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The Fundraiser’s Guide to Managing Monthly or Recurring Donors

Have you ever had something be a total letdown the second time around?

Imagine that you eat at an amazing restaurant.  The host is friendly.  The server is the perfect balance of personable and knowledgeable.  The food is beyond tasty.  Even the bathroom has cool sinks!

Fast forward a month.  You’ve waited as long as you can.  The day of your return to foodie heaven is upon you and you’re like a kid on Halloween.

Then the unthinkable happens, you hate it.

The host loses your reservation.  Your waiter has an “I might spit in your food vibe.”  Your steak is overcooked.  And, you slip on a wet floor in the bathroom.

Don’t put your monthly and recurring donors through this psychological torture.

Guarantee that the great stewardship that brought them back to donate a second time happens during each and every experience. 

What’s the best way to keep donors happy and returning?

Exemplary monthly and recurring donor program management. 

Monthly and recurring donor programs are great ways to improve yearly fundraising for nonprofits.

They provide consistency in a world of financial uncertainty.

To help your fundraising process, here’s an outlined 6 step guide to boosting monthly and recurring donor management proficiency.

STEP #1 PLAN, PLAN, PLAN

Plan as much as you can in advance and save yourself major effort down the road.

Truly think through how your program will work when establishing it.

Ask yourself:

  • Who will manage the process?
  • What communications will donors receive after sign-up?
  • What thank-yous will you send donors?
  • What will be the suggested pledge amounts?
  • How are you going to be communicating with participants?
  • What will the communications say?

If that list seems extensive, it is because it is.  And it is likely that even more questions will come up in the pilot stage of your program.

Address these planning questions early and thoroughly. 

The more you know about the ins and outs of your program, the better equipped you will be to run it.  You might need a monthly gift team, or you might be able to allocate duties to existing staff.

The only way to know is to plan.  Then plan some more.

STEP #2 AUTOMATE THE GIVING PROCESS

If you have the capability of automating any part of this process, do it!

The rewards of a monthly/recurring giving program are plenty, but running one is not without its difficulties — one of which is the time it’ll take your staff to execute.

This step is when having a well-chosen CRM comes in handy.

A great CRM software (like NonProfitEasy) has a pledge function within the donation process.  This can save staff time and increase donor engagement.

A CRM can also identify expired cards, flag denied cards, and process recurring payments.

It’s important to have a good CRM in your corner, and this step is just one example (of many) why.

STEP #3 CONNECT THE PROGRAM TO SOMETHING CONCRETE

People like certainty when giving their money.

Donors who know what their money is accomplishing feel more secure in their decisions to give.

Give a few examples of what certain pledge amounts equate to in terms of mission fulfillment.

For instance:

  • $5 monthly pledge = the training for a new volunteer
  • $10 monthly pledge = school supplies for a kindergartner

And so on and so on.

Solidifying the donation trail does more than comfort your donors, it can incentivize them.

If I’m a donor and I see that for just $5 I can help your organization train more volunteers, I’d sacrifice the funds I’d spend on one fancy coffee drink.

It is hard to say no to guaranteed results.

STEP #4 HIGHLIGHT MONTHLY GIVING

Do you know what frustrates me?  Whispering.  If you want me to know what you’re saying you have to make sure I can hear you.

Donors won’t know about monthly giving if you don’t noticeably tell them about it.  They won’t learn through osmosis.

Take advantage of your organization’s preexisting communications portals to let your people know about the programs in place.

Use social media platforms, newsletters, director’s letters to donors, etc.

Vary how you address your prospects and donors about the program.

In one correspondence explicitly outline the details of monthly giving.  In another choose a monthly donor to recognize and then briefly discuss how others could get involved.

By showcasing the benefits of monthly giving, you make it clear to the donor why you’re asking them for something other than a typical donation. By making your intentions clear, it helps both your organization and potential donors who are ready to give.

STEP #5 BRAND THE MONTHLY GIVING PROGRAM

Make monthly giving appealing by branding it as an exclusive club.

Name it what you want, but just make sure you treat the donors who participate like members.

The branding as an elite group can only go so far if you don’t back it up with some legitimate rewards.

Offer members-only rewards and giveaways from time to time. A little money spent will go a long way towards growing that recurring donor base.

STEP #6 PROVIDE STEP-UP OPPORTUNITIES

This step applies to the handling of one-time, intermittent, and monthly donors.

