Launching a Monthly Giving Program (Part 3 of 6)

Launching a Monthly Giving Program

This is part 3 in a 6-part series on monthly giving programs for nonprofits.

Read Part 1 – Benefits of Monthly Giving Programs

Read Part 2 – Planning a Successful Monthly Giving Program

Starting a monthly giving program is an important step in creating long-term, sustainable funding streams for nonprofits of all sizes. Once a monthly giving plan is in place and leadership is excited and on-board it’s time to formally launch the new program. While the overall goal is to reach as many donors as possible, it’s important to focus your initial attention on those potential donors most likely to participate. A successful launch will include a soft sell to all of your constituents and a more focused, proactive sell to those most likely to respond. A successful launch consists of four steps – 1) identifying the best prospects, 2) engaging in a multi-channel campaign 3) follow-up, and 4) ongoing marketing efforts.

1. Choose Where To Focus Your Energy

Donor segmentation is important in all of your fundraising efforts and monthly giving is no exception. The more information you have about your donors, the better equipped you’ll be to communicate in a way that inspires them. There are several segments of your donor base that make great candidates for monthly giving. The donors with the greatest affinity for your organization are the best prospects, with the exception of major donors, who require a different approach.  Some ways to identify these donors with the greatest affinity are to start with those who:

  • Already give more than once per year
  • Give an average of $50 – $1,000 per year
  • Have given for more than 3 consecutive years
  • Have volunteered for more than a year
  • Are former board members or committee leaders

Different segments of donors should receive targeted versions of your direct mail and email campaigns. Each version should contain a suggested dollar amount that is a realistic stretch for them based on their prior giving history. For example:

  • The letters sent to volunteers who have not made a donation (or those who have made only small donations of $50 or less) should have a recommended amount of $10 or $20 per month.
  • The letters sent to donors who frequently give $100 – $500 should have a recommended amount of $40 or $50 per month.
  • Generalized messages on websites and social media sites should be based on a smaller starting donation amount.

2. Put Your Eggs in Many Baskets

Once you’ve identified your target audience, it’s best to start building the key components of your campaign. Each component should build on the last component and should market your clear, consistent case for support. The use of matching gifts can be a powerful tool to gain support during the launch phase. Try to secure a few donors (key board members and major donors are great possibilities) who will match the gifts of anyone who signs up at an event, or anyone who signs up on a certain day – be creative. The goal is to motivate your donors and add a sense of urgency.

Elements of a multi-component campaign include:

  • Direct mail
  • Email marketing appeals
  • Special Events
  • Articles in organization or partner newsletters
  • Promotion on Facebook, Twitter, etc…
  • Board meetings
  • Website home page and Donation page
  • Brochures

3. Don’t Be Passive

Once you’ve sent out your direct mail and email campaigns, wait a few weeks to give time for donors to respond to social media campaigns, then follow up. Take your list of target donors you’ve identified in Step One and cross out all those who have already joined the monthly giving program. Determine how many of the remaining donors need a follow-up call, and then arrange for volunteers to help make those follow-up phone calls.  The best volunteers are often board members or members of the fundraising committee, but any dedicated volunteers can help with this effort. Plan for an average of 10 donors per-hour, per-volunteer to determine how many volunteers you need and for how many hours they will be needed. Based on your volunteer capacity and the size of the initial list, you may need to trim down the list of donors during the first launch phase to just those whom your leadership feels are most likely to participate.

Develop two scripts for volunteers to use when making follow-up calls. The first should outline what to say when the prospective donor answers the phone and the second should outline what to say when the call goes to voicemail. Keep it simple. A sample script will tell volunteers to ask for the donor by first name, to identify the caller’s role with the organization (board, volunteer, job title, etc…), to ask the donor if he or she is aware of the program, to ask if they have any questions, and to ask if they are willing to participate. If they are willing to participate, give them the option to sign-up over the phone or to go online.  Have a process in place for volunteers to provide notes to development staff.

4. Stay the Course

Remember, this is not a one-time campaign. Add the monthly giving option to ALL donation pages, “ask” letters, thank you letters, and everywhere you talk about donations.

Always start with monthly giving as the way to give, but be clear that one-time and off-line gifts are still welcome and appreciated.

Many experts suggest having a mini-marketing campaign highlighting the monthly program once or twice every year. Each organization needs to find a schedule to promote  its monthly giving program that reaches donors without taking away needed attention from other organizational activities.

Our future posts in this series will focus on:

  • Keeping Monthly Donors Engaged
  • Recruiting and Converting New Monthly Donors
  • Additional Monthly Giving Program Resources

Learn more about how MoonClerk helps nonprofits accept recurring and one-time donations online.


Photo by Flickr User jamelah