses like monthly subscriptions - once you've signed up, given them your credit card, and agreed for them to keep it on file, the "path of no resistance" is for you to keep paying, at least until the card expires. So if we trust that you'll be a reliable contributor, an annual contribution is more efficient for them to process. OTOH if you ask the charity, they'll probably not assume you'll be reliable.
posted by mr vino at 5:14 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Charities won't necessarily assume you aren't reliable because you are asking. If they're smart they'll have your record they can check. It may not matter how you give but if it does they'll appreciate you checking.
posted by oneear at 6:12 PM on June 24, 2016

Recurring monthly donation, definitely.

It's predictable, which enables the charity to plan. If you are signed up for monthly giving, they will assume your giving will continue, and if enough donors give that way, then the org will feel stable and will be able to plan. If you only give during the annual fundraiser, they can't (and don't) count on your continued support in later years.
posted by Susan PG at 6:15 PM on June 24, 2016

Monthly donation. No question. I used to be in charge of the recurring giving program at a well-know public radio station. The average 5 year value of a monthly donor is much higher than a one-time gift during a matching period.
posted by Automocar at 6:44 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

Match is essentially like a sale; it gets people to give who otherwise might have been on the fence. It's marketing, and I love it and fall for it all the time. Monthly giving is a steady, reliable source of income that both lets charities plan ahead and establish deeper relationships with donors. As a fundraiser, I particularly value and appreciate our monthly donors, and it is also my preferred way of supporting the 30+ organizations I give to.
posted by bloggerwench at 8:52 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

As a former nonprofit worker - ask your charities.

This is the best advice. Funding models vary with type of charity. If they're going to make the match without your help, then donate recurring instead of match. But you won't be sure of this unless you ask. It's so easy to just call and say "My gift is X amount. What is the best way to give it that will yield you the greatest benefit?" They will know with a great degree of certainty and will appreciate your understanding and flexibility.
posted by Miko at 9:34 PM on June 25, 2016

The thing that always gives me pause about recurring donations is my assumption that the total credit card charges will be higher - rather than a one-time transaction fee plus a percentage, there will be twelve transaction fees, plus the percentage.

When you ask, you might ask whether it makes any difference if you give a check once a year (or even twelve times a year, if you're up for writing that many checks) vs. paying by credit card, in terms of making sure they get the largest possible percentage of what you're giving.
posted by kristi at 10:12 AM on June 28, 2016

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