Tag Archives: Creating a Monthly Giving Program

Growing Monthly Giving

David A. Mersky imageWhile driving from one meeting to another last week, I found myself entranced (but, not distracted) while listening to my local NPR station, WGBH in Boston.  It was not the latest news of the interminable election campaign nor was it a favorite piece of classical music.

It was the Fall on-air and online fund drive for member support.  Jim Braude and Margery Egan host a three hour, midday program called Boston Public Radio.  And, there they were pitching for contributions—with an emphasis on asking people to become sustainers with a monthly contribution of $10 or $15.

As I conclude this series, let’s focus on those things you can do to assure that you are growing monthly giving as relationships with your donors deepen.

  1. To have launched your monthly giving program, you have had to secure the commitment of everyone on your team. Your colleagues in the development shop as well as the leadership—both professional and volunteer—of the entire agency.  To grow the program requires an ever-increasing engagement of all these stakeholders who will advocate for monthly giving and its value both to the donor and the organization.
  1. To assure the continued investment of your team as well as your ever-growing group of monthly sustainers will require creativity, focus and patience. It takes time to “acculturate” donors accustomed to making a one-time, hopefully recurring, annual gift to convert to monthly donors.  It takes even more patience to manage the expectations of your colleagues on the staff who may not provide you with a long enough runway for the program to take off.
  1. By communicating regularly, informing frequently, following up after every interaction and thanking, thanking, thanking, you know you will increase the likelihood of ongoing, and ever-increasing support from your donors. The same is true to maintain the support of the staff and leadership the organization.  Regular reporting about the metrics that matter will keep them engaged.  Asking them to participate in the stewardship process of acknowledging and expressing special appreciation to monthly sustainers will enable them to feel as if they are contributing to the success of the effort.
  1. You know that you should continually ask for feedback from your donors. This is even more true of your monthly sustainers—your most precious supporters.  Among the questions you might ask are
    • What first motivated you to support us?
    • What about our work are you most passionate?
    • Do you think we are doing a good job?
    • Have you/would you consider leaving a gift in your will to us?

Similarly, you should ask your colleagues about their feedback about the program.  You might suggest that all staff and board members become monthly sustainers so that they too can see how the program works as well as ask others to join them.  In that way, they become true partners in the development effort.

As you keep on stewarding donors and their relationships, engaging board and staff in the process, featuring monthly giving (and your focus on growing month giving), add the names and profiles of your sustainers on your home page and newsletter, your program will grow and grow and grow.

I am eager to learn about your successes. Please Email me to let me know how you fare—or if you need a bit of advice or encouragement.

Last Month: Technology, Email and Monthly Giving

Start the series again by clicking here

Technology, Email and Monthly Giving

David A. Mersky imageTechnology, Email and Monthly Giving:

Part 8 in Creating a Monthly Giving Program

Do you remember the quote, “For want of a nail…”?

The line opens a bit of verse, often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, that tells the tale of how even the most insignificant element can cost you the world.  For the want of a nail…the kingdom was lost.”

If you want to read the entire, brief poem, here it is:

“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

The same can be true about your monthly giving program.  The least little thing can torpedo your best laid plans.

In these past seven months, we have spent time outlining the development of a monthly giving program.  The primary motivation for exploring the values of program to create a group of sustaining supporters is to address issue of the “leaky bucket” of donor retention.  We have gone into a fair amount of detail.  Now it is time—before you pull the trigger—to make sure that everything is working like clockwork.


If it is not easy and accessible for your donors and prospects, then you will end up with the “abandoned shopping cart.”  People with limited attention spans and low levels of tolerance for frustration, will not consummate the transaction.

