Is your monthly giving program not working? Let’s fix that!

 
Monthly giving programs are an essential addition to your fundraising strategy. 

Having a steady stream of funds will provide you with peace of mind, dependable income and contribute to your organization's overall stability. Whether you are looking to develop a monthly giving program or hope to improve on the one you already have, we are here to help you find success. 

Recurring donations can become a considerable asset to your organization. If your giving program is struggling, don't get discouraged, there are ways to bring life back into monthly giving and get your donors excited in the process. Incorporating perks like a membership program, giving club or regular updates is a simple way to make recurring donors feel appreciated. 

Our monthly giving guide will cover: 

[Tip #1] How a monthly giving program can contribute to your organization’s stability 
[Tip #2] Building a new brand and narrative for your recurring donors
[Tip #3] How to market your monthly giving program to donors and find the right prospects
[Tip #4] How to use data to your advantage and evaluate success with metrics
[Tip #5] Setting SMART goals that align with your organization's mission

Why You Need To Invest In A Monthly Giving Program

Since monthly giving automates the giving process, donors barely have to think about their donations. They can set it and forget it while your donation management system does all the work. Monthly giving also give donors an opportunity to
  • Support a great cause
  • Make more manageable, smaller payments instead of one large gift
  • Have automated payments and receipts, so it doesn't interfere with their day-to-day
But your donors aren't the only ones who benefit. Even though donors give smaller amounts per month, they often give more than the average one-time donor. They also have much higher retention rates.

Diversify Your Income Streams

Monthly gifts are a sustainable fundraising plan's best friend. It's normal for organizations to receive most of their funding at the end of the year. The holiday spirit motivates more people to give back but offers a challenge because you're receiving most of your income in the last few months of the year. 

You have probably heard the phrase "unprecedented times" thrown around a lot these days, but it's because we are in an extraordinary situation. No one knows what waits around the corner, and so we need to be prepared, especially when it comes to our fundraising strategies. 

Revenue from monthly giving is consistent, predictable and cost-effective, and it has lower administrative costs than one-time donations. Pair an incredible monthly giving program with a CRM that integrates with all your fundraising and marketing tools, and you’re off to the races! A donor management system can easily track donations, send receipts and segment your donors in one platform. 

However, having a monthly giving program is not enough. You have to be willing to invest in it while creating a unique experience for your donors. That is where your story comes in. 

Easy to Set Up

The monthly giving payment process is easy to set up when working with a donor CRM. If you are already a client at Driven, we've automated the giving process for you! We provide integrated monthly, and one-time giving options on our donation form templates, automatically managing consolidated receipts, managing monthly processing of donations and handling your donor segments. 

Having software to streamline the giving process will help your team focus less on administration and manual work, making more time to build authentic relationships with your donors while taking on more extensive campaigns.

Promote Your Monthly Giving Program With A Story

You know the difference your donors make first hand. With every donation, you're able to do extraordinary work that supports your cause. 

Frame your monthly giving program as an upgrade that increases the impact your donors can make. If they can make a difference with a one time gift, imagine the change they can create with a monthly donation!

When communicating value to your donors, think about how you can incorporate them into the hero's journey. 

The hero's journey is a classic storytelling format often used in films and fairytales. It's about a hero who, in their ordinary life, receives an irrefutable call to action. They are then taken on a journey through tests, trials and tribulations only to prevail, returning to their ordinary life better than before. 

If you've seen Lord of the Rings, Star Wars or the Matrix, you should be more than familiar with this story arc. Your donor may not be on a quest to find "the one ring to rule them all," but the work you are doing is just as important. Make them feel like the hero of the story by providing all the necessary information they need to join your monthly giving program. 

Branding Your Program

So, how do we communicate the hero's journey to donors? Take a look at your cause and work backwards. 

It would help if you fused storytelling and fundraising by focusing on these 3 things: 
  1. How your monthly giving program differs from a one-time donation
  2. The benefits your monthly donors will receive
  3. How you will use their contribution to make an impact
Creating a community from your monthly givers connects people and, most importantly, builds a relationship with those who believe in your organization. 

To understand what this looks like in action, let's take a look at Wastsi's Universal Fund Program.

