Blog post by Erica Waasdorp
If you’ve heard me speak or read some of my blogs, you already know that I always advocate for the following: The more opportunities you offer donors to give monthly, the more monthly donors you will find!
But for most organizations, there is always that fine line of having to bring in one-time short-term funds versus long-term sustainable monthly giving revenue. I get it. Trust me, I’ve been there.
Let’s start with a Monthly Giving Case study
Let me tell you when that short-term focus changed for a big organization where I was managing the monthly donor program. Every year, we created a budget to be able to do so many appeals to generate new monthly giving donors. And every year, halfway through the year, the focus changed to needing to bring in short-term revenue because other appeals and one-time gifts were down a tad.
It was an uphill battle to keep the focus on monthly gifts.
UNTIL September 11, 2001 happened. That changed everything!
Not only was it a tremendously sad day for everybody. For our whole country. It was also very difficult to get in the mail and most nonprofits stopped sending appeals for months!
But those wonderful monthly donors kept on giving. The money kept coming in. Suddenly, everybody in the organization was convinced how tremendously valuable monthly giving was.
Suddenly, the short-term focus changed. Now it was possible to spend a bit more money to focus on the long-term! Now we could do more to generate more sustainable monthly donors!
Granted, this was in the days before email and internet became so powerful. So much has changed since then, especially when it comes to the many more opportunities there are to generate monthly donors. Earlier on I’ve written about the ways to optimize your website for monthly giving.
Today, I’m going to focus on adding ways to ask for monthly gifts in ‘good-old-fashioned-and-still-very-successful-in-raising-money-direct-mail appeals.’
A tick box on an appeal reply form makes for a great monthly giving ask!
Tick boxes are a simple way to ask for monthly donations with your appeal. This saves you the extra work of having to send special appeals, and you (most likely) won’t lose any one-time gifts.
The answer is: a tick box on your appeal reply form.
Monthly donors still often come from your existing donors, so I recommend starting with your donor appeals first. Once you find how that works, you may wish to carefully test it in your acquisition appeals.
Why do I say to start with existing donors first? As you know the key with acquisition is to bring in new donors, so you don’t want to jeopardize the results too much.
If you get great responses now, (less than $3 to raise a dollar), then and only then may you consider testing a tick box on an acquisition reply form to a proven list.
Let’s look at the top 5 ways you can offer a tick box on an appeal reply form.
The more daring you are, the more upfront you are about the tick box, the more monthly donors you will generate. With every tick box example, it’s important to remember that you want the donor to really realize that this is what they’re committing to.
We want donors to start giving monthly, but we certainly don’t want to make them have a bad donor experience if they ticked the box accidentally.
The 5 examples I’m going to show you must work, because the nonprofits have offered them for quite a while now. You must decide for yourself though which approach you should test as the more upfront you are, the more it can impact your one-time gifts. So, if you’re mailing only one appeal a year, I’d be somewhat restrained and consider an extra appeal. If you’re mailing to your donors 4 times or more, you can be a bit more upfront about it.
A few additional recommendations:
In most cases, a tick box can be a laser variation. So be as targeted as you can be. Don’t offer the tick box to your $1,000 donors if the goal is to get them to write a $2,000 check. Reserve the monthly giving discussion with major donors for when you speak to them.
The best results for monthly giving come from those donors who have given multiple times in the past year, who have made a gift in the past 6 months and better yet, offer it to those who have given by credit card before to other appeals.
Depending upon your number of donors you can mail to, you can test a tick box first to see if there is any negative impact and if so, if that impact is offset by the extra monthly donation revenue.
Typically, you’d need to have at least 2,000 donors, with at least a 5% response rate (100 responses) for the control and the same number for the test so you can really see the impact.
Option 1: the ‘safest’ tick box option and most likely the least responsive
Put the monthly giving tick box on the back of your appeal reply form.
This approach works well if you’re asking your donors to fill out their giving information on the back, so having a tick box there is a good spot for it.
Here is an example of what that looks like.
Back of reply form with monthly giving ask.
You see how it’s very specific in what you want, and the donor clearly knows what he or she does. There is NO mention of monthly giving on the front of the reply form. And this gives both options to pay by credit card or by automatic bank transfer (EFT/ACH/Direct debit). Once you see how this works, you can start becoming more daring and go to the next step.
