The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Master Monthly Giving: Q&A with Erica Waasdorp

I’m thrilled to share this monthly giving mastery with you, drawn from my fascinating interview with leading monthly giving expert Erica Waasdorp.

In her unequaled guidebook, Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant, Erica walks you through recurring giving, step by clear-and-doable step. “Historically, U.S. fundraisers have focused on major gifts. I’m thrilled that organizations are widening their focus to include monthly giving and small to medium gifts. There’s huge potential there,” says Erica.

What do fundraisers need to know about how monthly giving has changed since the release of Sleeping Giant in 2013?

Erica Waasdorp: What’s changed most dramatically, especially in the past year, is that monthly giving has exploded.

I think the main reason for this growth is fundraisers’ laser focus on donor retention. That focus, already there for some, was further fueled by results of the 2013 AFP Fundraising Effectiveness study, which highlighted the fall of donor retention rates to 39%. That was a real wake-up call for all of us.

There are two more factors that I think have added to the monthly giving boom. First is the emergence of reliable, thorough monthly giving guidance—from me, Network for Good, and others. This abundance of content triggers interest and provides reliable results-based guidance for fundraisers. Fun features, such as Network for Good’s monthly giving challenge, reinforce interest and skills.

The second factor that’s boosted monthly giving is the ease of adding, processing, and managing monthly donors via many donor database and online donation systems. Despite these widespread improvements, automating this process remains one of the biggest hurdles for fundraisers.

Why should an organization convert its donors from annual to monthly? Is there any risk of losing existing donors?

EW: No, there’s absolutely nothing to lose—as long as you target the right group. In other words, I do not recommend you ask your $250-plus donors to join monthly giving. Unless a donor at that level requests to be a monthly donor, don’t ask. You risk decreasing her gift level.

But for those who make gifts of $100 and less annually, there’s no way not to gain by converting them to monthly donors. You’ll retain them as donors and increase their total gifts per year. Plus, monthly donors are six to seven times more likely to make your organization a beneficiary in their wills. Win-win all around, if you ask me.

What’s the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) for monthly donors?

EW: The WIIFM depends on which donor group you’re talking to. For example, monthly giving is a fantastic way for donors on a fixed income to make gifts to favorite organizations. It’s easy and convenient, and they can’t forget it.

That’s a perfect lead-in to my next question. Are all existing and new donors ripe for conversion for monthly donors, or is there a specific segment where fundraisers should start?

EW: Well, it depends on how many donors you have who give $100 and less annually. And it depends on how many times you ask your donors for money now—that is, how many times they can give.

Those donors who have given more than once are more likely to convert. But recent monthly giving stats indicate that even nondonor supporters, such as those who have signed a petition, can be converted. You do have to ask them, though.

If you have a robust email list, start there. Focus your first direct mail campaign to donors who give by credit card. Targeting is essential to boost monthly giving campaign results, just as for other types of fundraising campaigns.

What’s the most reliable way to convert one-time or annual donors to monthly donors?

EW: There are three components of a reliable monthly giving strategy:

  • To deliver the most cost-effective and effective monthly giving campaign, launch an email appeal series based on a deadline-driven challenge (matching gift or otherwise).
  • To generate the highest response from your monthly giving recruitment campaign, include calls to your media mix. Email, direct mail, and phone all work, but a combination of all three works even better.
  • To ensure monthly donors stay with you as long as possible, ask donors to give through electronic funds transfer (that is, via their bank accounts).

Thanks, Erica!

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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Linda Lombardi

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