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20 Best Practices for Monthly Giving Programs

Do you want a fundraising strategy that creates ongoing predictable cash flow?

One that is low cost, and returns a high RIO?

That creates a wonderful prospect pool for planned and major gifts? That gets donors to quadruple (or more) their gifts?

Then welcome to monthly giving!

Monthly giving can be your pot of gold!

I’ve pulled the best practices for monthly giving together here. Use these guidelines – from all the experts – to launch this highly profitable program and enjoy its benefits.

There are three stages to a successful MG program:

#1 Get Ready, #2 Market Your Program, and #3 Customer Service.

#1 Get Ready

1. Get your organization’s commitment.

Is your organization prepared to make a commitment for the long term?

This program often starts slowly and builds momentum over time. Be sure you will be able to stay the course, or don’t do it.

2. Be prepared to invest time and resources.

It will takes groundwork on the front end to create success.

You’ll need to be prepared to invest even more to market your program as it takes hold.

3. Put one person in charge.

Put One Smart Staffer in Charge

When you have one person who OWNS the program and takes charge, it makes all the difference.

4. Get a seamless back end system in place.

You’ll need to offer both electronic funds transfer (EFT) and credit card payments.

You’ll need a plan to handle delinquencies, expired cards, denied charges.

And you’ll need good reporting to track, measure and adjust your program.

#2 Market Your Program

5.  Identify your most likely monthly giving prospects.

Your best prospects are your most loyal donors – those who give several times a year. Perhaps these folks, too:

  • donors greater than $60
  • donors greater than $120
  • donors who’ve given 3 or more consecutive yrs
  • memorial and tribute gift donors

6. Create mini-campaigns targeted to specific segments of donors.

7. Use different channels.

And integrate them all through your organization, says monthly giving guru Harvey McKinnon. (Check out his book on monthly giving, aptly titled “Hidden Gold.”)

Use mail, phone, online, volunteers, events, magazine, face-to-face, TV, radio. They all work!

8. Use the phone for followup.

Phone loyal donors and ask them to give monthly.

It’s nice to use the personal call to ask donors to make this kind of investment.

It’s the kind of decision that people like to discuss with a real person.

9. Show donors how their monthly gift buys something specific.

This is an absolute must.

Tell the donor what money will do: $25 will protect an acre of rain forest. $ $50 a month will provide 5 meals a week to a hungry child.

Donors love that. Don’t you?

10. Ask for upgrades often.

This is also an easy pitch: “Would you like to go from $20 – $30?”

11. Offer monthly giving to all donors in their thank you letters.

This is a very important marketing strategy.

The “earlier a second gift is obtained or the donor is converted to a monthly donor, the more loyal and valuable they become to your organization,” says expert David Hazeltine.

12. Test, test and test some more.

Testing will help your appeal stand out from the crowd.

It may take time to get it right.

If your first appeals don’t work well, keep tweaking and testing. Until you get it right.

Ask some donors for their reactions to see what appeals to them.

13. Add urgency to your pitch.

Always.

You have to voice an “immediate, urgent and ongoing need for support.”

If you can do that, then you can build a monthly donor program, says Lisa Sargent.

14.  Pitch MG as the “best way to give.”

Harvey McKinnon says this message is a terrific way to talk about monthly giving to current donors.

15. Give MG space on your home page.

Very, very important!  Emphasize – not just giving, but monthly giving – above the fold, so to speak.

Expert Donna Caputo says that Children’s Hospital Boston does it well.

Who can resist this cute kid

16. Give your MG donors a cool brand.

Give your group a name. Doctors Without Borders calls its monthly donors “Field Partners.

Boston Children’s Hospital calls them “Dream Makers.”

Pretty cool.

#3 Customer Service

Now that you have wonderful people giving monthly, customer service is key.

People are giving more and they expect more.

Leaving your monthly donors alone “is probably the biggest mistake you can make,” says expert Jo Sullivan, because the first few months are when most donors cancel.

17. Create special branded communications for your monthly donors.

Try a simple monthly or quarterly newsletter or personal letter to them outlining your accomplishments.

Tell donors what their gifts accomplished.

Keep them feeling involved and informed, like insiders.

18. Use a welcome kit.

These donors are making a big commitment, so let them know how important they are.

The key is not what you send but how fast you send it, according to Jo Sullivan.

19. Find special ways to thank them.

Be creative with your thank you’s.

It will pay off!

20. Always reinforce the importance of their monthly gifts.

Be sure your thank you letters reinforce the importance of monthly giving to YOUR cause.

Keep reminding your donors!

Is this post helpful? Let me know with a comment!

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  • http://FundraisingCoach.com marcapitman

    Lots of great tips!! 

    I LOVE the advice to have one person committed to monthly giving. He or she can develop relationships, easily answer questions, etc. Very smart!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Marc!

  • Paula Miser

    Gail…I must be dense (!) but I need an exact definition of monthly giving other than your donors are giving their gifts monthly through bank draft or credit card.  What is the inspiration?  Is it a giving club?  If not, how is it different from a giving club?  What is the first thing to create…a specific cause (hospital beds, children’s toys???)  We are a healthcare foundation.  How could that work for us outside of our already existing giving clubs?  thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Paula, that is a perfect question that donors ask too.  The MG program is a tool, a format that creates a wonderful return – pulls donors in closer, makes them feel special, raises LOTS more money. Take a look at Boston Children’s Hospital to see how they promote MG.

    I’d suggest that perhaps you ask your  most loyal donors to consider monthly gifts – for a specific purpose if you are comfortable with that, and create a new club for the monthly donors. Does that answer your question? You can email me at gp@galperry.com and we can talk some more.

  • Andy Robinson

    Another cool name: Audubon calls their MG club the “Frequent Flyers.”

  • Ron Thornburg

    We just started a monthly giving program called “Painless Philanthropy.” Your list of best practices is very helpful. There are a number of follow-up ideas that hadn’t occurred to me. 

  • Martha Shirkey

    Thanks for the tips.  Have been doing some, but not others.  We are supported mainly by MG and want to always do it better.

  • Anonymous

    Martha, would be interested in your perspective and experiences as build your monthly giving program. 

  • Anonymous

    thanks Ron, can you offer any suggestions to this list? It’s just a start since MG is relatively new in the US. 

  • Paula Miser

    Thanks Gail for the reply.  I did go to Boston Children’s website to their Dream Maker program and it helped a lot.  I guess I was trying to make it more complicated.  Basically, I see it as marketing the opportunity to give smaller gifts monthly and incorporating it into your giving society levels.  Thanks again.

  • Carol Painter

    Clearly outlined Gail, thanks for posting this, good to see the emphasis on making an organisational commitment for the long term and ensuring both back end functional elements and promotional elements are considered.  I’d also recommend that communication channels used e.g. to request an upgrade,  take account of how people came to be donors/regular donors originally. The phone can work well for some donors and also allow other related info to be discussed. If you decide to do that however keep main purpose uppermost i.e. keep close to the single-minded proposition to upgrade/join.  

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Carol, good to remember to tailor communication channels to each donor’s interest and inclinations. thanks for adding that reminder.

  • Helen Wilkins

    Thank you for an excellent stimulus.  Do you have a list of M G companies that carry the credit cards gifts for you?  Are some more user friendly than others?  more reliable?

  • Anonymous

    Hi Helen, I actually don’t have such a list. I think your regular donation processing software can handle it. But I have not personally set one up like that so I am guessing. So sorry I can’t help you.