With care and attention to donor relationships, ask your donors to step-up their giving practices.

Effective donor segmentation will be a huge asset in this process.  The better you know these donors, the more successful your asks will be.

For one-time and intermittent donors this ask will be about getting them to transition onto your monthly giving platform.

Send specific communications geared towards one-time or intermittent donors that offer an upgrade to your recently branded monthly giving program.

For those already involved in the program, wait a relatively lengthy period of time, make sure the donor is committed to the giving program, and then ask him to up his monthly pledge.

These asks won’t be about getting huge increases but pledge bumps across many monthly donors.

Don’t forget that your loyal monthly donors are prime candidates for major gift donations.

Members of your monthly giving club have already demonstrated a vested interest in financially contributing to your cause.

There’s a good chance they’d be willing to make the jump to a large gift if the funds were available and the opportunity was presented.

This is all about giving people as many opportunities as possible to join the recurring donation crew.

Donor retention should be a goal of any nonprofit. 

With monthly and recurring donor programs in place, you’ll be on your way to successful donor retention.

Want to see how a  CRM can help run your monthly giving program.  Try a free NonProfitEasy demo today.

Schedule a demo with NonProfitEasy today!

Keep online donors around with these tips.

5 best practices for nonprofit online donor retention

Huzzah! You just completed a successful fundraising campaign. You surpassed your goal, raised interest among new donors, and you feel like you deserve not one, but two ice cream sandwiches.

RED ALERT: Victors don’t settle in for a long slumber with complacency.

Of course, take the time to pat yourself on the back, and enjoy that extra ice cream sandwich, but then get back to work. Raising more money for your cause won’t happen on its own.

One of the greatest difficulties of any fundraising campaign is retaining donors. In the online space, donor retention is a unique beast, and you won’t win the day unless you’re paying close attention to the task at hand.

What’s a nonprofit to do?

Online donor retention matters, but it’s a struggle. According to a 2015 survey conducted by NonProfitEasy, 40.5% of nonprofits reported that less than 10% of their fundraising came from online donations.

It’s well reported that online fundraising is on the rise. From email campaigns to crowdfunding tools, there are more ways than ever for donors to give both quickly and securely.

Why, then, are nonprofits struggling to leverage online fundraising?

Well, it’s one thing to get a person to give, and another thing to get someone to give two, three, and more times. Donor retention is the key to growing a nonprofit’s online fundraising to the great heights that it can attain.

First donations are typically the smallest gifts. Donors tend to increase their contributions over time, but your nonprofit won’t receive those bigger gifts if you’re not building relationships that matter through effective donor stewardship.

What are the best retention strategies for online donors?

Online donors differ from people who mail checks or pledge money over the phone. An online donor might find your nonprofit on the internet, read all about you, and choose to donate without speaking to any real people in your organization.

Everything happens at the speed of light online. This change of pace, combined with the difference in how information is acquired and used, results in your nonprofit needing to employ retention strategies unique to online donors.

#1: Formulate a plan

Online fundraising has a lot of moving parts. If you’re not ready to handle all of them, then you might stumble.

Your nonprofit needs to:

  • Process donations
  • Track donor information
  • Reach out to donors

To stay on top of everything, it’s good to have an idea of how you’d like to handle things.

Make sure you have people responsible for sending acknowledgment letters and staff tracking donation amounts.

Online fundraising makes data acquisition easy, but it’s the hard work of using data that will make the difference between a successful campaign and a failure.

When your staff has a general script or a step-by-step guide to follow, online fundraising will be handled much more efficiently.

#2: Use electronic communication methods

While smart nonprofits employ a variety of communication methods to keep donors engaged, online communications work particularly well for online donors.

Online donors are already plugged in, so you’re being smart by contacting them where they spend a bulk of their time.

Email and social media are the primary online communication methods. Email is great because you can reach out to a bulk of donors with one message. It’s also superb for sending out donation receipts and those all-important acknowledgment letters.

Social media could be regarded as the more fun way to interact with donors. You can post photos, link to great blog posts, and share other content that donors can peruse at their leisure.

A unique aspect of social media is its ability to have fans follow, like, and subscribe to your nonprofit’s online identity.

This brings donors closer to your nonprofit and reminds them that you’re still out there doing great things, without you having to send a reminder email.

