We’re big believers in the power of monthly donors. We have been managing monthly donor programs for decades and have seen the ongoing revenue it provides, especially in times of crisis. In some cases, it’s kept organizations afloat; even if they could not send appeals to ask for money, the monthly donations kept the funds coming in. That’s why we maintain that every organization can (and should) organize a monthly giving program.
A few years ago when we first started teaching webinars at CharityHowTo, monthly giving was still in its infancy and was used primarily by larger organizations. But today, monthly giving is becoming more and more popular. With the right tools — which you may very well already have in-house — you can get started in no time.
It’s Easy to Get Started
Today, it only takes minutes to create a monthly donor page, so lack of time is no excuse. Systems keep getting easier to use, and yet, so many organizations are slow to come on board. With a little bit of training, your organization can start your monthly donor program and grow that sustainable revenue it needs to keep your operating budget growing.
Let’s take a look at the biggest fundamentals of monthly donor programs.
#1 Ask for monthly donors and leverage their support
In order to build a successful monthly donor program, you have to ask donors to provide monthly funding. The more you ask, the more monthly donors you’ll get. We see the biggest successes with organizations that start internally with the low-hanging fruit (board, staff, volunteers, etc.) and then broaden their scope by asking on their donation pages, in their emails, on their reply forms, in their newsletters, and in special invitations.
Some of the organizations we’re proud to work with now see 50–60% of their revenue coming from monthly donors. All you have to do is ask. Donors will love you for doing so because generally, they feel like their small contributions are a part of something greater. They enjoy knowing that they have a part in your success and take pride in seeing the results of their efforts.
#2 Know how monthly donors are different than one-time donors
One-time donors are not usually the ones to write you a big check. Monthly giving is a way for a person to contribute to your organization in a way that they find easy, comfortable, and affordable, while helping you generate money over time. Monthly donors can even help your donor retention rate increase; they’re more likely to donate consistently and continue donating if there is no financial strain.
#3 Understand that you can start your program with minimal resources
Starting a monthly donor program doesn’t require many resources to get started. You can start with an online donation system only, and simply add monthly giving to your one-time donation pages. It’s wise to create a separate monthly donation page if you want people to have a better chance of seeing monthly donation as an option.
#4 Ask monthly donors for lower amounts of funding
Don’t be too greedy when you start asking donors for funding. Start by asking for the lowest amount you can get away with, but always offer a number of different options for people to choose from. The donors will determine what they can afford. If you start too high, you’ll scare them off and make them feel like they cannot contribute. Ask for a small donation and you’ll likely end up with a larger contribution.
#5 Create a monthly donor recognition plan
Make sure you organize your recognition programs before you start marketing. We work with many small- and mid-sized organizations, and we have found that promoting the program before the process is completely organized will cause delays and problems down the road. If you take a few extra minutes now to map out what you’ll offer your new monthly donors, it will benefit you and your donors in the long run.
#6 Market your program by asking for donations through email and social media
Once you’ve done the hard part and set up the donation system and donor recognition plan, it’s time to start asking people to donate. Email and social media campaigns are effective tools for making people aware of your organization’s need for donations. Create succinct emails and shareable social media posts that highlight the goals of your organization and the reason that you need funding. People who are interested in your cause will be able to forward and share your emails and posts with their friends and family members.
#7 Present the results of your activities to others as annual totals
Until you begin to look at donations in annual sums, your and your donors cannot realistically comprehend the great impact of monthly giving. We cannot stress this enough; if a monthly donor is giving $24 a month, that’s $288 a year! What if you were to grow to 1,000 or even 10,000 monthly donors? That’s $288,000 to $2,800,000 in donations each year! People will take notice of those numbers. What’s your goal?
# 8 Plan for growth
When you find a monthly donor, you’re asking them to commit to you long-term, so you should commit to this program long-term as well. Growing a monthly donor program takes time and requires a plan for growth, so you must build in as many asking opportunities as you possibly can and make sure you know how you’ll handle the expansion that results.
We have seen tremendous success in those organizations that were so committed to it that they looked at absolutely every opportunity to ask donors to join their monthly giving program — and it’s working! Some now see the sustainable revenue they need from monthly donations, so work on your communication plan for the year, building in as many monthly giving appeals as possible. You’ll enjoy long-term growth as a result.
If you’d like to find out more, check out the various monthly giving webinars at Charity How To today.
A Collaborative Piece by Diane Leonard and Erica Waasdorp