How to Grow Your Monthly Giving Program from Good to GREAT

Blog post by Erica Waasdorp

If you’re looking to grow your monthly donor program to the next level, there are many things you can do and it’s easier than you think!

Move Your Monthly Giving From Good to Great

Let me give you a quick recap of who monthly donors are.

The typical monthly donor is not the big check writer. He or she is often on a fixed income but right now he or she gives between $24 and $36 a month. That’s between $288 and $436 a year!

Over the past few years, monthly giving has grown to some 30% of overall revenue from organizations, mostly using digital channels, (driven there by direct mail, email and sometimes telemarketing and social media), so it’s important to focus there.

But before you start worrying about creative approaches and storytelling, let’s start at the beginning.

The first step in growing your monthly giving program is KEEPING and ENGAGING the ones you have

Here’s what I recommend you do:

  • Set expectations so that new monthly donors know what they can expect.
  • Ensure that your thank you emails; thank you pages and thank you letters are ready to go well before you launch the next monthly donor acquisition campaign.
  • Test the monthly donor payment page to make sure that the above works correctly.
  • Test your donor support. Have someone call your phone number and make sure they get through and the people at the other end of the phone know what they need to do if a new or existing monthly donor has questions.
  • Think through ways that you can recognize your monthly donors during the year in a way that’s doable even with small staff, affordable, surprising and acceptable.
  • Under-promise and keep it as general as possible (so the above will still be doable). In other words, don’t tell monthly donors that they’ll get 4 newsletters and 2 event invitations. Rather tell them that they’ll receive special invitations and updates during the year.
  • Create a tax letter every January, including all donations, not just monthly gifts
  • Create a communication schedule with other updates aimed at monthly donors and stick to it.
  • Remember that a donor gives monthly because they care about your organization, so sending updates is totally fine, as long as you recognize them as monthly donors there.

In fact, the recent Blackbaud Sustainer Benchmarking Summit showed that 6% of monthly donors make at least one extra gift and 12% of monthly donors will upgrade when asked, so that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Of course, the more engaged and appreciated your donors feel, the more likely they will make extra gifts and upgrade.

The second step in growing your monthly giving program is PREVENTING those drop outs you can prevent!

Once you have reviewed, tested and verified the above, it’s time to look at what you need to put in place to follow up on monthly donors whose credit card expires or declines.

  • Take charge, pick a date and track your system alerts.  
  • Sit down with your finance or accounting person and make sure you track payments.
  • Map out your process. Write it down and make sure that everybody knows who does what and whom to go to with questions.
  • Check if you can add the Electronic Funds Transfer (also called EFT, ACH, Automatic bank withdrawal) to your monthly giving options.  
  • Implement Credit card updater. Talk to your online processor and your donor base CRM provider to see if you can add that option. The cost is virtually nothing and it’s a game changer. You’ll be able to keep an additional 30% of monthly donors just by starting this.

Currently some 80% of monthly donors give by credit card and some 5% – 10% give via EFT. It will really help you with retention as you don’t need to follow up as much.  I predict that this will only continue to grow as donors are becoming more comfortable with giving this way.

Retention is the number one area where I get called to help organizations review their program. Often, it’s when they’ve already started losing their monthly donors.

So, don’t wait! Take action right away. The more monthly donors you keep from the get-go, the fewer new monthly donors you’ll need to grow by leaps and bounds.

The third step is starting to acquire new monthly donors,

You’ll probably say, finally, it’s about time we start talking about this. Trust me, it’s crucial to put the retention piece in place before you start aggressively acquiring new monthly donors. Otherwise you’re really just creating a leaky bucket.

The ways in which you can bring in new monthly gifts are almost endless. The more focused you are on it, the higher your monthly giving percentage is in overall giving.

Here are just a few ideas:

1. Create a full-blown monthly giving campaign:

  • Pick a month other than November or December
  • Take over the home page. Keep it up for the month. Have an image and then a clear Give monthly button.
  • Link to the monthly giving only page. Do not confuse the donor with the one-time giving option.
  • Always have multiple gift options on the page but do start as low as you can get away with in your online page. In some cases that will be 5, other cases it will be 10.
  • Go from low to high (left to right).

2. Create an email campaign that’s using a similar image from your home page. Direct to the monthly only page.

3. See if you can get a challenge or match from your board, a generous (monthly) donor or a group of donors.

If we can reach xx new monthly donors by deadline date, then yyy will give us an additional $amount. Then use this challenge to create a multiple email appeal approach. 

  • The launch of the campaign
  • An update the week before the deadline
  • A final push the day before the deadline
  • One final push the day of the deadline.

There’s something absolutely ‘magical’ about a challenge or match. It works like a charm in pretty much anything with fundraising.

The key with a match is not to make the goal too high.  Take 1% of your number of email names, so say if you have 5,000 email names, you can have a goal of 50 new monthly donors. If you have 1,000 email names, you could even start with 10 new monthly donors.

Depending upon the goal in number of new monthly donors you’d like to generate, use a reasonable amount as the match. So, $5,000 or $10,000 is a nice amount to use and most organizations should be able to find donors who are willing to make that commitment, especially if it means that your monthly giving program grows to the next level.

  • Add monthly giving to your welcome email series. Most email programs now allow for the automatic creation of emails where you can specify how much time you’d like to use in between parts of the series. These automatic emails can go out to donors who join your email list or to those who just made a donation and as a result joined your email list.
  • Add monthly giving to the P.S. in an email, always linking back to the monthly giving page.
  • Ask petition signers to give monthly in the thank you message they receive after they signed that petition.
  • Engage your email list to answer a question with the answer sitting on a page with a donation option right there.
  • Engage your email list with a video and have that video sit on a page with the monthly giving option right there.
  • Ask your monthly donors for a testimonial on why they give monthly and use it everywhere you can. Ideally get the testimonial on video and it’s even more powerful and moving.
  • Include a testimonial or monthly donor story in every printed and email newsletter you send out.  

Look at your activities aimed at donors and prospects and see where you can add a monthly giving opportunity.

The sooner you can get a donor to give monthly, the longer they’ll keep giving monthly. So, look at your new donors. Send them their thank you letter right away and then within the first month invite them to give monthly.

Be sure to follow up with an email and even a thank you call.

Set your goals and create a plan to get there.

Like anything we do in fundraising, this too applies to monthly giving. If you write down your goals, you’ll get there!

Create a plan listing the many opportunities you have to offer monthly giving during the year, make some projections based upon past results and then implement the plan.

At a recent webinar, I asked how often attendees asked their donors to give monthly. 35% said never!

So, here’s the number one tip. Start asking at least somewhere. Create that monthly donor only page and start linking to it from everywhere!

Don’t give up too soon. Monthly giving is not a short-term investment, it’s here for the long-term and your monthly donor growth will reward you with that sustainable ongoing committed revenue to support your programs.

In Charity How To webinars, you’ll receive lots of ideas and downloadable customizable free resources to help you with your monthly donor retention.

You’ll also receive lots of great ideas to add new monthly donors, most of them at minimal or very limited investment. So, are you ready to work on your monthly giving program?

Want To Dive Deeper?

Join me for one of my upcoming webinars: 

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