Deep Dive: Watsi's Universal Fund Program


Watsi is an organization with a focus on universal healthcare. They are a small organization doing big things, funding healthcare for people all around the world. Their monthly giving program is called the Universal Fund, where donors can sign up to support a new patient every month. So why is there a sustainable giving program working so well? 
Built a New Brand for Their Monthly Donors
 
 
When you enter Watsi's website and scroll to their donation options, they immediately promote their monthly giving program, clearly stating that you will be helping a new patient receive health care every month. In addition to that disclaimer, they explain that 100% of donations will be going towards the patient because private donors fund admin costs. 

Note that your organization doesn’t need to have a disclaimer like this. Administrative costs are vital as they help you do your job. We want to focus on explaining how gifts will be distributed so donors better understand the impact they’ll make.

Watsi does this by explaining how they use their monthly donations right from the start, giving donors a glimpse of the impact they can make. They can meet past patients that they have helped through their organization, building trust and credibility and a track record of success. 
 
 

Give Donors a Walk Through the Monthly Giving Experience

Donors see how their contribution will make a difference in someone’s life. The branding of the program demonstrates this by focusing on one child, Veasna. On their monthly giving homepage, Watsi details what it would look like to be a monthly member. By "doing good on autopilot,” donors know that they will receive monthly updates on their gift. 

The page focuses on Veasna’s story. With each point, they show an image of his journey. Watsi provides examples of emails, links to edit donation amounts and their "100% guarantee”. Donors are put through a test run, pulled at their heartstrings, making it impossible to say no. 

So to summarize and connect Watsi’s campaign to the hero’s journey:
  • Hero: You! The donor
  • Villan: the injustice of lack of resources and investment resulting in people around the world having limited or no access to affordable health care 
  • Special World: The Universal Fund Program
  • Solution: Supporting patients by donating monthly  
 

Promoting Your Program

After crafting your campaign’s narrative, it’s time to let the world know about the incredible opportunity that you’re offering! But who are the people you should target when promoting your recurring giving programs?

Who Are Your Monthly Donors?

They are people who have already shown an interest in your organization. For example, 
  • Donors who have given small to mid-size donations
  • Frequent donors
  • Lapsed donors
  • Past board members
  • Newsletter Subscribers 
  • Volunteers 
  • Event attendees 
 
Keep in mind your messaging for each of these groups will be different. A past board member has a very different perspective than a recent donor, so you have to develop a tailored but consistent message to each segment. 

If you have a dedicated batch of monthly donors, reach out to them! Ask them why they have continued to support you regularly and what they value most about your organization. Make a note of their answers and note any patterns or similarities you can use in your campaign. 

Getting the thoughts of recurring donors is another way to make them feel more involved with your organizations. Committing to your organization with a monthly gift says a lot about your donor’s commitment, and therefore, you should treat them as partners for the fight for your cause. 
 

Make it Easy to Find 

Even when you’re not actively promoting your program in a campaign, it should be easy to find and accessible. Having a donate button, banner or page dedicated to monthly giving will be a friendly reminder to supporters that it is a great option to consider when giving.  Consider adding a pop-up or a suggestion to upgrade to a monthly gift when a non-time gift is selected, giving them the reasons as to why monthly giving is so impactful. 

Be loud and proud of your giving program by showing it off to your audience. Promote it on your social media, newsletters and website. Reach out to the potential list of recurring donors with email or direct mail solicitations, and don’t be afraid to tell your clients’ story in the process. 

Connect them to the people or animals you serve while being transparent about the use of their donation. Save the Children does a great job of communicating the benefits that each donation amount will bring to the communities they serve. Right when you click on their donate button, their monthly donation program is visible. 

Run a Campaign

Run a seasonal integrated campaign to boost your program’s visibility and attract a large number of donors in a short amount of time. Seasonal campaigns offer a unique opportunity to demonstrate how your donors’ support boosts your organization's mission and goals. 

A campaign is a great place to share the story of the program and let your branding shine. Charity Water’s The Spring Giving Program is the perfect example of a campaign’s power storytelling. Founder Scott Harison speaks directly from the heart, sharing how and why he created Charity Water. While starting with his story, Scott does discuss the impact donations hold and gives quantitative information on the impact a monthly donor can make.

