Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Monthly Giving

The 5 Steps for Starting a Monthly Donor Program

Want to have your cake and eat it too?  Start a monthly giving program.

Monthly donor programs are cash cows and cash chickens and cash horses and all the animals on Old MacDonald’s farm.

Consistent funding is key when running a successful nonprofit and monthly donors offer financial stability.

Organizations are constantly pushing their donor acquisition efforts because donor retention, even with the best laid plans, isn’t a guarantee.

A donor who willingly gives a set amount each month without your staff having to re-ask each time?  Yes, please!

The biggest challenge facing those wanting to start a program is just that, starting one.

It can feel like an overwhelming undertaking, but the fundraising benefits far outweigh any monthly donor program start-up difficulties.

There are so many more pros than cons.

Let’s look at the pros:

  • set (loosely guaranteed) funding
  • after the initial program development, it’s straightforward to maintain
  • simple to track results
  • long-term — theoretically, monthly giving never has to end

Still concerned about launch challenges?

Following the 5 steps below will let you rest assured that your monthly giving program will start strong and draw in those sought-after recurring donations.

Step One: Get the Team on Board

Establishing monthly giving is going to be a large investment of time, resources, and money.

It is crucial that you get the key stakeholders within your organization on board.

Bring your executive directors, executive board, your database manager, and your fundraisers into the discussion.  These are the people this program will affect, so they need to be part of its launch.

Gather these team members and use their input to design a launch plan (more on that in step two).

Like with any similar undertaking, you are going to want to appoint a point-person to lead the development and act as a liaison for the various team members helping with the project.

Although, it is important to have one person lead, the program’s launch will not happen unless key players within your nonprofit champion it.

Step Two: Design a Launch Plan

Prior to implementing the program, you’ll need a plan of attack.

You want to know what the campaign process is going to be like, so get a full picture, top to bottom.

First, brainstorm and decide what your campaign is going towards.  Set a clear mission so you know what kind of messaging you’ll need

Make sure the program is funding something a donor would feel compelled to contribute to.

From there, choose what the monthly giving levels will be.  This is an opportunity to be very strategic.

Most monthly donors are going to pledge anywhere from $5-$50 a month.  The aim of these programs is to gain larger sums through a piecemeal approach.

The goal of any nonprofit when soliciting donations should be accessibility for all types of donors.

Maybe a college student will join the program if she can pledge $10 a month.  Then she gets her mom involved and the mother becomes a $40 a month participant.

Curate your giving levels so that you reach the whole spectrum of supporters.  Space the levels out by tens, by fives, by whichever seems most relevant to your donor base.

Don’t forget to include a “choose your own adventure” giving option where a donor can write-in his own amount and hopefully you’ll receive some larger, $100 or $200 a month, donations.

Next, brand your program.  Donors will be inclined to join a “members-only” type club.

With an established club, you can then offer rewards to your members, maybe monthly or bi-monthly.  Just something to show gratitude while driving further sign-ups.

Finally, you’ll need to plan your communication methods.

Know:

  • The kinds of mailings you’ll be sending
  • The frequency with which you’ll be sending them
  • When to ask for donors to upgrade
  • How often you’ll ask for upgrades

Once you determine how and when you’ll be communicating, you’ll then need to produce those materials.

Step Three: Produce Corresponding Communication Materials

You know the campaign’s mission, you have giving levels set, you’ve branded the program, now you need to pull that all together in your various communications templates.

Draft your initial ask letter for direct mail and do the same for email.

Are you going to do follow-up phone calls?  It might be a good idea to write a phone script.

Don’t have the resources to do follow-up phone calls for everyone?  Pull the higher-level potential participants and have staff call only those candidates.

At this stage you’ll also want to design a monthly giving page for your website. 

Make sure that your branding matches across all platforms that you’re communicating with.  Donors will react well to message cohesion.

Step Four: Check That Your System Can Handle the Challenge

Work with your database manager and/or donation processing tool to set up a monthly giving option.

Many CRMs will help automate the monthly giving process.

Having the technology ready to support your efforts will save you significant time in the long run.

There is nothing worse than spending all this time creating a campaign to then let old or outdated systems hold you back.

Proper use of your database will also help you streamline your record keeping, save you money on administration, and even potentially offer an automated upgrade process.

Don’t let such a valuable tool work against you.  Get your database on board!

Want to use your CRM to improve more than your monthly giving?  Download our free CRM ultimate tip sheet. 

Step Five: Launch and Optimize

You’ve done the legwork, now launch your campaign and watch the donations come in.

Don’t rest on your laurels for too long.

It’s in the program follow through and maintenance that you’ll be able to establish your monthly giving club as one of the best there is.

Remember, the campaign is a living and evolving entity that will need to be adjusted as time goes by, so consider:

  • various ways to acknowledge participants — sending thank you/update letters, calling out MVP participants on social media, listing donors on the website page
  • monthly checks of who is still donating and who has left the program
  • finding new prospects to solicit
  • mentioning monthly giving across other communications platforms like in direct mail campaigns and newsletters

There is always room for improvement so don’t let a valuable program function at less than 100% of its capacity.

After Step Five, your monthly giving program should be a well-oiled machine.  Relax and eat that cake.

Click here to download our free fundraising software checklist.