Monthly giving works, there is no question. The success stories are countless and the benefits are huge for both the non-profit and the donor. This is what the authority on the issue, Harvey McKinnon, argues in Hidden Gold: How Monthly Giving will Build Donor Loyalty, Boost Your Organization’s Income, and Increase Financial Stability.
If your organization is interested in setting up a monthly giving program, it’s worth taking a look at some of these benefits. We’ll also have a look at what you need to get a program like this up and running.
The benefits of implementing a monthly giving program are undeniable. Here are the big ones that McKinnon mentions:
Raise more money – It’s a proven fact that monthly donors stay loyal longer. As McKinnon points out: “It takes proactive action from the donor to stop” and it is rare for them to take that action even if the non-profit messes up. So, while donors that require constant renewal rarely make it past 2 years, monthly donors keep giving for 10 years plus. Also, they tend to give more. Donors, for instance, who would give $100 per year will give $20 – $30 per month. All of this translates into huge boosts in revenue for non-profits.
Establish predictable income – Of course, the benefit of this additional revenue is in more than just its value; it’s in its predictability. Having guaranteed income each month allows you to better plan and implement programs, marketing, and events. Even if you just have a hundred monthly donors, this is revenue that you can count on to be there every month.
Lower admin costs – Each donor that signs up also gives you the added benefit of lower admin costs. Because monthly donors give automatically, you don’t need to continually solicit them, and because they give longer, you don’t need to find as many new donors. This all translates into reduced postage, marketing, and administrative costs.
Build better relationships with donors – The long-term benefit of having a monthly giving program is that it improves the donor/organization relationship. Communication is improved because you’re not always asking donors for money, says McKinnon. Instead the focus is on “reporting back on how their gifts have made a real difference to the program and the mission of the organization.” Also, giving on a regular basis and the good feeling that comes along with it often translates into a real commitment to the organization, argues McKinnon, with many of these donors becoming real advocates for the cause.
Makes sense for donors – Finally, a monthly giving is also relatively easy to sell donors on. Their lives are already designed around monthly payments and because donors are able to give small amounts, it’s hardly noticeable to them.
So, having a monthly giving program just makes sense, and surprisingly these programs are pretty easy to implement. You just need a few things:
A simple, consistent message – Monthly giving programs really work best if you have an appealing ongoing mission (one that helps kids, animals, the elderly, the planet, etc.). If you think that your mission fits the bill, then you just need to come up with a clear, simple, and consistent message that sells donors on providing ongoing support.
Want to know what sells? Well, according to The NonProfit Times, the focus used to be on the ease of the transaction, but now charities are “replacing sensible with sensibility, and injecting emotion into their monthly giving appeals.”
Now messages that work best are those that focus on the connection the donor will have with the organization and its work, and tells them specifically what they will be achieving with their ongoing support. For example: “$20/month provides clean drinking water to 10 families,” or “Your gift of $50/month enables us to provide lunch to two children every school day.”
Candidates for the program – Another thing you’ll need to think about is where you are going to find your monthly donors. Some larger organizations recruit monthly donors on the streets. They actually stop complete strangers and ask them to sign up for their monthly giving program right there. This technique, however, works for these larger organization because they are well know and have a recognizable name. For smaller organizations, you will probably need to tap into the supporters you’ve already got. Focus on your most loyal donors, maybe those that have been giving for two years or more. They will be your best bet for switching to monthly giving.
The technology to support the program – If you’re a small non-profit, you may be thinking that you don’t have the resources to support this kind of program, but really you don’t need very much. Low-cost database software like Sumac allows you to set up and process recurring donations in-house or on your website. It also allows you to track all donation information so that you can thank donors, provide updates, and keep the program running smoothly. If you’ve already got a donor database in place, you can look into one of these online donations tools. Most of them allow for recurring donations.
A Final Piece of Advice
Wondering how often you should thank monthly donors, how you should solicit them, what kind of message to use? “Learn from what works,” McKinnon says.
Look at what Green Peace, Amnesty International, World Vision, and Oxfam are doing. They’re running very successful monthly giving programs – some with over a million donors. Join these programs and find out what they’re doing. “They’re testing things all the time, finding out what’s working.”
More Good Reads:
Is Your Organization Ready for an Email Monthly Giving Campaign? Best Friend’s Animal Society success story. Pamela Grow.
What to Do When Things go Terribly Wrong. Monthly giving success story. Peter Panepento.