Option 2: Add the I’d like to make a monthly gift right below the one-time gift option
See here for an example right on the front of the reply form:
And then the back of the reply form asks you to confirm that decision.
Option 3: Add the tick box near the one-time giving option
Here’s another example where the donor is asked to give monthly right on the front with the back being used for additional information.
It’s very clear what you’d like the donor to tick and fill out the amount, so the donor will be more committed. Front of the reply form looks like this:
On the back of the reply form, you clearly see the donor must tick the box to confirm again and sign.
Option 4. Adding the monthly giving option almost as a variation of an amount
Here you’re making it very clear on the reply form on the front and the donor confirms again on the back. Front of the reply form:
Back of the reply form:
Option 5: Monthly giving option totally spelled out on the reply form front and back and in the letter.
This is one of the most ‘daring’ options to generate new monthly donors, but you’ll most likely get a very nice number of donors who will. Heifer has been using this approach for a while so it must be working. Again, the more gung-ho you are about growing your monthly giving program, the more daring I recommend you be. Here’s the front of the reply form:
Back of the reply form with yet another confirmation to tick the box.
I recently became a Friend of Heifer, so they’ve taken it a step further where they even include two asks to give monthly in the letter.
Front of letter:
Back of letter:
While you risk losing some one-time gifts and short-term revenue, you’ll generate more monthly donors so very likely will even out. (Not to mention that retention for direct mail acquired monthly donors is still one of the highest, compared to other channels).
Additional monthly giving tick box considerations
I must have hundreds of examples in my scan file where these came from. It has clearly become a new ‘standard’ to have a monthly giving option on reply forms (and reply envelopes), just like you see in so many online donation forms now. Monthly gifts are always there.
And there is no bad way to put a tick box on your appeal reply form, but here are a few things to remember:
- If you have the tick box on the front, make sure you confirm all the information you need on the back. Have the donor sign the form because you really want that commitment.
- If you talk about giving monthly somewhere on the reply form, make sure you give an option to tick the box somewhere! (I’ve seen examples where organizations talk about their monthly giving program, but then the donor can’t sign up anywhere. That’s a missed opportunity).
- The more you ask the donor to confirm what they’d like to do, the longer you’ll keep them as monthly donors.
- Make sure to instruct those who key your gifts into the donor base to be on the lookout for the tick box and ideally have the little monthly giving code right near the tick box (you’ll see those little codes right there on some of the examples). That will help in tracking results.
- Make sure you have someone scan the forms and keep them somewhere safe, of course following all PCI-compliance rules. It’s the only proof you have the donor wanted to start giving monthly.
- If in doubt, follow up with the donor. If it’s not clear, reach out and find out what the donor’s intentions are.
- You already know that I always recommend confirming the monthly gift joins with a hard copy thank you letter, so make sure you have that ready to send, just as soon as the donor ticks that box.
- And make sure you have a clear phone number and email address in that letter so the donor can reach someone to stop if they ticked the box by accident. I’d rather have them stop their gift right away if they weren’t meaning to start to begin with than having to wait several months and then having a very upset donor on my hands, not to mention any refunds needed then.
There you have it. If you’re sending appeals to your donors, you can try out a tick box option and see what happens. You may get none, you may get a few, you may get many new monthly donors, it all depends on how many appeals you send but if you don’t ask, you’ll have none.
What do you have to lose by adding a tick box and asking your donors to consider giving monthly?
Adding a tick box to your appeal reply form is a very cost-effective way to generate that long-term sustainable monthly donation revenue you’re looking for.
Whether you’re just beginning or whether you have a more mature monthly donor program, consider joining me for a webinar on Charity How To right here.
About The Author
Building partnerships and trying to find the best solution for donors and her clients are what Erica Waasdorp does best.
Her multi-lingual skills and multi-cultural experience bring added value to those clients interested in raising money internationally. And her experience in monthly giving has given her an edge for those clients who are ready to embark on this way of giving.
Click here to view all upcoming webinars from Erica Waasdorp and learn all the ins and outs of monthly giving for your nonprofit!