The 5 Key Components of a Successful Monthly Giving Program

Blog post by Erica Waasdorp

Setting up a successful monthly giving program doesn’t have to be difficult, as long as you keep these key components in mind. Let me share the top 5 with you:

  1. Commitment
  2. Accountability
  3. Preparedness
  4. Detail orientation
  5. Persistence

For a successful monthly giving program these apply to the person who’s interested and willing to grow the program as well as to the program itself.

Let’s take them one by one.

1. Commitment to monthly giving

In presentations I often ask a show of hands on how many in the room are monthly donors themselves. Sometimes many hands go up, sometimes just a few. That’s why I always recommend joining your own program yourself. Even if it’s just with $5 or $10 a month. You need to test the process anyhow and this is a good way to do it.

If you’re not committed to the program by at least being a monthly donor yourself, how can you expect a donor to want to join you and give monthly?

Also, consider joining a few organizations you’ve come across that do monthly giving well. Yes, they’re some of the bigger organizations typically, but that’s okay. Take those you admire. Choose those that are in your ‘space’. See what they do. Learn and observe. What do you think about it? Is it something you can apply to your organization? What don’t they do well, and you think you can do better?

Secondly, commitment also applies to creating a monthly giving plan and sticking to it. Monthly giving is not a one-shot deal, nor is it a short-term program. It’s here to stay for many, many years to come so you need to be willing to invest some time and energy in it.

I still see too many organizations that put their toe in the water, try an email and then stop because they get pulled into other directions. Or they don’t see the immediate returns, so they worry it’s never going to work.

I challenge you to create a plan and stick to it for a year and then evaluate. What worked. What didn’t work so well? What’s the annual value of the donors in your monthly giving program you brought in? And be not afraid to ask for advice if need be. Sometimes it’s in small things that are easy fixes.

If you’re committed to your monthly giving program, the rewards will be there, trust me.

2. Accountability for monthly giving

This is where I often see monthly giving programs fall flat, or worse deteriorate. One person thinks the other person is doing something and vice-versa.

Make sure that you as the person running the monthly giving show take full responsibility for growth. The more you communicate to others how powerful the program is by showing the annualized results, the better off you are, and you’ll get even more buy-in to keep growing.

Also make sure that you understand the systems involved with your monthly giving program, both internally and externally. And ensure that you establish regular communication with those people managing or involved with the systems. Have them report back to you.

Be open and willing to deal with problems because they will occur (just like anything in life). With a take-charge attitude and support from internal folks or external vendor partners, you’ll be able to solve monthly giving problems as they occur.

I also recommend as the person accountable for monthly giving, start a document and keep track of the processes, problems and how you resolved them. Your organization will thank you later.

I get it. Maybe you’re in the middle of a database/CRM conversion, and it’s a busy time. If you’re in the midst of budget season, it’s busy. But do create a bit of time every so often to write things down.

I work with several different size organizations reviewing their monthly giving program and lack of accountability and lack of process documentation typically causes most of the problems. Be sure to document what it was that happened and make it part of an ongoing monthly giving review process.

3. Preparedness for a monthly program

I still see fundraising organizations that think they can ‘wing’ this monthly giving program.  They are so gung-ho about trying the promotion piece that they’re not ready when monthly donors start flowing in. If you’ve identified the key players and you’ve written down the process of what happens when a monthly donor comes in, you’ll be much better prepared.

Now’s the time when your monthly giving program is still small to prepare. Here are just a few things:

  • Have your thank you letter ready.
  • Have your thank you email and auto-responder ready and tested.
  • Have an email ready to go letting everybody know internally that you’re launching your monthly giving program.
  • Have your systems ready to go and tested out.
  • Look at ways you’d like to recognize your monthly donors during the year.
  • Create that downloadable form for those donors who are not quite ready to hit the Give monthly button on your web site.
  • Make sure that your donors can easily find your monthly giving page.
  • Ask someone from outside the organization to test it.
  • Have them test calling in as well to make sure that those answering the phone know all about it and know whom to direct the calls to.

Finally have your process ready for when your monthly giving donors’ payments don’t come in because their cards expired or declined. No waiting for approvals. You have your Monthly Giving ‘Playbook’ or SOP ready to go.

I get it, you’re anxious to get going. People are looking at you and say, “where are these wonderful little recurring donors you mentioned?” The pressure is on.

But do yourself a favor and take just a little bit longer to be totally prepared with everything that’s needed to be in place when your monthly giving program gets rolling. It will help you with your monthly giving retention too, I guarantee it.

4. Detail orientation is key for monthly giving

Managing a monthly giving program is not really for big picture people. It’s also typically not just for creative people or for those who like talking to donors but don’t want to worry about the nitty gritty. I work with a lot of organizations; I talk with many fundraisers. Monthly giving is usually learned on the job.

There’s no real formal training for monthly giving. For many years, it’s been a little bit of the stepchild in fundraising. Boy, has that changed!

Now there are at least a few books and e-books. Now at least there are some presentations and webinars you can take. And those are wonderful, because they give you a lot of the basics.

But ultimately, you as the fundraiser are the one doing the work. You may need to:

  • Create special monthly giving reports because your donor base is great, but the reports may not be that great (yet).
  • Sit with your treasurer or finance and comb through PayPal recurring gifts to make sure they’re all captured.
  • Make sure that every single monthly giver is updated in your email program manually so you can send special versions and recognition.

Yes, detail orientation is crucial. You must be willing to dig in or be ‘in the weeds.’ But when you get your hands into your monthly giving program, you’ll feel more accountable and prouder of what you’re accomplishing, step by step.

5. Persistence to manage your program

Finally, persistence is a crucial attribute for anybody running or involved with a monthly donor program. Ask questions. Find solutions. Don’t give up till you’ve gotten to the bottom of it. Don’t give up on your monthly donors too soon. Stay on top of any drop offs and act right away and continue to get

Here’s a recent example:

I asked a client if they had credit card updater with their online monthly giving. They had moved to a new system before she came to the organization. She called the company and they told her, No, they didn’t have it.

I thought that odd as it was a large payment processor. So, I contacted the company and asked the question again. I got a call back immediately. Come to find out: the company did have credit card updater, but it hadn’t been implemented that long ago yet.

He told me where my client could find the information and how easy it was to sign up for it. Voila! It really paid off to be just a bit more persistent to implement credit card updater for this monthly giving program. It will help with retention and limit the number of donors to contact to ask to update their monthly giving information.

So, there you have it, the top 5 key components of a successful monthly giving program.

Notice that I didn’t really talk about the contents and physical look and feel of pages and materials, but rather the components needed for someone to manage a successful monthly giving program.  If you have these 5 components down pat, the rest will follow.

Want To Dive Deeper? Join me for one of my upcoming webinars: The Hidden Gem: How to create an awesome monthly giving program,and Start a Monthly Donor Program Now: 7 reasons why you can’t afford to wait

For Further Reading

For other idea’s on nonprofit giving, check out this article by our friends at:

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