My first try at monthly giving happened years ago.
As an unrepentant fundraising do-it-yourselfer, I read a lot.
So more than 10 years ago, I happened on an article by Harvey McKinnon, author of Hidden Gold, about monthly giving. I knew I needed to give it a go.
I was fortunate to be working at an organization open to a little experimentation. (Organizations that are willing to trust staffers probably raise a lot more money.)
Harvey had warned in the article that it was get-on-the-bus-or-get-left-behind time. Donors weren’t going to sign on for monthly gifts with more than a few organizations. That lit a fire.
So, I dove in.
And that’s why I’m sharing this: there really isn’t a good reason not to get started, today.
My first step was persuading my boss to go for it. It wasn’t hard. But in case you need them, here were my arguments:
- Increase annual giving. $10 a month doesn’t feel like much, but it added up to a nice annual gift for this organization. It allowed us to move donors giving smaller gifts up.
- Increase loyalty. Monthly donors are very loyal. After all, they’ve made a commitment to the organization – and they’re reminded of it monthly.
- Longer term commitments. Assuming we treated them well, these monthly gifts would continue until the donor said otherwise.
- Predictable income. Knowing in advance we could expect monthly gifts would make budgeting less stressful.
- Easier for donors. We’d take care of the work – and they didn’t have to worry about forgetting to give.
- We didn’t have to throw all our resources at this – we could start and grow as staff time allowed.
- Monthly donors often give more than monthly. Years later, when I started our first donor newsletter, I found this was absolutely true!
Give some thought to a name for this group. Be sure it’s something donors will want to be associated with. You want something that makes sense and ideally, has some emotional resonance. On your end, it might just be bookkeeping. But you want your donors to feel proud to belong.
That said, don’t let this hold you up. Better to get started with a more generic name than to wait.
Think through the why of it
From your organization’s point of view, monthly donors will definitely be a win. It’s easier to have a loyal group of donors whose income you can depend on.
But that’s not a donor’s concern. What does signing on for a monthly gift make possible for your organization? What can the donor change if she says yes? And why might it benefit her?
Consider breaking down your work into monthly or daily costs, if that’s possible.
Who will you ask?
I believe (this is from memory, so don’t hold me to it!) the advice I read was to look at loyal donors,and probably those giving around the $100/year. Donors already using credit cards were more likely to be comfortable with you charging their cards monthly. So I isolated a group of donors – maybe less than 25% of our list.
How will you ask?
I didn’t have access to our email list. So mail it would be. But I tried to be sure this didn’t look like every other mailing.
The letter and response piece were highly personalized.
How did we do?
That first time out, we saw a 23% response rate. Not everyone took us up on the monthly offer. Many used the appeal as an opportunity to make a one-time gift. But that’s ok. They now knew about the program – and might consider it in the future.
What would I have done differently?
Well, I wish I’d had access to our email list. Using both channels would have made a significant difference. The same goes for our website, which at the time was pretty outdated. And we weren’t set up to accept monthly gifts online. I’d have liked to offer monthly as the first option for people coming to the site to give.
So as you begin, be sure you have your processing, website, and email all ready to go.
If you’re going to develop a strong monthly giving program, you’ll need to commit to it, even if you grow slowly. But there’s no reason NOT to get started today. The benefits are tremendous!
Here are more resources on monthly giving to check out:
18 Tips to Create a Wildly Profitable Monthly Giving Program from my friend Gail Perry
Fundraising 101: 10 Things You Need to Know About Creating a Monthly Giving Program from Heather Fignar on NonProfit Pro
Recurring Revenue for Your Nonprofit Organization from Allison Gauss at Classy
From Erica Waasdorp: 10 Tips to Awaken The Sleeping Giants in your donor base: Monthly donors. (And Erica has more tools here!)
And great practical advice from Pamela Grow and Lisa Sargent: Your backend: The most important element of your nonprofit’s monthly giving program
Photo thanks to Ryan McGuire at Gratisography