When it comes to non-profit fundraising, monthly giving (otherwise known as recurring giving) reigns supreme. Although big donations are valuable and should still be pursued, recurring giving programs provide a reliable source of income for your nonprofit.
Imagine if your nonprofit no longer had to worry about the seasonal drops in giving. Imagine if you could count on a reliable stream of monthly revenue. Sounds good? That’s why developing a great monthly giving program is a great investment that can have a tremendous impact on the long-term financial health of your organization.
What is a Monthly Giving Program?
A monthly giving program is a recurring donation program where donors can automatically donate a specific amount to their favorite nonprofit organization on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. Such regular donation plans help nonprofits generate a steady stream of financial support so that they can fulfill their vision and mission more effectively.
Donors choose to give a pre-determined amount of money on a regular basis. Many people like to give monthly, bi-monthly, or yearly, but they can give as frequently as they’d like. Monthly giving is probably the most frequent form of recurring giving.
The Benefits of a Monthly Giving Program (Recurring Donations)
A. More Funds
The average monthly online donation is $52 ($624 per year) compared to the average one-time gift of $128. According to Network for Good’s donation data, the average recurring donor will give 42% more in one year than those who give one-time gifts. Monthly donors also have a greater lifetime revenue per donor. Finally, 52% of Millennials are more likely to give monthly vs. a large one-time donation.
This shows that great monthly giving programs have a much higher return on investment compared to one-time giving programs.
B. Higher Retention Rate
Monthly donors have a higher retention rate than other types of donors. New donor retention rates average less than 23%. Monthly giving programs typically enjoy retention rates over 80% after one year and 95% after five years.
Generally speaking, once someone signs up for your program, they will stay on your donor base and give it every year or at least three times longer than the one-time donor will.
C. Easy for Donors
Monthly giving programs are not only relatively simple to manage for nonprofits, but they also make giving easy for donors.
Donors sign up once, and their gifts are made automatically and at a frequency of their choosing, giving them flexibility and convenience. Furthermore, your donors, for the most part, are already on monthly schedules. They frequently get paid on a monthly basis. They pay many bills monthly and subscribe to many monthly services. So, monthly giving is easy to understand and incorporate into their lives.
D. More Predictable
Quick Tips to Create a Great Monthly Giving Program (Recurring Donations)
Chances are you already have some sort of monthly giving program set up. But… is it the best it can be? Could it do more for you?
If your organization is considering implementing its own recurring giving program, below are some best practices and tips to keep in mind.
1. Develop a Donor-Centric Program Plan
The key to launching a successful recurring giving program is developing a written, donor-centric plan.
Before going forward with any of the other steps:
A. Think Strategically
If you don’t have clear goals in mind for your recurring giving program, it’s going to be challenging to understand what you need to do to reach your target. It also makes it more difficult for your donors to understand how they fit into the big picture.
With your team, work to answer these questions:
- What do we want to accomplish through monthly giving?
- How does monthly giving contribute to our programs and mission?
- What would happen as a result of achieving our goal?
B. Set Goals
After looking at the big picture and how the monthly program fits in with the rest of your nonprofit’s strategy, set specific goals.
How many monthly donors do you wish to attract every month? What about the monthly gift increases? How will you know that you’re successful?
Once you answer these questions, move on to the next step.
C. Think Through the Ins and the Outs
Think through the ins and outs of your program, including these areas:
- Program name (if any)
- Target audience
- Potential suggested monthly gift amounts
- Marketing materials
- Measuring and evaluation
2. Brand the Program
Giving your monthly program a name will strengthen its brand and show your donors that they’re part of something special.
Name the program something that aligns with your broader nonprofit brand or goal. For example, Pencils of Promise calls their program “Passport,” Liberty in North Korea calls theirs “Liberty,” and charity:water calls theirs “Pipeline.”
Branding your monthly giving program emphasizes the element of community. By showing your monthly donors that they’re part of something bigger than themselves, you make them feel more valued.