In a word, it’s got to be seamless.  Here is how to find out

Make an online gift to your own organization

  • Is the process easy and straightforward?You should only ask for the most basic, required information and nothing more.  The more you make the donor work, the less likely they will finish the transaction.
  • What kind of error message do you receive if you enter your card’s expiration date incorrectly?Is it a friendly and tinged with a touch of self-deprecating humor?  Don’t be critical of the donor.  After all, they are trying to help you and your organization.  Take responsibility and ownership for the mistake as if it were your own.
  • What kind of “thank you” or “welcome” message do you receive?Even though this initial communication is automated, it should be personalized for the donor and recognize the amount of the gift.  It should also tell them what to expect in terms of the monthly charge to their credit card or withdrawal from their bank account.Above all, this is the time to show your true appreciation.But, it is not the end, but the beginning of a series of seven different acknowledgement and touches of recognition.  You can learn about the Seven Ways to Thank Your Donor by clicking here.

Research has shown, that even though we send a “snail mail” invitation to prospective sustaining supporters to join our special circle of most valued donors, the majority of people today will turn to your web site.  So in your mailing—even though you have provided a gift form and a reply envelope—you should put a link to the monthly giving subscriber page, probably in P.S.

And, then, in your planning, you should create a series of three to five follow-up emails, each focused upon a different feature and benefit of becoming a Sustainer.  This will markedly increase the likelihood of a positive response.  And in the email, the link to the right page on your web site will be prominently featured several times.

Finally, for those people who are your most technologically savvy and deep into social media, you should support your solicitation on a multi-channel basis, using FaceBook, LinkedIn, and every other place where you might be present and your donors could meet you.

Then, you will have provided the “nails” and the kingdom and the glory of a robust monthly giving program will not be lost.

NEXT MONTH: Growing Monthly Giving
LAST MONTH: Key Components of the Monthly Giving Ask


Key Components of the Monthly Giving Ask

Part 7 in Creating a Monthly Giving Program

David A. Mersky imageIt is now time to turn your attention to the actual solicitation of your best, most loyal donors to invite them to become monthly sustainers.  There are 7 key components of the monthly giving ask.

  1. Show your appreciationAlways begin your direct mail monthly giving appeal—in fact, any appeal—with gratitude for past support. After all, you’re targeting those donors who have already demonstrated their appreciation for your work and mission. Shower these donors with love and tell them that you couldn’t have accomplished what you have without them!
  2. Extend your invitation
    Now you’ll be issuing your donors a very special invitation. Directly following your appreciation, go straight to the point with something like: “We’re writing to you, as one of our most committed supporters, to ask you…” Stress the exclusivity of your offer — and their past support.
  3. Extol the benefit of monthly giving
    Here is where you’ll point out the benefits of monthly giving to the donor. Emphasize the ease of monthly giving as well as the psychic value of knowing that the organization whose work they value will be able to rely upon an ever-increasing, steady cash-flow throughout the year. If you have a monthly giving program in place that you’re looking to grow, you might choose to insert a donor testimonial here.
  4. Your case…and how the monthly donor makes it possibleThis is where you reinforce the impact that your donor’s gifts have already made — and stress what could be possible.Restate the case and demonstrate your organization’s impact vividly and with emotion. The stronger your case, the stronger your ask.
  5. The “Ask”Now is when you’ll again circle back to the purpose of your letter. Use phrases such as:
    • With your gift of just $5 a month we can
    • Your gift of just $10 a month means that

    These amounts should be personalized to the level of the donor’s prior gifts.  Thus a person who has given $100 annually should be asked for not less than $10 per month.

  6. Thank againYou can never be too effusive with your gratitude. But now thank the donor not only for their past support but for considering joining the high-impact circle of monthly sustainers.
  7. Don’t forget your P.S.Never neglect your PS!  It is universally the most read part of any appeal. It’s an opportunity to reinforce the benefits of monthly giving.

When you become a monthly donor, you’ll have the satisfaction of          .

