Opt-out monthly direct debits are a new one on me

It’s been well documented in this blog that I can be a sucker for a good cause, especially ones of the four-legged variety.

But this week I was tempted to sign up to another direct debit for a cause I’m not particularly moved by, because of an enticing new proposition I hadn’t come across before. 

While minding my own business watching television last night, I received a call from a charity to which I had donated a one-off amount by text last year. Interested readers can read more about that experience here.

I waited while they went through the usual sales spiel before I politely pleaded poverty and declined to donate again: but she stopped me in my tracks with the following words:

“Did you know you can opt out of particular months if you can’t afford to donate? We’ll text the word ‘Skip’ to you each month and you can reply ‘yes’ if you would prefer not to donate that time around.”

Well, this is a new one on me – and a very, very clever one at that. So much so that my steadfast refusal almost wavered, until I remembered that my purse was already lighter after I’d signed up to a different charity earlier this week.

To a potential donor, this new opt-out option is genius. It suddenly makes that monthly commitment seem far less daunting and far more appealing. But it does make me wonder what charities get out of it if a donor decides to skip 10 months out of 12? Doesn’t it mean they can’t actually count on donations from month to month? What will happen to their budgeting?

Admittedly, the new proposition wasn’t enough of a draw to make me commit, but that’s because it’s not a cause I’m passionate about. Had it have been another charity with an animal agenda the result may have been quite different…

6 Responses to “Opt-out monthly direct debits are a new one on me”

  1. Adam Myers

    Yes, it sounds a nightmare to administer, but I am guessing the numbers of those who do opt-out per month is probably very small and indeed, are probably followed up by the fundraising team. Still, interesting idea…

  2. Ivan Wainewright

    As I understand it, this is a standard thing for the newer regular giving by mobile phone (e.g. Cymba, Open Fundraising). When I saw a presentation on it, they explained that there are a set of donors who are more comfortable giving by phone rather than having the “hassle” of DDs. And they can just text SKIP at any time to skip a month’s donation. At the time, the retention rates sounded good but it was early days.

  3. Mark Atkinson

    I think this is a great idea but I suspect it will only be applicable in relation to donors where the initial acquisition cost was very low. For example, I can’t see it working in relation to donors who have been recruited via street or door-2-door.

  4. Scott Gray

    There is nothing to stop this type of flexibility with Direct Debit however as Ivan mentions, I am sure this is a regular commitment on your mobile phone bill and not a DD.
    Whilst I can see the advantage of enabling supporters to have the option to skip payments, it is bound to cause extra work in administration and finance if used for DD. Wouldn’t it be better to allow regular committed donors to reduce (or increase) their gift amount at a time that suits them, without proactively encouraging them to miss payments? DD can support this structure and give donors flexibility in managing their own payments, but – especially during times of austerity – it is down to charities to give supporters options, helping them establish a payment schedule that will suit their needs.

  5. henry rowling

    Hello, Adam/Scott – there is very little administration with a ‘skip’ – the software does it automatically. So if you don’t skip – the payment is taken. If you do skip, then no payment is taken & the back-end system will ask again the following month. It’s all automated 🙂 The other great thing re: this form of fundraising is that the costs to entry are relatively low. So it’s easier for smaller charities with modest budgets to test it out.


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