If you keep up with the latest trends in fundraising, you already know everyone is talking about monthly giving programs. Individual giving and donor retention rates are falling. And fundraisers everywhere are looking for ways to fill in the gaps.
Monthly giving can take your nonprofit into the modern era of fundraising. It will help you retain donors at a higher rate, diversify your donor base, and provide a more consistent cash flow.
It also results in higher annual gift amounts over time. But there are still a lot of questions surrounding monthly giving. Many fundraisers want to launch a monthly giving program but don’t know where to start.
Or maybe you got started and hit a few roadblocks you weren’t expecting!
Either way, here’s what you need to know.
First things first.
You need to get things in place behind the scenes before you launch your monthly giving program. There are some important questions you need to ask yourself before you get started.
For example, you need to make sure your current systems can process recurring credit card transactions. You also need to decide if you are going to set gifts to expire. Are donors signing up for one year of monthly giving, or will their gift be processed each month until they stop it?
There is no right or wrong answer, at least in our opinion. But this is a discussion that needs to take place with your business office and possibly legal counsel.
You will also need to think about any special coding in your donor management system to track start and end dates.
And it’s important to have a plan for handling automatic processing issues. For example, set up an automated email to notify you and the donor if their credit card expires.
But don’t forget to consider other ways donors may want to give. If you accept monthly checks, you will need a plan to handle those. Consider payment options like Apple Pay or PayPal and how you will maintain giving for those who donate this way.
READ MORE: Does your nonprofit make it easy to give?
Building a brand.
Branding your monthly giving program makes it distinct from your other initiatives and reinforces your mission. It also establishes community and makes your donors feel like they are part of something bigger.
Your program’s brand includes obvious things like a name, logo, and dedicated landing page. But there’s more to it!
Offering special perks for monthly donors can help build that sense of community. They play an important role in establishing your brand!
Consider using a special monthly newsletter, Q&A sessions with your leadership, and public recognition in annual reports as perks for monthly donors.
Securing new monthly donors.
You need to determine your best candidates for monthly giving to get a strong start. So, use the data you have available to decide who your prime targets are.
Millennial donors, donors who give to every appeal, and those with a multi-year history of making small gifts are more likely to get excited about monthly giving.
But you also need to make the right ask. Will you use giving levels, three-tiered ask strings, or let donors write in their own monthly gift amount?
Set giving levels gives the organization more control and makes it easier to tie gift amounts into something more tangible. They also enable you to offer specific perks for donors at different levels.
However, donor choice can provide greater flexibility and is easier to launch. Instead of tying a donor’s impact to a specific dollar amount, focus on how year-round support is needed to advance your mission.
Promoting monthly giving.
The next step is sending your targets an appeal focused on monthly giving. Depending on your organization’s size and budget, you may choose to send this to everyone.
Your monthly giving appeal should invite donors to sustain their impact throughout the year. It should introduce your program and its name, reinforce how it advances your mission, and clarify the benefits of monthly giving.
Then, reinforce the importance of your program and promote it in your other communications. Use inserts in direct mail or graphics in emails to remind donors about your monthly giving program. Push it to your audience at events and on social media.
And remind donors of the impact they can have by making their gift monthly whenever they give online. Only 14 percent of organizations prompt donors to “make it monthly” before processing online gifts, according to Nonprofit Tech for Good.
Keeping monthly donors engaged.
Once your monthly giving program is off the ground, take a minute to congratulate yourself. Then, get ready to keep working! Because we’re just getting started.
One of the main benefits of monthly giving is improved donor retention. But it takes a lot of effort to make donors feel valued and sign on for multiple years of giving.
So, send donors a welcome kit when they enroll in your monthly giving program. This should include unique messages about what their gift will accomplish and restate the benefits of monthly giving.
You should also provide information about what appeals they will be suppressed from and who to contact if they want to modify their gift or update their payment method.
But stewardship is never one and done, especially for monthly donors! Send monthly impact emails to let donors know what they’ve accomplished. Get personal with the receipts they receive each month and thank them for their continued support.
And don’t forget, little things can make a big difference. So, when a donor has been enrolled in your monthly giving program for a year, reach out and recognize their anniversary!
Thank them again and share the impact they’ve made over the year. Let long-term donors know what they’ve helped you accomplish in the years since their first monthly gift.
Donor anniversaries are also a great reason to ask for a modest increase in support. Remember, just $5 more a month is really $60 a year!
READ MORE: Why are you struggling to retain donors?
What else do you need to know?
If your organization is in a tough spot and needs to raise money right now, a monthly giving program may not be the right solution.
The goal of monthly giving is to sustain revenue and grow relationships with donors over time while subtly increasing their annual contributions. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You’re creating a sustainable foundation to support your fundraising for years to come.
Monthly giving is a great way to engage small donors and grow their support. But monthly giving is for everyone! So, invite your board of directors and major donors to give monthly too.
You may not have all the pieces in place. But you don’t have to wait to launch a monthly giving program. Remember, the key is to start somewhere and grow over time.
This is true for donors and your program itself. So, start small and do what you can. Then keep evolving and build your program as you go!