#3: Thank donors

Online fundraising presents the opportunity to thank donors instantaneously. They click, giving you money, and they’re sent to a thank you screen, acknowledging their awesomeness. But is that enough?

It might be, but online donors should be treated just like any other donor. If you send special thank you emails to donors, then send special thank you emails to your online donors.

If you call every donor, then call your online donors. They’re real people, giving you real money, and they deserve every bit of your real thank you strategy.

A proper thank you could be the missing piece to retaining more of your online donors and raising more money.

#4: Offer more than donation opportunities

You wouldn’t have money without some awesome people deciding to donate. People are the most valuable asset to your nonprofit, so treat your donors like people, not piggy banks or bitcoins (since these are virtual donors).

Call your donors about volunteer opportunities. Email them about upcoming events. When you tell donors about more than just ways they can give money, they’ll feel like you see them as more valuable members of your community.

When you build donor loyalty, you stand to benefit in a number of ways:

  • Bigger donations
  • More frequent gifts
  • Referrals to family and friends
  • And more

People can do so much for your nonprofit, and money is just part of what they offer. Show them how they can do more, and chances are that your fundraisers will raise more.

#5: Organize your information

Everything gets easier when you’re organized. Staff can find files fast, contact donors with ease, and update your online campaigns in a snap.

Nonprofit CRMs aim to take the hassle out of organization. Say goodbye to complicated spreadsheets, countless word documents, and out of date donor information.

When you need to thank online donors, you’ll be able to. When you want to assess a recent online campaign, you can pull data in almost no time at all.

A CRM makes fundraising more efficient, which is essential in the wild, speed-of-light world of online fundraising.

Want to raise more money online? Download of free checklist of nonprofit CRM best practices that can improve the efficiency of your fundraisers.

Click here to download our free fundraising software checklist.

Best ways to segment your donor population

A Nifty Guide to Donor Segmentation

It’s time to stop thinking your nonprofit can address all people in a similar fashion. Donor segmentation allows you to provide the kind of specific, personal communications that satisfy donors and lead to more donations.

Skinny-top-CTAs-for-Fundly

What is donor segmentation?

A donor segment is a group of donors or prospects who require similar fundraising communications according to the information that categorizes them.

Communications can be similar in information, method, or other means, and many donors may fall into one or many segments, depending on how your nonprofit chooses to group people.

Donors come from various places, give different amounts of money, and donate on all sorts of schedules. They also have similarities among these categories, and others, that beg them to be grouped together.

Every nonprofit will segment differently, as museum fundraising differs from fundraising for summer camps.

Grouping similar donors together will take time, but the hard work should pay off, as donor segmentation can help with the organization of fundraising materials, specificity of communications with donors, and how much it will cost to cultivate any given prospect.

Is there an opportunity to improve your organization’s fundraising? Download our ultimate fundraising checklist to find out! 

Why segment donors?

Imagine I’m the nonprofit and you are the donor. You wouldn’t like to receive an email that looks like this:

To Whom It May Concern,

Blah, blah, blah, lots of things that could be said to anyone. Oh, and, by the way, please donate! Because we care about you! Whoever you are…

Sincerely,

Your Supposed Favorite Nonprofit

What you want is something like:

Dear Maxime,

So glad you could join us at the annual 5k! It was a great success, and you did a great job helping out at the finish line. We hope you’ll join us for another event soon.

The letter goes on and works it’s way to a donation ask, but this time the reader might actually pay it some serious attention because the nonprofit showed how much they care for the effort she volunteered.

Love,

Your New Favorite Nonprofit

Donor segmentation allows nonprofits to send personalized communications, which are what donors want.

It might seem like a hassle to craft multiple solicitation letters, but the numbers show that organizations that take the time to personalize donation asks receive more gifts, bigger gifts, and more frequent gifts.

Manage your donor database.

You’ve got all these donors who need to be asked for all sorts of different things, and you need your information available at a moment’s notice. It’s much easier to retrieve a single file from an organized binder than to find a needle in a haystack.

You might think that segmenting takes you from an overwhelming amount of donors to an overwhelming number of groups, but multiple groups are better than one big group.

When you organize your groups according to calculated, defined criteria, you end up with donor clusters that you understand and for which you can form specific communications strategies. 

It’s also important to have an organized donor database. Segments organize donors into searchable categories, which helps in two ways.

