A recent study from Giving USA indicates choppy fundraising waters ahead, but a strong monthly giving program can provide the sense of belonging your donors are looking for.
The results of Giving USA 2023, which elucidates national trends in the charitable sector in 2022, indicate that your organization may face tough fundraising prospects in the coming year. As I noted in part one of this two-part series, giving fell in 2022 from a 2021 peak while the number of nonprofits rose.
Dips in giving happen infrequently, but they take a few years to reverse. Political campaigns may enjoy a spike in donations in 2024, but your organization must most likely brace itself for more competition for fewer charitable dollars. In light of that, investing in your monthly giving program is called for. Strong monthly giving can help you weather an uncertain year, firm up your core donor base for years to come, and provide a sense of belonging that, especially in an election year, people are searching for.
Monthly donors often become your most loyal donors—even posthumously. They not only have the highest frequency of giving but also, typically, the highest average gift. Bear in mind that not all programs are designed to encourage monthly giving. Donor clubs that rely on cumulative annual giving as the point of entry are not cultivating the donor who gives $10 every month, year in and year out. But while each of those gifts might seem paltry, this consistent giving lets donors operate on autopilot while your organization brings in a steady cashflow.
Cultivating monthly donors requires polished backend practices and attention to the overall donor journey. In his book on direct mail fundraising, Mal Warwick suggests asking six questions before getting started:
1. Can you process gifts, including by credit card, on an ongoing monthly basis?
2. What will the name of your monthly giving club be?
3. Whom will you invite to join the program? While it should be open to all, you might target a particular group, e.g., those with above-average frequency in giving, those with at least three years of giving history, or even new acquisitions. Testing is helpful to determine your target audience.
4. What gift amounts will you suggest? You could highlight a fixed amount, a range, or personalize the amounts to the donor’s giving history.
5. What benefits will you offer to recognize monthly donors? Some examples include branded merchandise, such as lapel pins, or an exclusive monthly donor newsletter.
6. What automatic payment options can you offer?
Your ability to attract monthly donors hinges on framing the success of your mission as dependent on monthly gifts. What is the recurring problem that requires a recurring gift? There's no better way to establish this urgency and recognize monthly donors than through direct mail: advertise for or recognize new members in donor newsletters; suggest upgrades or renewals (advisably no more than once per year) in annual reports; include an upgrade option on donation inserts in fundraising mailings. There should be no effort required from donors to renew their commitments.
Regular communication reinforces for donors that their regular contributions are having an impact. Maintain your end of the relationship through personalized communication across channels: send annual tax statements, thank you letters (not only after their initial sign-on), a note from the executive director, or clips about your work. Invite monthly donors to volunteer with your organization. You'll have to use your best judgment on what appeals your monthly donors should receive, but they should still be hearing from you regularly.
Inviting people to partner with your organization on a monthly basis offers them a sense of belonging in a fractured, fraying society. In 2024, political parties will dangle the promise of identity before Americans—and inevitably leave them hanging. Your mission outlasts and eclipses any politician’s putative efforts to ground people in mutually beneficial communities. A monthly giving program will help people identify with your mission, build a partnership with your organization, and become part of a community of dedicated supporters and advocates.