The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

5 Big To-Dos for Monthly Giving Programs

One of my favorite breakfasts is the Big-To-Do at Friendly’s. French toast, scrambled eggs, and bacon well-done! I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

While this is not breakfast, it’s even more important to ‘enjoy’. So, if you’re serious about your monthly giving program, make sure that you follow these 5 Big To-Dos.

Big To-Do 1: Ask for Small Monthly Amounts

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I have done a number of ask amount tests and time and again, I see that the low monthly ask amounts beat the higher monthly ask amounts

The key with any monthly giving program is that you’re building up the program and your goal is to bring in as many new monthly donors as possible. Once they get ‘hooked’ and see how easy and affordable it on for their wallet, you can absolutely upgrade them later!

Remember that monthly donors are typically those donors who cannot write the big checks. You can start your first ask as low as $5 or $10. You really can upgrade donors later. Just think of it this way. If you can convert a one-time $35 donor to a $10 a month donor, you’ve just tripled their annual gift to a nice $120 a year! So don’t be too greedy at first… Ask Low!

Big To-Do 2: Organize the Basics

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Before you send out your first promotion, you must have the basics in place. That means writing the thank you letter, updating the email thank you, the auto-responder message and make sure that everybody in your organization knows that you have this new monthly donor program in place.

Also make sure that you always, always, test the process yourself. So sign up with a gift and see what happens. How’s the experience, how does everything look? I’ve seen huge organizations that did not do that and their thank you emails were totally wrong! What a way to lose a new monthly donor.

Monthly donors do not need monthly thank you letters each time their gift is processed. They’re rather you spend the funds on your mission. But do consider a tax letter every January with information about the donor’s donations for the year. Make sure you have written the procedure for your data-entry department. And think through the process for what happens if someone’s card expires. You can download a free sample tax letter template and sample email from A Direct Solution, and download free Recurring Donor Communication Templates from Network for Good.

Just take a little extra time to think through the process before you think about your marketing and you don’t have to worry about it later. You can market to your heart’s content because everything is in place!

Big To-Do 3: Make It Easy

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I often talk to organizations that created a special monthly giving page, but when I go to look for it on their website, I can’t find it. There’s no direct link from the home page. So how can you expect your donors to find it? In this day and age, donors can either go to the website on their own accord or you can drive them there. If you drive them via social media or email, you can put the link to the page, which makes it a lot easier.

But if someone is new to your organization and your site and he or she is considering a donation, the easier you make it, the more likely it is that the donor joins your monthly giving program. So, the first step is to make sure to add your monthly giving option as part of your pull down menu on ways to give, right from the home page.

Then, if you really want to start growing your program, put the recurring giving option front and center, right on the one-time donation page, so donors can’t get around it. Make it the first option! Make it easy to find and donors will join.

Big To-Do 4: Think Long Term and Make a Plan

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Building a monthly giving program takes time. It’s not something you build overnight. It’s really a long-term approach, aimed at your smaller donors and it will truly improve your donor retention rates and thus impact your organization’s revenue.

You’re asking your donors to make a long-term commitment (for example, I’ve seen organizations with monthly donors who have been giving that way for 20 years). So, make sure you have that same long-term commitment.

Think how you can convert your donors to monthly donors, this year, the next and make a plan. I’m a strong believer in written plans and goals. Those organizations that consistently work towards a monthly giving goal and make sure that the program is part of their overall communication strategy, and stick to the plan, they’ll reach their goal! Just think, if you currently have 1% of your donors giving monthly, what would happen if you could increase that to 5% or 20%?

(If you’re interested in making some projections of your potential, download my free monthly donor calculator).

Big To-Do 5: Ask, Ask, and Ask Again

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Now that you’ve started a monthly donor program, it’s crucial to start asking and asking and asking. It’s like anything we do with fundraising. If you don’t ask, you’re not going to get.

Most of the organizations I work with don’t ask enough. Once a year does not cut it!

Of course it has to fit in with your overall communication strategy, but those that are really growing their program build in a monthly donor ask in every email, every mailing, every phone call they make (as long as the donors fit the criteria). Email communication is cheap. Even if you’re only sending an email newsletter every month, make sure that there’s always a link to your monthly donor program. Use a testimonial and find a few opportunities to send out messages with one story, one ask, join our monthly donor program, linking to your monthly donor payment page and see what happens! What do you have to lose?

The general rule of thumb applies: If you ask donors to join a monthly giving program, they will. So, start asking, as soon as you possibly can.

I hope you enjoyed this Big To-Do Breakfast. There are definitely a lot more Big To-Dos on the menu, but these are the most important ones. I’d love to get your feedback if you have any you’d like to see discussed in future blogs. Just contact me at [email protected] And, if you’re interested in getting some help with your monthly giving program, where you can book half an hour or an hour to discuss your specific monthly donor challenges, simply check out the Monthly Giving Help Line at www.adirectsolution.com

About Erica Waasdorp

Erica Waasdorp is one of the leading experts on Monthly donors aka Sustainers aka Recurring Giving.

She is author of the book: Monthly Giving. The Sleeping Giant, and as President of A Direct Solution serves nonprofit organizations with their fundraising and direct marketing needs with a focus on Monthly Giving, Annual Fund and Grant writing.

Erica Waasdorp has helped the nonprofits she works with raise millions of dollars through monthly giving programs. She has over 30 years of experience in nonprofits and direct response. She lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. She writes regular guest blogs and presents webinars on monthly giving and she is happy to answer any questions you may have about this great way of improving the retention rates for your donors. You can reach her via email or by phone at (508) 776-1224

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Amanda Khoury
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