Once you’ve set up a monthly giving program that’s easy to understand and simple to join, there are many ways to ask supporters to join as sustaining donors. But you gotta ask. Here are four things to keep in mind when asking for recurring donations.
1. Make It the First Priority.
Get in the habit of inviting your community to become monthly donors. Whenever you ask for donations—on your website, in your email appeals, or a direct mail letter—ask first for a monthly gift, instead of just a one-time gift. When a donor is deciding on a donation amount, ask, “Would you like to make this a monthly gift?” It’s the fundraising equivalent of “supersizing” the order, with fewer calories and a way better outcome.
UNICEF USA makes monthly giving the first thing you see on their homepage. They reinforce the ask with a reminder that the needs they address are ongoing.
2. Start Small.
Remember: small gifts add up, so always think about the annual contribution and not just the monthly installment. Focus on getting your donors into your program with a realistic and easy-to-swallow amount. Erica Waasdorp, author of Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant, offers this advice on setting your initial monthly ask amount for entry-level donors: start with your average one-time gift and start your ask at about a third of that. If your average single donation is $35, set your first monthly gift level at $10 (an ideal starting point), then bump up the ask to $15, $20, $35, etc. (Note: be sure to tailor your gift strings and appeals for different segments of your list. Donors who are giving a larger average one-time gift should be presented with larger monthly gift options that reflect their level of support.)
The Liz Logelin Foundation encourages donors to give “$7 on the 7th” to help widows and widowers with young families. This campaign helps donors realize it’s possible to create a big impact for a small amount each month.
3. Offer an Appealing Package.
Describe the work you do in a way that relates to a recurring gift and shows a tangible tie to the idea of giving every month. What is the recurring need? How do these gifts add up to a specific and tangible impact? Make it easy for donors to understand exactly what each monthly giving level will accomplish.
charity: water’s Pipeline program clearly ties an ongoing need to the solution the donor can provide through their monthly gift. Using language like “keep the water flowing” reinforces this concept and creates a strong visual that helps new and existing donors understand why ongoing support is so critical.
4. Help Monthly Donors Feel Important.
Not all monthly giving programs need special branding, but if you’re planning to give your program a unique name, make sure it reflects the importance of their commitment. The name should focus on the impact your donors make, not on your organization. Give monthly donors a special status and celebrate them in a unique way on your site. Then, back that up by reserving special perks for these loyal supporters, such as a sneak peek to your newsletter, first dibs on event tickets, or invitations to an open house.
ASPCA.com dubs their monthly donors as Guardians, which perfectly fits the role of these sustainers in the work of saving and protecting animals. It also taps into the identity that these supporters likely want to achieve. What animal lover wouldn’t want to be seen as a Guardian?
Pinpoint the unique qualities of your monthly giving program and think about how they may appeal to your donors. Careful framing of your offer can go a long way in making your ask for recurring gifts stand out. You’ll create a better story in your supporters’ minds and inspire them to commit to monthly donations. Learn more about Recurring Gifts: The Key to Sustainability here.