NEXT MONTH: Technology, Email and Monthly Giving

LAST MONTH: Building Momentum in Your Monthly Giving Program


A Step-by-Step Plan to Ask for Monthly Gifts

Part 5 in Creating a Monthly Giving Program

Last month, I outlined what you would require to launch a monthly giving program. This month, let’s focus on a step-by-step plan to make the ask for monthly gifts.David A. Mersky

    1. Create a monthly giving launch letter/appeal
      It is now time to sit down and write the first invitation for your target audience to join that most special group of sustaining donors. Get a “picture” of one of those wonderful donors and put it beside your monitor so that as your fingers race across the keyboard, you can visualize her reading the story that will make a compelling connection to the value, first to her, and then to your mission, if she were to agree to contribute by credit card authorization or an electronic funds transfer $15 per month—thus moving from a $100 annual gift to a value of $180.
    2. Develop a web page for monthly giving
      This is the destination to which you will send your prospective sustainers by link in the letter or emails that is dedicated to this concept and simple to navigate. Do not ask for information which you either already have or will never need. Make the transaction so simple that no one will ever abandon the process.
    3. Mail your monthly giving launch letter or email
      At some point, you have to stop editing and polishing. Make sure the package that you put together will be opened—whether it is in print or electronic. Have nothing superfluous in it. Everything that you send should be in support of the one simple request—please become a monthly sustainer. And, when it is good, even great, but not necessarily perfect, hit send or put it in the mail box.
    4. Follow up with a series of emails and phone calls
      Just as Coca-Cola or Budweiser do not depend upon a single advertisement in only one channel, so should you also plan to use every means possible to follow up with your prospective monthly sustainers. If you used snail mail for an initial invitation, then a series of emails and even a telephone call might be employed to move the donor to the desired action.
    5. Welcome new monthly donors
      As we said about stewardship in general last month, a thoughtful, effective and speedily executed plan of post-gift engagement is essential. With credit card authorizations or electronic fund transfers, you should be set up to acknowledge the gift and confirm that the donor will be a monthly sustainer at that level, but you do not need to send monthly letters of appreciation. Once a year is enough but it should provide information as to how the donor can opt out at any time they choose. Then, you should have plan in place to send out whatever welcome package, token of appreciation, communication from the CEO, Board Chair, Chair of the Monthly Sustainer Society, that you have created for all gifts.
    6. Add monthly giving as an option
      Be sure to provide a link on your web site and it in your email signature so that people who may not have been asked might “stumble” upon the opportunity to join your sustainer society. In fact, you should add it to every solicitation device from marketing materials to your current donation website page. You may not get to ask everyone directly, but think about the indirect option for people who learn about the benefits of monthly giving by the example of their friends and colleagues. Make it easy for them to sign up on their own.

NEXT MONTH: Building Momentum: Your Monthly Giving Ask

 LAST MONTH: What You Need to Launch a Monthly Giving Program


What You Need to Launch a Monthly Giving Program

Part 4 in Creating a Monthly Giving Program

David A. Mersky imageThe nonprofit world, as I have been telling you obsessively, is in crisis around the issue of donor retention. The numbers are bleak as I have pointed out recently which you can see by clicking here.

But, as I have been working through this year’s series on “Monthly Giving,” I have been wondering if the retention crisis is really symptom of a set of maladies that manifest themselves in a failure to create life-long donors.

So with that as background, let me tell you what you need to launch a monthly giving program which might in fact inform your entire development effort.

  1. Case for Support

For me, everything begins with a case for support that enables you to see the world through your donor’s eyes. In a monthly giving program—as in any aspect of your development program—there is a need for clarity, specificity, transparency and compelling stories to motivate someone to commit to a monthly sustaining gift.

  1. Strong Reliable Systems

They say that bankers like to wear “belts and suspenders.” For a monthly giving program, you should too. Before you even think of asking anyone to make a monthly commitment you need to have the processing systems to receive the gift—whether on-line, by phone or off-line. That system should be able to manage acknowledgements and recognition, all aspects of the gift process.

  1. File Segmentation

When I first started in fundraising, we maintained records on cards. And, we manually sorted and resorted those cards to select those who would be solicited and those who would be stewarded every month. Every time we touched a card, we could create an image of that donor and make a conscious decision as to how to continue and strengthen the relationship.

