Rethinking Recurring Giving: The Subscription Economy & Fundraising

Rethinking Recurring Giving: The Subscription Economy & Fundraising

In an era where the digital landscape evolves at lightning speed, the art of fundraising is undergoing a transformative shift. Imagine if your donors subscribed to your cause, much like they do with streaming services or monthly subscription boxes. Welcome to “subscription philanthropy,” where nonprofits are reframing the idea of recurring giving in light of the explosive rise of the subscription economy. 

In a recent webinar, guest speaker Dave Raley (Imago Consulting) joined host Doug Bouws from our sister company Money for Ministry to talk about this evolving trend and how it might benefit the nonprofit sector. You can watch the whole thing below, but here are the highlights: 

1. The Rise of the Subscription Economy  

Dave kicked off the webinar by asking attendees what comes to mind when they think of the word “subscription.” Some said things like magazines, podcasts, or gym memberships. Others noted brands like BarkBox and Netflix. The common thread is that subscriptions provide ongoing value with timed payments, and they’re on the rise!  

Subscriptions are more prevalent today than they have ever been, and it may affect the way donors think about giving. With recurring donations, your supporters may come to expect a demonstration of ongoing value to justify their support. Dave reminded us that the number of donors in general is dwindling for all nonprofits nationwide. However, resiliency of recurring donors may be a silver lining.  

2. Subscription Philanthropy: A New Name for Recurring Donations 

Dave introduced the idea of “subscription philanthropy” in which donors can “subscribe” to the causes they care most about. This might look like a traditional monthly donor program, or it might feel more like joining a club (think, dinner clubs for your local urban farm). We can look to examples of successful subscription philanthropy models, like Charity: Water, Human Rights Campaign, or St. Jude’s Research Hospital. All three of these examples provide ongoing value (swag like T-shirts, opportunities to honor their loved ones, or invites to special events) that keep the donor engaged and excited about their monthly commitment. 

The first steps to implementing this model at your nonprofit include evaluating your existing program, understanding your donors’ motivations, and developing a compelling value proposition in your donor solicitations. The good news is that, once you have acquired new subscription-based donors, they are likely to stay with you for the long haul.  

3. The Benefits of Subscription Philanthropy 

Recurring giving provides donors with direct feedback and a sense of community involvement. Subscription philanthropy is no different! Just like other types of giving, building strong relationships founded on trust, respect, and mutual benefit is vital for success. And it’s worth the extra effort for another important reason; recurring donors are more likely to leave a legacy gift for your organization.  

To learn how to transform your recurring donors into legacy donors, contact us today! 


Visit Money for Ministry to learn more about our sister company for faith-based nonprofits. To learn more about guest speaker Dave Raley you can visit Imago Consulting on the web, sign up for the weekly newsletter The Wave Report, or tune in to the Purpose and Profit Podcast.