  • First, fundraisers can more easily search the database and find certain kinds of donors, such as major gift donors or donors who prefer their solicitations through direct mail.
  • Second, when a fundraiser is looking at a specific donor profile, she can quickly identify what kind of donor this is, such as an annual donor versus a lapsed donor, and how to contact this donor according to his designated preference.

A database organized according to segments makes fundraising more efficient, saving time that fundraisers can dedicate to actually talking to donors.

Know what to ask for.

Different donors require different ask strategies, and you shouldn’t be trying to hit a grand slam with everyone.

But before you start sending donors their personalized asks, consider the difference between donors and records:

  • Donors — People who have previously donated to your organization.
  • Records — The individual files you have on donors, volunteers, and others associated with your nonprofit.

Records also don’t necessarily equate to donors. They’re people who your organization has somehow come into contact with and acquired information from.

Some records are for donors, while others are for people who have merely signed up for your online newsletter.

The difference between records and donors highlights how segmentation improves ask strategies. Some people are annual donors, some major gift donors, and others have never even considered giving to your nonprofit.

Donor segmentation helps you to group people according to the type of donation that you should ask for.

For example, a person who your nonprofit only knows because she signed up for your online newsletter doesn’t require a major gift appeal. Any gift she gives would make her a first time donor, so you want to ask for an appropriate amount.

Moreover, people might not be interested in your nonprofit’s main objectives. Some people may only donate at certain events or to certain programs.

Knowing what to ask for doesn’t just entail money, but recognizing that some donors are interested in some of what you do, but not all that you do.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to personalize communications to satisfy each segment of donors. Make sure you’re always giving them the information they need in order to avoid donor attrition.

Ask for the right amount.

So, your donor gives a large gift twice a year, but how much should you ask for this time around? Ask for too little and you won’t get as much as you could. Ask for too much and you might offend the donor.

It’s all about hitting that sweet spot, which can be aided by good donor segmentation.

Prospect research can help to reveal how much donors have given in the past and, if they’ve given multiple gifts, how much they’ve increased their donations by with each gift.

Also look to other donors who used to give the same amount to check how various ask strategies worked with them. All of this information can be easily stored and accessed when you have an organized donor database.

When you can break up donors according to how much to ask for, updating communications can be as simple as pasting a new ask amount into a solicitation letter or remembering to request a certain amount during your next phone call. It’s about paying attention to what donors have and respecting how much of that they’d like to give at present.

Is there an opportunity to improve your organization’s fundraising? Download our ultimate fundraising checklist to find out! 

Schedule location-specific outreach or events.

Some of your nonprofit’s events take place in your local community. Sometimes you branch out and host events in new cities in an attempt to spread your mission to more people. Other events take place exclusively online.

It’s important to know whether your donors live a few blocks away or way out in cyberspace. People require different outreach according to where they are in physical relation to your event.

For example, people who live close by could be met for coffee, while people who live far away may only be able to speak by phone.

Alternatively, people who live close can volunteer at events, on top of donating, while people who live far away may only be able to help out through monetary gifts. Those are two very different conversations.

Segmentation helps you know which donors need to be reached out to for an event held in a specific location. Not every donor will give at every event, so you want to be able to find the ones who will give for the event you have in mind.

How do you segment?

Segmenting a mass of donors into manageable groups requires a systematic approach:

  1. Start with grouping donors according to the giving category that matters most to your organization. Perhaps that’s how often people donate, how recently a donation was made, or either the average gift amount from the donor or how much the donor has given in total lifetime gifts.
  2. Form new groups within these groups according to your second most important donor trait, and so on and so forth until you’ve segmented donors to your satisfaction.
  3. You could, and should, end up with a lot of segmentation. That’s okay!

How donors are segmented will vary according to what is most important to any one nonprofit. Here are a few ideas to help your organization get started…

Recency, frequency, money (RFM)

Donation data matters, whether that’s helping you to solicit new donors or identifying people who have given multiple gifts over the course of many years.

RFM refers to three things:

  • Recency — When was the last time this person donated? Yesterday? Three years ago? Never?
  • Frequency — How often are donations made? Once a year? Once a month? Has this person never donated before?
  • Money Donated — What is the total amount donated to your nonprofit from all gifts given by this donor?

