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