Knowing how to find monthly donors for your nonprofit is a key skill in successful fundraising.
Starting a monthly giving program and building it up is a great use of your time, because you’re creating ongoing monthly revenue for your organization.
Here are just a few good examples:
- Draft Gratitude relies on their Monthly Giving Team to cover about half of their monthly expenses.
- Illuminate India and Clubhouse Guatemala both completely cover the cost of many of the children in their programs with monthly sponsors.
- Other organizations bring in $3,000 to $5,000 each month through monthly giving.
These nonprofits have gotten really good at making it easy for people to understand how their donation will make a difference. They’re also good at making it easy for people to give and satisfying to stay involved.
The key to success from the nonprofit’s point of view is ongoing recruitment. You need to always have your monthly donor radar on and work to find monthly donors to add to your family regularly.
Let’s look at some easy and affordable ways to do that.
Why More Monthly Givers?
Monthly giving can change the game for your new, young, or small nonprofit.
Let’s look at the math.
If someone gives you a donation of $100, that’s great.
If they give you $100 twice in the same year, that’s even better, right?
Now, what if someone were to give you $20 per month? That’s $240 for the year which is more than the person who gave two $100 donations.
Not to mention the $240 is predictable income…!
For the donor, $20 per month is easier to manage in their budget. For some people, a $250 donation is out of reach, but $20 per month is doable.
In fact, here’s a story of my own about that.
I once sat at a fundraising lunch wanting to make a commitment for $1,000 to the nonprofit but didn’t have the ability to write that check that day. They were smart and offered a monthly payment option of $83 per month. I was easily able to say yes to that! It felt great to me as a donor to be able to say “yes” at the level I wanted and great for the nonprofit because they got a donor that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
Now, here’s the more surprising part of monthly giving: Not only do you get more money when someone gives a monthly gift, but the loyalty level increases.
Monthly giving gives you a multiplier effect that makes fundraising math fun. It creates regular monthly income for your nonprofit and identifies loyal donors.
In fact, it’s common for regular givers to become planned givers. In other words, people who give regularly are more likely to leave you in their will.
Monthly Donors Are More Loyal
Monthly donors have a higher retention rate.
From nationally-reported 2018 fundraising numbers, we know typical donor retention is about 47%. That’s a bit better than in past years, but still not good. For monthly donors, it’s 90%.
Yes, you heard that right! Monthly donors stick around at a rate of 90%. Let that one sink in.
That’s a reason right there to recruit more monthly donors. They’re more loyal.
Taking the time to find monthly donors for your nonprofit is a great use of your time. You’re building the big, loyal base of support your nonprofit needs.
Calculating How Much to Ask For
Start the asking at a low level. Here’s a formula I learned from my friend Erica Waasdorp from A Direct Solution.
First, figure out what your average gift amount is from one of your last appeals. (Hopefully you’re tracking your appeals well enough to know this, but if not, get out your calculator and run a couple of reports.)
Divide that amount by 3.
That’s about what you should be asking for as an entry-level monthly donation – a third of your typical appeal donation.
For example, if you know your average gift is $25 when you send out an appeal, then
$25/3 = $8.33
Ask for something in the $8 or $8.50 range as an entry level gift. Or go straight for $8.33 if that’s a number that means something tangible for your organization. The more tangible, the more likely people will say “yes.”
If you’ve calculated your Core Number and know exactly what it costs you to deliver a unit of service, use THAT number.
Here you can see how the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri uses their core number of $6.20:
Erica says that the typical monthly gift across the board is $24. For animal causes it’s $22.
There’s your benchmark for figuring out how YOUR monthly giving program is doing. If your donors aren’t giving that much on average, maybe it’s time to upgrade them.
Draft Gratitude asks for a monthly gift of $12 because that’s what it costs them to take care of a horse per day. They find that a lot of their monthly donors give $24 to pay for 2 days of care (and that’s right in line with Erica’s benchmarks).
Get Strategic To Find Monthly Donors
So, where exactly do you find monthly donors to grow your program? It’s not like people walk around wearing a button that says “I might be willing to make a monthly contribution to your nonprofit if you just ask.”
Just like with anything else in fundraising, you must be strategic. You need a plan for finding new monthly donors and inviting them to give.
Here are the basics that anyone who wants to grow their monthly giving program should begin with.
Start with yourself. Yes, you! Sign yourself up in your own program. If you don’t believe in it and support it, how can you expect others to?
Ask friends and family. Tell your friends and family that you’ve started a monthly giving program for your nonprofit and ask them to join. Remind them that their donation doesn’t have to be large to have an impact.
Ask current Board members. Your Board members are leaders of your organization and they should be making a personal financial contribution. If they aren’t willing to give money to the nonprofit that they’re a leader of, there’s a problem.
Ask current volunteers. Your volunteers are intimately aware of the needs of your nonprofit and are likely to give if you offer them the chance. Many nonprofits think “They give their time – we can’t ask for their money, too.” If that’s your thinking, you’re actually taking the decision away from them. Give them the choice and let them decide if monthly giving is right for them.
Once you’ve worked through the basics, it’s time to get serious about finding new monthly donors.
Target specific donors. Look through your donor records and pull out anyone who has given 3 or more times in the past year. These donors are already on their way to becoming monthly donors, and with the right ask, you just might be able to motivate them to say “yes.”
This technique helped me grow my first monthly giving program very quickly, adding a couple of dozen donors in just a few weeks. Some people will sign up immediately and for others, you’ve planted the seed of the idea in their minds and they’ll sign up another time.