While many nonprofits use RFM to score prospects according to quality, it’s also a way to segment donors. Segments can be made according to how recently people donated and the amounts of their donations. People who gave $25 a year ago require different solicitation than donors who donated $500 three months ago.

Donors who are known to give more frequently, such as every couple of months, should be contacted more often than donors who have been giving once a year for multiple years.

Communication frequency matters, as sending too many emails or calling too often can irritate donors. People are more likely to accept communications when they come at the right times.

Nonprofits trying to acquire donors need to send new donors different amounts of communications at varying intervals. This communication strategy differs from the tactics used both to retain annual donors and to encourage lapsed donors to give again.

Communication method

I love receiving letters, but other people prefer email due to its speed and the paper it saves. For me, a direct mail solicitation could do a lot, while email works for others.

Communication methods vary, and knowing what donors prefer can go a long way towards landing donations:

  • Email
  • Direct mail
  • Phone
  • In person
  • Online chat
  • Social media
  • Other

One type of communication might not be enough. Some donors will be receptive to and require both phone calls and in person conversations. Communication strategies can be mixed and matched as needed. Success hinges on knowing what your donors want and what they respond to best in any given situation.

Desired Information

The information that people want and that will lead to donations differs according to who people are and their affiliation with your nonprofit.

Aside from donation information, your nonprofit can also share updates about special events, programs, the impact of your organization, and other topics.

In fact, many donors will want this information, as opposed to straight asks for money. Donation requests can be made in tandem with other information. 

People who want communications devoid of solicitations are fine. Just because someone does not want to donate today does not mean that he or she won’t want to give tomorrow.

Acquiring donors can be a long process. If you’re patient, give prospects what they want, and teach them about the parts of your organization that they care about most, then you stand a good chance of turning these non-donors into donors.

Demographics

The specific details of donors vary according to many categories, many of which are simply general grouping categories:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income level
  • Location

It may also help to group donors according to their generational designations.

For instance, it’s well documented that fundraisers need to employ different strategies to get through to millennials than they do to land donations from baby boomers.

There are also demographic categories that are more specific to nonprofits. These pertain to a donor or prospect’s level of involvement with your organization:

  • Staff member
  • Volunteer
  • Board member
  • Donor
  • Adviser
  • Relation or friend of one of the above
  • Other

The length of your relationships matters, as everything comes back to information being relative to the donor.

A person who has been involved with your nonprofit for a longer time requires different communications than someone who just volunteered for the first time.

Segmentation can be a lot to think through, but never forget that personalization is the key to a donor’s heart.

Preferred giving channel

Once you get prospects to commit to donations, you need to offer them their preferred ways of donating. People want to know that transactions are safe and that their money is being put to its intended use.

Allowing donors to give in the ways that please them can help set any worries at ease.

Giving methods include:

  • Checks through the mail
  • Checks delivered in person
  • Online donations via credit card
  • Credit card donations by phone
  • Cash donations
  • Other

If a donor suggests a way to give money that you can accommodate then you should take that route.

Keep track of how donors like to give, as they’ll likely wish to give that way every time. Previous donors can teach you which donation methods are the most popular, so you can assure new donors that you likely offer the donation methods that they’ll want to use.

How donations come in may depend on the type of entity making the donation. Nonprofits more commonly receive donations from individuals, but donations can also come from companies or through grants. How companies will want to give their money versus how grant money might be transferred could differ.

Knowing the donors’ preferred giving channels is one thing, and actually offering those channels in order to receive as many gifts as possible is quite another.

What is the biggest barrier to donor segmentation?

There is an enemy lurking, patiently waiting to destroy all your hard work, and that villain is data integrity.

Data is no good if it’s not accurate. Inaccuracies can occur due to obtaining information via poor methods, using unreliable sources, or failing to track information as it’s learned.

The other side to data integrity is actually being able to use information. Data needs to be useable and available to all of your staff who needs it.

Making fundraising appeals without important data, such as giving histories and key demographics, can put fundraisers at a disadvantage.

Fortunately, there’s technology available to make data integrity a breeze. A CRM, such as NonProfitEasy, can help you store, share, and use accurate data to increase the efficiency of your fundraising efforts.

Donor segmentation is not so much about forming groups as it is about making it easier to understand donors. The groups are how you take a mass of donors and categorize them according to definable traits that help make fundraising easier than ever.