Creating a Monthly Giving Program: A Solution to Donor Retention and Financial Sustainability

Part 1 in Creating a Monthly Giving Program

David Mersky sqLast Saturday evening, we went out to dinner with friends with whom we went to college more than 50 years ago. One friend asked me if there was something new in fundraising. I wondered what she meant. She told me that they had made a modest—for them—first-time gift to a local agency and shortly after the check was received, they received a phone call to thank them. They said that this had never happened before and they assumed there must be some new theory in fundraising.

In order to help them understand what was going on, I began to explain to them the crisis in donor retention. According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Report, which was published late last year, fewer than 2 of 10 new, first-time donors renew their support of nonprofits and barely 6 of 10 repeat donors are retained. For every 100 new donors which your organization may have gained last year, you likely lost 103. For every $100 realized, you lost $95.

This crisis in donor retention threatens nonprofits in ways that a generation ago were unimaginable. One increasingly common solution to donor retention and financial sustainability is creating a monthly giving program, the focus of this series. But, in order to understand the importance of donor retention, we must consider why eight of ten first time donors simply ignore future requests?

Ultimately, it is all about a failure to communicate and nurture commitment. Since, failure is not an option, consider what my friend, Roger Craver wrote in his remarkable book, Retention Fundraising, about the key drivers of donor commitment. A donor:

  • perceives your organization to be effective in trying to achieve its mission.
  • knows what to expect from your organization with each interaction.
  • receives a timely thank.
  • Is provided opportunities to make his or her views known.
  • is given the feeling that he or she is part of an important cause.
  • feels his or her involvement is appreciated.
  • receives information showing who is being helped.
  • appreciates that you ‘know’ him/her (from spelling the name right to acknowledging the donor’s giving history).
  • sees that you respect his/her stated preferences (e.g., method/frequency of contact).

An additional way to nurture commitment which will greatly enhance donor retention is the creation of a group of monthly givers which some organizations call sustainers. Research demonstrates that monthly donors are more likely to give more, become major donors and make bequests and other planned gifts.

This year, I plan to devote my efforts to a series of monthly articles which will provide you and your organization with strategies to solve the donor retention malaise through a disciplined program to encourage monthly donors who become the key to sustaining your enterprise. You will learn:

  • What is Monthly Giving, How Does It Work and Why It Matters
  • How to Organize for Monthly Giving Success
  • Getting Board and Staff Buy-in–Managing Expectations to Look at Long-Term Impact
  • The Infrastructure You Will Require to Launch Your Program
  • A Step-by-Strep Plan to Ask for Monthly Gifts
  • Monthly Donor Acquisition
  • Getting more Money from Your Monthly Donors
  • Keeping Your Monthly Donors and Growing Your Program

Monthly donors’ lifetime value—the only metric that truly matters—outstrips every other class of donor to your organization. This series will show you how to get started to assure the financial sustainability of your organization.

NEXT MONTH: Monthly Giving, How Does It Work and Why It Matters