For at least the past five years I’ve been actively encouraging nonprofits of all stripes to begin or ramp up their monthly giving program. It made sense then. It makes even more sense now.
You need a dependable source of income in order to be able to plan for the future.
If that sounds good to you, please continue reading. I’m going to share some best practices and examples to help you somewhat magically raise more dollars from individuals, both today and tomorrow.
Once donors sign on as monthly givers they tend to stick with you.
So huge, in fact, you’re missing a gigantic boat if you don’t currently promote monthly giving as a key fundraising strategy. In other words, you’re leaving boatloads of cash on the table. If you could use a boatload of cash right now, never fear. All you need to do is…
Ask Folks to Join a Monthly Giving Club
More than ever, donors understand you need a dependable source of income in order to be able to plan for the future.
Here’s one example (it’s not even from a nonprofit) that does an effective job making the ‘case’ for monthly giving:
Since you’re letting folks know how much monthly donors mean to you, it’s worth inviting everyone to join your Monthly Giving Club right now and consider making their gift this way. Your “Club” –which you should give its own name and brand — shouldn’t be open to just small donors, but donors of every size. People are joiners, especially when asked to join something ‘special’ that makes them feel good. Tell them by giving monthly they’re stepping forward to say they’ll be there, steadfast, so you can plan ahead. In other words, monthly givers are the best!
NOTE: Some major and mid-level donors will prefer to make one-time gifts, especially if they give through a DAF or make gifts of appreciated securities. Or they may just be used to this and not want to change. That’s fine. But they shouldn’t be excluded from the opportunity to join. This is a ‘make life enriching’ strategy. Who doesn’t want to feel the joy of supporting your mission every month, rather than just once? Joining the ‘Monthly Giving Club’ feels tangible and elevating.
Monthly Donors Have a Positive Bottom Line Effect
New monthly donors make larger gifts than one-time donors.
They allow folks to see being more generous is possible. A one-time donation of $600 may seem impossible and scare folks away. But break it down to $50/month, and they can now comfortably give. If donors feel they can’t give enough to make a difference, they may not give at all.
Once donors sign on as monthly givers they tend to stick with you.
This bears repeating: donor retention of monthly supporters averages 80 – 90%, compared with just 65% for annual donors. In and of itself, this data point should persuade you to offer all your donors the opportunity to give to you monthly. Why would you settle for 25% less retention than possible?
Monthly giving is also a terrific upgrade strategy.
Some $1,500 level donors, for example, might opt for making a $150 gift/month in lieu of a one-time $1,500 gift. This would automatically increase their giving by $300/donor – and they’d barely notice it. That’s a 20% increase without breaking a sweat!
“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.
— Caryn Stern, Network for Good
Some Simple Monthly Giving Campaign Tips
Re levels of monthly gifts:
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 onetime 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.)”
— Erica Waasdorp, A Direct Solution (Grab her free Monthly Donor Road Map)
Re who to approach:
- Donors who’ve given in the past (below $300 is fine).
- Lapsed donors at $300 – $1,500. You won’t want to send a monthly invite appeal to IC donors who’ve already made their gifts this year. But it might be worth doing for those who’ve lapsed and you’d like to renew. And, of course, you can do this for lapsed donors of $300 – $1,499 as well.
- Current monthly donors you may wish to ask to upgrade their monthly commitment (best reserved for those who’ve given monthly over at least the past 24 months).
Re donation landing page:
Make sure the landing page to which folks are taken when they click your donate button is dedicated to monthly giving. Don’t take prospective monthly donors to a generic page where giving monthly seems like an afterthought. This is extremely confusing to would-be supporters, and certainly does not make what they’re attempting to do feel special! Monthly donors of any amount should understand the benefits of membership at their chosen level. For donors to give monthly, they need to feel there’s extra value in giving this way (what they accomplish; what they receive – including you considering them special).
