Monthly Giving Programs – Chapter 4

Fundamental to the success of any nonprofit’s fundraising campaign is helping donors feel valued and connected to the nonprofit’s mission. While there are numerous benefits to monthly giving programs, it’s easy for nonprofits to fall into the trap of taking their monthly donors for granted and as a result, lose valued supporters. Below are five steps nonprofits can take to ensure monthly donors stay engaged and remain loyal donors.

1. Getting to Know Your Donors

It cannot be said enough – data is a nonprofit’s best friend.  The more information you know, and can easily access, about your donors, the more you are able to communicate effectively with them. Good donor data allows nonprofits to segment donors and communicate based on the donor’s interests and needs.

Knowing your donors allows you to communicate like a friend. Many of your donors may actually be your friends. Even when that is the case, it’s important to add information to your donor database to prevent donors from slipping through the cracks. For those who are not friends in real life, here are some strategies for getting to know them:

  • Ask your donors for information about themselves. MoonClerk allows nonprofits to customize the information they can provide. Consider asking donors to provide birthdates or select primary interests.
  • Use Social Media. Facebook is a great way to get birthdates and anniversary dates. Have volunteers help you go on a Facebook scavenger hunt to help complete donor profiles.
  • Social Media is also a great way to get feedback from your supporters. Ask fans why they are connected to your organization or which program(s) they value most.  Record their answers.
  • Use what you’ve got. You should be sending regular communications to your donors.  Be sure to update contact information when you receive notice of new email addresses or as emails bounce.
  • Get board members to help. Often board members know many of your donors from their relationships outside the organization. Once a quarter, set aside time for board members to add information about donors. Distribute a list of monthly donors about whom you’re missing information. Ask board members if they can add birthdates, anniversary dates, key interests, or missing contact information to those donors’ profiles.

2. Make Them Feel Special

Monthly donors have given your organization a pledge of loyal support. This pledge needs to be acknowledged as a special gift. Below are strategies for nurturing this special relationship.

  • Create special communications thanking monthly donors for their ongoing support.  Focus these communications on sharing the impact that their sustained giving has on your mission. What can be accomplished with these gifts that would be difficult or impossible without them? Is the organization able to make commitments that wouldn’t be possible without the steady gifts of monthly donors? Include pictures and stories from those impacted by the work of the nonprofit. Show the donors what their gifts make possible.
  • Ask your donors how (online or by mail) and how often, they wish to receive communications. Respect their preference.
  • Send birthday and anniversary cards. Let them know they are a valued part of the organization.
  • Thank donors in different ways throughout the year (i.e. by phone, in newsletter articles, in social media posts, with a card, etc…).

Many of these engagement strategies will be a part of your defined monthly-give benefit package, but remember to add new benefits and adapt existing benefits as your organization grows and changes and as your donor base changes. Your engagement strategy needs to be responsive to the needs of your donors.

3. Keep Them Involved

Written communication is an important way to maintain a relationship with monthly donors but many donors also desire the opportunity for more personalized interaction with the organization. Some suggestions for providing active involvement include:

  • Invite monthly donors to general donor events. Be sure to include monthly donors in fundraising galas or events and donor gatherings.
  • Host a work party or special volunteer project for monthly donors to participate in as a group. This may be especially appealing to younger donors who cannot afford a $50/$100 ticket to a gala, but who want an opportunity to connect with other supporters.
  • Invite a small group of monthly donors to attend a Q&A or special informative discussion with key leaders or staff. Provide an opportunity to learn more about the organization in an intimate setting.
  • Host a tour of programs for monthly donors.  Let them see firsthand the work their gifts sustain.

4. Keep the Momentum Going

Joining the monthly giving program is not the end of the donor’s journey. Once a donor has been giving at a certain level for over a year it is time to ask for an upgrade. If the donor is currently giving $20 per month, show them what $30 a month could provide and ask the donor to step up to $30 per month.

Many monthly donors also respond favorably to an occasional (once or twice a year) special or emergency appeal.  Be sure to recognize and thank them for their regular monthly and show them why the organization needs an extra donation.

5. Don’t Let Them Slip Away

Finally, if a monthly donor does stop giving, find out why. Within two months of a lapsed gift, follow-up by phone to ask them why they ended their monthly gift. Thank the donors for their support over the months or years and ask why they decided to stop. Help problem solve. Does the donor need to decrease rather than suspend the gift? Suggest modifying the gift. Is there a temporary issue that makes it necessary to suspend giving for a period of time? Offer to check back at a future date to resume giving. Is there something your organization could do to make the donor’s experience better? Be open to honest and constructive feedback.  Listen and record notes of what was said and take appropriate action.

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