The Spring campaign was a huge success, and you can do the same by going back to the hero’s journey and sharing the narrative you created in the points above.  To encourage giving, even more, offer a bonus for those who decide to join your program’s campaign. For example, a calendar, t-shirt, video message or a collection of zoom backgrounds! 

Retain Current Donors

Don’t just campaign for new donors, but take time to appreciate your current ones. Have a retention plan in place to regularly update donors on their impact. Thank them for their contributions, along with progress reports that demonstrate the impact of their donation. You can also invite them to increase their monthly gift amount, which is often met positively.
 

Your Data is Gold 

Use your donor data to your advantage! Your database is a sea of information that can help you make better decisions and impress your donors. This is where having a powerful, integrated and efficient CRM comes in handy. You don’t want (or need) to spend hours creating segments, tracking emails and processing donations. It gives you the information you need to calculate the following metrics to measure your campaign’s success. 
 

Donor retention rate

The ratio of donors you retain to donors who do not give again. Calculate this by dividing the number of donors the previous year by the number of donors you have now.  You want this number to grow year over year. 
 

Donor attrition rate

The ratio of donors who do not give again compared to the percentage of donors you retain. Find your attrition rate by subtracting your retention rate from 1.  You want this number to go down.  Be sure to consider this number when looking at your net increase of monthly donors year over year. 
 

Gift retention

Gift Retention is the amount donated by your retained donors over the years. Your gift retention rate reveals how much money you’re keeping through retention by calculating how much donors gave again this year divided by the amount those same donors gave last year. 
 

Donor lifetime value

This metric is the amount of money a donor will give to your organization from the first donation to the last. Your donor lifetime value is crucial to your development budget, as it determines how much money you should invest in acquiring a new donor or keeping a donor for the long term.  
 
We know traditionally, it is significantly less expensive to retain a donor than to acquire a new one, so it’s key to develop a strong stewardship program. 

Set SMART Goals 

If you don’t have a clear goal for your program, you won’t have anything guiding your decisions. Beyond raising funds, what do you hope to accomplish or communicate with a giving program? Why is it special? 

For example, Watsi’s goal is to provide health care to one patient at a time. It’s clear, and they communicate to their donors by sharing email updates on the patient they successfully treated that month. Use these questions to help determine your goal: 
What do you want to accomplish through monthly giving?
What would that mean for your programs and mission?
What would happen as a result of achieving that goal?

Once you determine that overarching goal, you have to make it SMART. That means it’s specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Here is how it might look for your organization: 

Let’s pretend you run a food bank and want to fund a local garden for those who come to your food bank. The goal is to provide fresh, affordable food to low-income families to eat nutritious, healthy meals on a budget, resulting in less hungry families. You do the math and come up with how much it will cost to build and sustain the garden and decide you want your monthly giving program to fund half.

So your goal could be to recruit 15 recurring donors with an average monthly donation of $15 by December 31st to fund half the cost of the garden. You can easily measure and meet this goal and now understand the minimum amount of donors you need to reach your target. 

5 Key Takeaways 

  1. Monthly giving programs are vital to the long-term health and sustainability of your organization.
  2. Use the hero’s journey to guide your program’s narrative with your donor at the center of the story. They are the hero fighting for your cause. 
  3. Promote your program by making your monthly giving program accessible and attainable. Don’t be afraid to go a step further by promoting your program in seasonal campaigns. 
  4. Use your data. A robust database automates the giving process giving you more time to focus on what matters most: your donors! 
  5. Set SMART goals for your monthly giving program, clearly outlining what it means to be a monthly donor and what you hope to achieve within the program. 

Conclusion

If you’re struggling to find monthly donors, don’t give up! Chances are your program just needs a fresh start. There are so many benefits to monthly giving programs, especially since it makes giving so easy for donors. 

They only have to set up their donation once and are continuously supporting a cause they care about.  You also can enjoy the ease of monthly giving by taking advantage of donor management software. Driven offers:

Stunning, customizable donation forms with your branding 
Options for recurring giving integrated into your donation page
Automatic acknowledgments and receipts sent to your donors every year
Debit and credit acceptance while automatically processing gifts 

We are passionate about giving and want to see your monthly giving program take off.  Reach out to chat with us on how to save time so you can do more. 


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