Make sure the landing page is user-friendly! I cannot overemphasize this. Too often nonprofits expend tremendous energy creating their club branding strategy and crafting their appeal; then they completely whiff when it comes to making the donation experience seamless. I had this happen to me just yesterday. I tried twice to make a gift, but was stopped dead in my tracks by a landing page that (1) required scrolling down the page to find the correct “Add to Cart” button; (2) took me to a page where I needed to ‘log in’ with my email and password or ‘create an account,’ and (3) landed me on another page where I could view my past history with the organization, but still couldn’t figure out where to click to make a new gift. This just made me sad.
Re how to create an appealing package:
Describe your work concretely so donors can envision how their monthly gift will be used. Even if $5/month may not accomplish the entire job, describe how monthly gifts add up to a specific, tangible impact. Make it easy for donors to understand exactly what each monthly giving level will accomplish.
Re how to make monthly donors feel special:
You can partially accomplish this through the naming and branding of your club. At the food bank where I worked, we created the “Meal of the Month Club.” At the nonprofit theater on whose board I sit, they created the “Empathy Gym Membership.” Both of these names reflect the unique importance of the donor’s commitment by focusing on the impact of the gift, not the organization.
Donors can also be made to feel special through special celebration, recognition, acknowledgement and even the act of token, often intangible gift giving. Ideas range from thank you calls to honor roll listings to special newsletters to exclusive events to certificates to first dibs on popular, over-subscribed volunteer opportunities to sponsor-donated coupons to client-created artwork to recommendations for readings, movies, walks, craft projects, recipes or whatever makes sense for your organization. You can find lots of ideas for thanking donors here.
Monthly Campaign Examples
Here are a few campaigns from which you can learn:
This example totally rocks! It has suggested amounts, an explanation of how the money is used, beautiful graphics, a video telling the story, and benefits to the donors explained. Donors are made to feel special, proactive and part of a connected community.
This makes it clear from the get-go how your gift will be used. The graphic is strong and the text is simply and easy to understand. As you scroll down (click on the link above to view), you learn about:
- How it works
- Where funds go directly
- Benefits you’ll receive
Their monthly giving program is named “The Collective,” and they make it clear this group collectively is dedicated and central to its core mission. Plus benefits are spelled out, including a newsletter and ‘swag.’ As donors scroll down (click on the link above to view) they learn that each month they’ll be contributing to a different job creation program. They also include a cool sliding tool where you can calculate the precise impact of your gift – from $30 to $1,000/month).
I like the addition of a call for folks who already give monthly to increase their gifts. I also like they include a button if you prefer to give offline. Plus the benefits of membership are clearly spelled out. And I like the fact they suggest a range of monthly gifts, yet highlight the radio button for $50/month. There’s one problem you’ll want to avoid: When you scroll towards the bottom there’s a link to a video describing membership ease and benefits. Unfortunately, it’s uploaded to YouTube. When I clicked to play it, I was subjected first to an ad that had zero relevance to the cause.
Looking for Email Templates?
The folks at Donor Perfect have developed some from which you can borrow. You’ll find several variations, including (1) addressing the pandemic; (2) renewing current monthly donors, and (3) social media post variations. Note that to appear relevant today you should not simply relaunch last year’s campaign. Say something specific about the impact monthly donors are having right now.
And don’t forget you can always ask major donors who’ve already committed their annual gift to join your monthly giving club as well. Just as someone might order a big $200 Harry and David Tower of Treats as a special gift, they might also join the Fruit of the Month Club themselves. Newsflash: People can give to you more than one time and in more than one way.
You just have to ask!
Learn More about Creating a Compelling Appeal
Just grab my Anatomy of a Fundraising Appeal + Sample Template. This 62-page step-by-step guide to crafting a killer appeal letter or email appeal will walk you through the process step by step. If you’re ignoring any of the elements that go into making your appeal effective you’re ignoring your organization’s future. If you follow the guidelines suggested, you’ll raise more money. Period.
Not satisfied? All Clairification products come with a no-questions-asked, 30-day, 100% refund guarantee.
Image: My photo taken of local signage in a neighborhood window.