Today, with a wealth of electronic systems available, we no longer picture the people who are behind the “1’s” and “0’s” in our databases.

But for an effective monthly giving program, segmentation should start with developing a real understanding of each individual we want to invite to participate. The recency and frequency of a donor’s support may be two measures, but also particular categories of being—are they alumni, parents or current participants in the program—could be equally important.

  1. A Brand and an Identity

Having a clear understanding of your donors is vital. Projecting an equally clear image of your nonprofit organization enhances your visibility for those donors and, even more importantly, your prospective donors, if you are to appeal to their minds and hearts. For monthly giving programs that is especially critical. You want people who become your monthly donors to feel they are a part of a clearly stated, mission-centric brand and identity.

  1. A Detailed Stewardship Plan

Finally, a thoughtful plan of post-gift engagement is essential. As you know, I believe in at least seven touches of acknowledgement and recognition after every gift. That does not mean every monthly payment, but rather the initial commitment.

Above all, be very cautious if anything you send contains another request for funds. Invitations to special events may be an exception, but, donors do not want to be seen as an ATM. Rather engage them through surveys, focus groups, site visits, and any other creative means you can think of that constantly seeks advice and input—even feedback about the monthly giving process.

The more advice you seek, the more financial support you will receive.

LAST MONTH: How to Get Your Program Started

NEXT MONTH: A Step-by-Step Plan to Ask for Monthly Gifts

Monthly Giving—How to Get Your Program Started

Part 3 in Creating a Monthly Giving Program

David MerskyLast month, in this series, I made the case for why monthly giving matters. You can read about it here. This month I want to focus upon the details of how a monthly giving program works.

The basics seem easy enough to understand. You ask one of your valued donors to join an invaluable group of monthly supporters of your organization and become a Sustainer. He or she pre-authorizes a recurring gift either by arranging for a deduction directly from their bank account or a through a regularly scheduled charge to a credit card. In essence, they have pledged fixed amount each month and provided you with the means for automatic fulfillment of the commitment by credit card or bank account number, or some other means (e.g., PayPal) for direct deduction from their account.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it is, but there are many steps that have to be taken before you “make the ask.” Preparation and planning are everything—or, as a wise person once taught me, “Well begun is half done.”

You must become an evangelist for your innovation of a systematic program of monthly giving. Here are some steps that you should take in order to organize for success.

First, understand and explain the benefits of monthly giving to both the board and staff. It may require that they change their mindset to donor lifetime value (explained in detail below) but the highpoints are that monthly donors:

  • give more, thus increasing their lifetime value to the organization;
  • retain their support for many more years than annual donors;
  • have stronger relationships with the organization;
  • provide you with a stable foundation; and
  • reduce your costs of fundraising.

Second, shift the organizational mindset that looks at each donor acquisition or renewal mailing in terms of an isolated return on investment. No longer is it as important to compute an ROI (return on investment) in terms of income received less expense divided by the direct and indirect costs of the mailing. We now need to look at each donor’s “lifetime value,” a more complicated calculation, for sure, but one which ensures that your organization will retain more donors and benefit with increased revenue.

According to Roger Craver, the guru of donor retention, among many other things related to fundraising, the simplest way to estimate lifetime value is to use the following equation:

(Average Value of a Contribution) X (Number of Repeat Contributions) X (Average Retention Time in Months or Years for a typical donor) = Gross Lifetime Value.

You can arrive at the Net Lifetime Value by deducting the costs of soliciting and servicing the donor over the period of time you’re measuring, costs which can be greatly reduced through a program of monthly giving.

The third step in your preparation and planning is to be sure that the organization has good financial controls in place. Nothing will kill a program of monthly giving faster than the inability to process and acknowledge the gifts of these most valuable donors effectively.