Website option. Make sure monthly giving is an option on your website. If not, you’re missing opportunities to gain new monthly donors. A simple checkbox, like the one in the image below, will work.
Some organizations have tried pre-selecting that box so that when someone gets to the page, the checkbox is already checked. As a donor, I find that pushy and it turns me off. You know your donors best and what might work.
Ask events. If you want to bring in lots of new monthly donors at once, consider holding an event where you specifically ask people to make a monthly pledge. The Humane Society of Southeast Missouri tried and after a short, strategic program, they were able to sign up a couple of dozen new monthly donors. The keys here are to get the right people in the room (they need to care about the work your nonprofit is doing) and keep the program short and strategic (no rambling speeches and finish EARLY!).
Recruit in January. Kick the new year off with a short campaign asking people to make a monthly commitment to your nonprofit. An appeal sent at the first of the year catches people who want to make some changes for the new year, including making the world a better place. For best results, combine your appeal with social media posts about how monthly giving makes a big difference, a short video of your nonprofit in action, and a mention in your newsletter.
Ask in appeals. Anytime throughout the year that you’re sending an appeal, whether through the mail or email, make monthly giving an option on your appeals. A simple checkbox that says “Make this gift a monthly gift” will do.
Recruit Board members. So many nonprofits forget about past Board members and yet they’re a great source of support if you keep them engaged. Whether you’ve kept the relationship going or not, warm them up with a personal update then ask for a monthly gift. You may not be able to get ALL of them to sign on for monthly gifts, but you’re likely to get a few.
Ask program participants. Invite the people who use your nonprofit’s programs and services to make a monthly gift. Depending on your mission, this might be a terrific source of new monthly donors. If your nonprofit serves the homeless or those who appear to have few resources, don’t automatically count them out. Sometimes, it’s a great source of pride for them to be able to give a few dollars a month and feel like they’re giving back.
Offer a Challenge. With the right campaign, you can enlist your Board, staff, and volunteers to each bring in 1-5 new monthly donors. Don’t ask for help just so you can grow your monthly giving program, even if that’s what you’re trying to do. Ask for their help so you can eliminate a waiting list or expand a service. Remember, people don’t want to fund your existence, they want to fund your impact.
Ask vendors. Companies you spend money with are an often overlooked source of donors for regular donations, inkind donations, sponsorships, and monthly donations. Look through your QuickBooks records to see who you regularly do business with and ask them to consider a monthly donation. The worst they can say is no.
Upgrade current monthly donors. This isn’t really a source of new donors, but it will feel like getting new donors. Ask your current donors to consider increasing the amount they give. If you’ve done a good job taking care of your monthly donors, you’ll get several takes.
You can start with a letter or email, but the phone is your friend if you want to upgrade your monthly donors. The most effective way to upgrade a monthly donor is to call them. Be ready to thank them and give them an update on how their monthly donation has already made a difference before you ask them to upgrade.
I know the phone can be scary but remember that your monthly donors already love you. They’re telling you so with their wallet! They’ll be happy to chat with you, and if you have a good enough reason for them to upgrade, chances are good that they will. So, no need to be scared to call them. They’re a dear friend you just haven’t gotten to know yet.
Tips For Retaining Monthly Donors
It won’t do you any good to pour new donors into the top of your monthly giving bucket if the budget is leaking heavily.
In other words, you need to do your best to keep your monthly donors happy so they keep giving.
Tip #1: Monthly donors need to be thanked differently. The worst thing you can do is thank these precious, loyal donors with the same old thank-you letter every month. Boring!
You’ll likely have monthly donors tell you they don’t WANT a thank-you letter. And you need to respond accordingly.
They DO want to know how things are going, so get creative!
- One month, call them to thank them and give them an update.
- The next month, send them a short video showing your nonprofit in action.
- The next month, send a hand-written note.
- The next month, try something else or just repeat the cycle.
The important thing is that you are thanking them every month, but not in a boring way. Make it fresh and keep them in the loop so they feel connected to your nonprofit’s work.
Tip #2: Focus on customer service. Customer service is extremely important to monthly donors. When they email or call, they expect an answer in a short period of time. As well they should.
Remember that these are some of your most loyal donors. They’re the ones most likely to give the most over time. They’re the most likely to leave you an estate gift. Don’t brush them off because they only give $8.50 a month and that just doesn’t seem like a lot.
Tip #3: Stay on top of credit card declines and expirations. Expired credit cards and monthly charges that don’t go through cause a huge leak in your monthly giving budget. Be ready to review monthly donations every month to see which ones didn’t go through and call them to get updated credit card info. If you don’t, you’re losing a lot of money! You might even consider being proactive and reaching out to the monthly donors whose cards will be expiring soon so you can avoid any issues with payment not going through.
The Bottom Line
Monthly giving is an amazing way to create sustainable revenue for your nonprofit. Recruitment of new monthly givers is an ongoing activity. Work to find monthly donors regularly to add to your donor family.
When you make monthly giving a priority and carve out the time to work on it, you’ll see more money coming in — which lessens the amount you have to figure out how to raise.
You can get more resources for monthly giving from Erica Waasdorp at www.adirectsolution.com. She has a Monthly Giving Starter Kit for those who are ready to dip their toe in the pool, and a Monthly Giving Marketing Kit for those already swimming. You might also want to grab her book “The Sleeping Giant” on Amazon.