On your monthly giving page, consider using social proof. Social proof is a powerful psychological and social phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior in a given situation. In essence, this means people do what they see others do.
To leverage this phenomenon, include testimonials and photos of current monthly donors, their names, or say something like “you’ll be the xxx member of our program”.
Testimonials are also persuasive forms of social proof because they embody an element of storytelling, and stories build trust and credibility.
Finally, if you’ve received positive mentions from credible media sources, publications, and other thought leaders in your sector, display them on your website.
3. Figure Out Who to Approach
Before starting to promote your monthly giving program, take a look at your donor database and identify who would be most interested in a monthly giving program.
Generally, it’s those who give smaller amounts that might be more suited to a monthly giving program, compared to those who give larger amounts.
Pay special attention to donors who give smaller amounts regularly (a couple of times per year). Frequency is more important that the size of the gift when it comes to monthly giving prospects. Use this information to target those donors who may be interested in giving monthly.
Before promoting your program to a wider audience, mobilize your staff and board, as well as your most active volunteers and get them to sign up first.
This will help the credibility of your program, as well as allow you to gather feedback on everything from the sign-up process to the ‘thank you’ email.
Furthermore, when others stumble on your monthly giving program, they will feel more inclined to join because some others have already.
4. Promote the Program
Like with anything, it doesn’t matter how good your program is if people don’t know about it.
Before promoting your program, be sure to define your program’s value proposition. In other words – why should someone become a monthly donor. What are the benefits for them and what are the benefits for your nonprofit? Test different ways to highlight your value proposition.
After reaching out to your staff, your most active volunteers, and small but frequent donors don’t shy away from reaching out to everyone else!
Send out appeals through all of your channels and include monthly giving as an option on your nonprofit’s default donation form.
Mobilize volunteers and take them to the streets. Have your volunteers share about your nonprofit’s cause to people passing by and inform them about your new monthly giving program.
Furthermore, reach out to lapsed donors to see if they would be open to the idea of monthly giving. Ask lapsed donors what it is that keeps them from giving on a consistent basis, or why they stopped giving altogether and meeting them halfway. Encourage them to come back to your non-profit.
To promote your program, use all channels available to you. Use email, social media, direct mail, newsletters, print ads, Google Grants, events, and street fundraising.
Send out your first communication only once your monthly giving page is up and running and you tested it for any hiccups in the process.
Send out an email to your entire email list, as well as direct mail. If you have the resources, follow up those with phone calls. Phone calls that follow emails increase the number of sign-ups for monthly giving programs. Phone calls also add a personal touch that emails and letters can’t replicate. If you don’t have the resources to do this frequently, still try to pick up the phone every now and then.
Don’t be afraid to ask for additional gifts and upgrades. Plan one or two integrated upgrade campaigns per year.
5. Showcase it on Your Website
Highlight your monthly giving program on your nonprofit website. Do this by creating a separate page that is completely dedicated to your monthly program with information, videos, images, and testimonials, both by your donors and your beneficiaries.
Your program should have some space on your homepage as well. Clearly display it and make it easy to find. This will make the program accessible to any potential donors who are interested specifically in giving monthly.
When you’re sending out appeals or otherwise promoting the program, make sure the feel of your communication appeals matches the one on the website. You want potential donors to go on the website and experience cohesion and consistency.
6. Invest in a Good Donation Processing System
Online fundraising software is essential if you want to make monthly giving a reality.
A fundraising software will make constructing your own donation pages much easier and will provide you with a number of features and benefits, such as:
- Recurring giving options
- Donors having the option to manage their recurring donations at any time
- Pre-filled custom amounts with descriptions to let your donors feel great by knowing what they’re contributing to
- Integrated employer donation matching
- Optimization for desktop computers, mobile phones, and tablets
- Accepting donations on your Facebook Page
- Donation ‘thermometer’ to encourage more donations
- PDF receipts, and other features.
Check out the Donorbox recurring donation system!