Before you get started, be confident and intentional. Know that you can do this! Do not simply put a line on your gift reply envelopes as an after-thought. Rather think through the program, put the infrastructure in place, and then launch a step-by-step process.
LAST MONTH: What is Monthly Giving and Why It Matters
NEXT MONTH: What You Need to Launch a Monthly Giving Program

Want to learn more about Monthly Giving? Last month I led a webinar with more than 300 participants from around the globe about “Creating a Monthly Giving Program: A Solution to Donor Retention and Financial Sustainability.” You can see and hear the recorded hour-long session here.

What is Monthly Giving and Why It Matters

Part 2 in Creating a Monthly Giving Program

David A. Mersky imageAs I wrote last month in the introduction to this series, six out of every ten donors will stop giving to your organization next year. This trend is going in the wrong direction. But you can retain more donors with the right strategy. The donors currently in your database represent a hidden treasure of funds just waiting to be found (or in this case, asked!). They know you, they gave to you, and they most likely want to give more. Why not ask them to become monthly donors?

Most monthly donors stay with an organization between five to seven years and sometimes even longer. We have even seen donors who give recurring gifts to organizations for more than 20 years!

It is important to consider exactly the concept, what is monthly giving? A monthly giving program involves pre-authorized or recurring gifts. These are gifts that the donor has authorized you to deduct directly from their bank account or charge to their credit card every month on a recurring basis. In monthly giving, the donor makes a pledge to give a certain amount to your organization each month, and then provides you with a credit card or bank account number, or some other means to directly deduct the money from their account.

Monthly giving programs are very popular with non-profits in Europe, and have been gaining popularity with organizations in the US and elsewhere, and for good reason — they work. There are many benefits of monthly giving programs.

Launching a monthly giving program can be a powerful strategy for non-profits both large and small. Studies over the past decade have shown that monthly givers give more money and stay with a non-profit longer than non-monthly givers. Here are some of the reasons why monthly giving is so important for every non-profit:

Retain more of your donors for many years
The average donor retention rate is 43%. That means 57 of every 100 donors will not give again to you next year. If you start a recurring donor program, your retention rate more than doubles!

Once a donor signs up for a monthly giving program, they stay more loyal to the non-profit and tend to give more than they otherwise would because monthly donors, if cultivated right, build stronger relationships with the nonprofits they support, and because that relationship won’t be stopped just because the donor forgets to put a check in the mail. Stopping a monthly giving relationship takes a proactive step from the donor, one they are unlikely to take unless they really mean to stop their support for a particular non-profit

Monthly Giving Programs Build Strong Relationships
One of the most amazing things about monthly giving is that once a donor signs up for a monthly giving program, you can stop asking them for money, because the person is giving you money each and every month. Instead of making regular asks, you can focus 100% on stewarding your donors. Imagine, donors that get tons of attention from your non-profit, and none of it is an ask!

Okay…the truth is that you’ll want to send your monthly donors one ask per year, an opportunity to upgrade/increase their monthly gift. But other than that, all of your communications are based on cultivation and stewardship. You can build amazing and strong relationships with your monthly donors, confident in the knowledge that the money is coming in every month.

Monthly Giving Programs Provide a Stable Foundation for Your Non-Profit
Good monthly giving programs build a regular, dependable monthly income upon which your organization can rely, month in and month out. Instead of waiting around for donor checks to arrive or worrying about whether or not this donor or that donor will make a gift this quarter, you know that you are starting every month with a increasingly substantial deposit in the bank.

Monthly Giving Programs Lower Fundraising Costs
While there will be some expense in launching a monthly giving program, overall the larger your monthly giving program becomes, the lower your fundraising costs will be. As donors sign-up for monthly giving, you can stop sending them direct mail solicitations and stop worrying about scheduling asks and follow-up calls. And, because monthly givers are more loyal to your organization, you can spend less money trying to find new donors to fill in for all of the donors who lapse each year.

NEXT MONTH: Monthly Giving—How to Get Your Program Started

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

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