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Getting Started with Monthly Giving: An Interview with Erica Waasdorp

Recently, Erica Waasdorp of A Direct Solution presented a webinar on creating sustainable funding with monthly donors. With over 1,000 people participating, it was impossible to answer everyone’s questions live. Luckily, Erica offered to answer your questions in another format: a three-part blog series on monthly giving.

In this installment, Erica answers questions about starting a monthly giving program: why it’s important, which types of donors are the best prospects, and how you can get your program off the ground.

Getting Started with Monthly Giving

What’s the value of having monthly donors?

Erica Waasdorp (EW): Simply put, monthly donors offer a consistent stream of revenue for nonprofits. Just to give you an idea, the average revenue of 300 monthly donors is almost $87,000 per year. That’s $24 per month and it’s based on a real-life example. Imagine what you can do with that funding?

If donors give monthly, are they less likely to donate to a specific campaign?

EW: Here, it depends how often you’re appealing to your monthly donors. If you’re reaching out two to four times a year, you should be fine. If you ask more than that, I recommend you choose the four strongest appeals. You’d always be recognizing them as monthly donors and offer them this appeal as a “We’re grateful for your monthly gifts, but we thought you might wish to see this appeal/story and hope you can help with a special gift” message.

You mentioned a one-third rule for ask amounts. Could you explain this concept?

EW: The one-third rule was designed because you do not wish to ask for a monthly gift that’s too high. That means that if you look at your donors now and take those individuals who typically give less than $100 (the true prime prospects for monthly giving), what’s their average gift?

Let’s say someone gives $60 to an appeal. You use one-third of that average gift as the first monthly ask and two-thirds as the second monthly ask. Only the third ask becomes the same as the typical average gift. And then of course, you’ll always use the “other” option so the donor can choose. In other words, you’d ask for $20, $40, $60 and “other” $ a month.

What advice do you have for an organization that doesn’t have monthly donors yet, but plans to start? In other words, how do you start from zero?

EW: You should set up your donation pages, and then start asking. I suggest asking your volunteers, your staff, and your board first, and asking for a small monthly amount.  Then, expand to your donors. I do recommend that you start with your smaller donors, those typically who give less than $100, as they’re least likely to be able to write big checks, but are interested in giving a smaller amount on a regular basis.

If you can have a few board members and some staffers start, then you can use those as testimonials. You simply will not know who’d like to join if you don’t ask them, so that’s where you should start. Monthly giving is not something you do just once. It’s an ongoing opportunity for donors to support your mission with an amount that best fits them.

What about for small, local nonprofits? Is starting a monthly giving program more difficult for these organizations?

EW: As a local organization, you’ll have some advantages over national organizations for these three reasons:

  1. You can organize special recognition events.
  2. Any testimonials you receive from your monthly donors will have a more powerful impact in the community.
  3. You can easily show your donors how their monthly gift is making an impact.

Also, think of the option to use your local cable access channel or radio station for Public Service Announcement (PSA) support. They may be willing to do and air a local spot for you.

What’s the best way to gather email addresses and to begin outreach?

EW: Make sure you have an email sign up form/box on your website. Then start asking in-person at events, on your reply form, and in your newsletters. Next, start asking on social media, directing people to the website. Some organizations get very creative. They give away a little freebie, like a white paper or a little list of tips, in exchange for the person’s email address.

These are all the questions and answers we have for now. Stay tuned for part two, which will focus on communicating with monthly donors. And, while you’re waiting, grab a copy of Network for Good’s free eGuide: Securing Monthly Gifts: A Quick-Start Guide to Sustainable Giving.

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