The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Master Monthly Giving (Part 2: Expert Interview)

Read Part 1 here

I’m thrilled to share more monthly giving mastery with you from my recent interview with leading monthly giving expert Erica Waasdorp.

Nancy: Once you have a new monthly donor in the door, what’s the best way to welcome him?

Erica: If donor signs up online, make sure you get a warm, appreciative email to him ASAP. Automate that via your donor management system.

In addition, I recommend that you always send a snail-mail thank you letter to new monthly donors. I’m a strong proponent of including a certificate in that mailing.

Skip the premium—thank yous are not the place—but make sure to include a personal contact at the organization, who signs the communication, and that person’s phone and email so its easy for donors to get in touch. You don’t have to send a monthly thank you letter in hard copy, but monthly emails are great.
In both your email and thank you letter, include the fact that donors will receive a tax statement the following January.

Nancy: What are the best channels for monthly giving campaigns—email, direct mail, or something else?

Erica: Nothing works better than telemarketing. The response rate is simply higher than mail or email. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t have the budget for this. When that is the case, email and direct mail are the next best thing.

Most important, putting monthly giving front and center in your outreach is absolutely vital. Make it easy to find on your website and other appeals. Then ask and ask again via every main channel and piece that makes sense.

Nancy: I recently wrote a case study about Global Giving, which included a call to action for both monthly and one-time giving in its disaster-relief appeal for Nepalese earthquake survivors.

Have you seen that kind of dual call to action work? I am a huge believer in putting out a single, doable call to action to prospects and supporters, and then following up with a second step once the first has been completed.

Erica: Yes, it can work, and it ties in with the answer above—ask, ask, and ask some more.

The more you put monthly giving out there, the more donors will start giving that way. I see some of the “big guys” putting monthly giving front and center. For example, they offer monthly giving first and one-time donations second.

Nancy: What’s the greatest monthly donor recruitment case study you know?

Erica: Where do I start? I’ve done some huge monthly donor recruitment campaigns over the years, including one that raised $13 million. Most recently, I doubled the monthly donor base for a religious organization client, and those donors now generate 50% of the organization’s annual revenue.

But remember that these figures are relative, because your dollar total depends on the size of your existing donor base.

Consider another client I helped get started with monthly giving: a small animal shelter with 500 donor emails. The only mechanism they had for online giving was PayPal, so we customized the PayPal recurring giving options, put it on their donation page, and directed folks there from a three-part email series asking donors to join the “Champions” program.

We used a small board challenge of $5,000 with a clear deadline. Now the organization gets $2,500 a year from its monthly donors, and they also got the $5,000. We’re planning to do this again with the aim of doubling the monthly donor base every time. Cost is virtually nothing because it’s all done online. For this organization, starting monthly giving is huge.

Nancy: What’s the biggest monthly giving mistake you see fundraisers make again and again?

Erica: That’s an easy one—the biggest mistake is not starting and not asking. And the second-biggest mistake is asking too high.

If you want to start asking for monthly gifts of $50 per month, you’ll be disappointed if you see that the average gift is $23 per month for the first group of donors. Ask high and you’ll get a low response.

Instead, ask low and you’ll get a high response. In the case of monthly giving, you can absolutely upgrade monthly donors later. The key is to get them used to giving monthly first.

Nancy: What’s your most vital advice for fundraisers hoping to grow their organization’s monthly donor program?

Erica: We’re all overloaded. That’s why it’s vital to organize and systemize your monthly giving program before you promote it.

If you don’t set all steps up before you start recruiting, including assigning all roles and responsibilities, something’s going to fall through the cracks.

That’s why I’m so excited to have co-authored the ready-to-roll templates and tips in the no-charge Monthly Giving Starter Kit. It’s a great help in getting started and keeping your monthly giving strong.

To learn more about monthly giving, download our free eGuide! download recurring giving guide

About Erica Waasdorp

Erica Waasdorp is one of the leading experts on monthly (aka sustainer or recurring) giving. She is the author of Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant and co-author of the DonorPerfect Monthly Giving Starter Kit. As president of A Direct Solution, she serves nonprofit organizations in their fundraising and direct marketing needs with a focus on monthly giving, annual funds, and grant writing.


With refreshing practicality, Nancy Schwartz rolls up her sleeves to help nonprofits develop and implement strategies to build strong relationships that inspire key supporters to action. She shares her deep nonprofit marketing insights—and passion—through consulting, speaking, and her popular blog and e-news at GettingAttention.org.

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Liz Ragland
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