7. Have a Great Donor Management System
For nonprofits, having a donor management system on the back-end that automates the sign-up process and manages donor contact information is essential.
Ensure the program stays convenient! Inevitably, credit card expiration dates pass, debit card payments bounce, electronic funds transfer (EFT) account numbers change, etc.
Stay on top of these issues and proactively communicate with your donors. Establish internal structures for attending to file and data hygiene, either by dedicating a staff member to follow up on missed payments due to declined or expired cards or by using card updater services to automatically update credit card information.
8. Show the Impact of Donors’ Contributions
It’s always incredibly important to show donors the impact of their contributions, but it can make a real difference when it comes to persuading some of your donors to join your monthly giving program.
There are several ways in which you can go about doing this. Many nonprofits showcase infographics or otherwise present facts and statistics about where the donors’ gifts are going to.
One of the best ways to go about this is to specifically tie every donation amount to a result.
$15 (50 cents a day) feeds one child in Bangladesh in need of life-saving food every day for a month
$30 (1 dollar a day) will provide 30 refugees with access to clean water for a month
$50 (1,50 dollars a day) will provide education to one girl brought back from slavery for a month
$100 (3 dollars a day) will equip 3 healthcare workers to respond to domestic or sexual violence calls for a month
This helps your monthly donors conceptualize how their relatively small donation makes a difference in comparison to the overall goal.
Furthermore, this helps your donors visualize the people their donations are helping. People are motivated to give when they feel an emotional connection with the people their donation benefits – people give to people.
When determining specific giving levels, take the time to calculate exactly what those giving levels achieve.
9. Make it Easy
Signing up for the program should be easy and intuitive, starting off with your website. A donor should be able to find your donation link within a couple of seconds of your donation page loading. A good case practice is to place the link on the top navigation found in the website’s header.
When a donor clicks the ‘donate’ link/button, they should be immediately taken to the donation form. A common mistake is to insert a variety of other explanations or text in between those two stages.
Your donation page should also be mobile-friendly/responsive. This means the donation page will resize according to the device being used, allowing for optimal viewing.
Your goal should always be that all those who have reached your donation page follow through and donate. To achieve this, keep your website simple and clear. Limit the amount of copy, images, media, and links to only what’s necessary, and organize your content in a way that feels very logical.
To read more about how to create great donation pages, click here.
10. Create Relationships
Monthly giving might be convenient for both you and your donors, automatizing a lot of the payments and admin involved. However, this doesn’t mean that your non-profit should apply a hands-off approach to relationships with your donors.
Start the relationship by rolling out the red carpet to welcome your monthly donors. Send them a welcome email within the first 48h of them signing up (or make this process automatic). It’s also important to continue thanking your donor, not just after their first gift, but strategically (yet genuinely) throughout the year.
It’s also a good practice to put monthly donors into a separate email list so as to send materials (such as newsletters) and messages that are particular to them. This keeps them from being placed on the general email list where they are consistently sent appeals for donations even though they’re already giving.
Frequently keep your monthly donors updated on how their contributions have helped the cause with images, stories, statistics, and other concrete examples. However, don’t keep it just at numbers. Include stories in your communication to your donors. Storytelling is a powerful tool for fundraising.
Finally, creating a community involves offering your monthly donors something beyond the regular donation experience. Think gifts, special updates and photos, and chances to win trips to places you serve.
How to convert one-time donors into recurring donors
With your monthly giving program established, continue to encourage your one-time donors to give regularly. This is an ongoing effort, here are some tips to help you get there:
To recap, recurring/monthly giving is an amazing fundraising technique for your nonprofit because:
- You’ll maintain a steady stream of income throughout the year.
- You’ll retain donors.
- You’ll be creating a community of supporters.
- You’ll make your life and the lives of your donors easier.
Monthly donors are a valuable asset to today’s nonprofits. This means they should be approached in a strategic and personalized way.
Creating a successful monthly giving program can be challenging, but it is well worth it. Forming a lasting relationship with dedicated donors that continuously support your organization makes all the difference