Monthly giving programs are a great way to grow your donor base and provide your organization with a sustainable funding source. This blog post will walk you through building and implementing a successful monthly giving campaign for your nonprofit.
What is a Monthly Giving Program?
It is a donation program where dedicated donors can sign up to make a monthly donation or a monthly gift to a nonprofit. Recurring giving programs don’t have to be on a strictly monthly basis, though. It works as long as donors make their donations regularly – be it monthly, quarterly or annually.
Why Should You Start a Monthly Giving Program?
Monthly giving programs are relatively easy to set up and sustain, requiring minimal funds or administrative manpower. These days, you can track and manage gifts from long-term donors with the help of membership management software.
Promoting a monthly giving program doesn’t require much fanfare either. You can simply create a unique page on your website for all things related to your giving program, from critical information to sign-up forms to donation tracking. Then, you can use social media and email marketing to reach out to prospective donors.
Finally, this fantastic fundraising technique offers a ton of benefits for both nonprofits and donors. Here are just a few examples:
How companies can benefit
TechSoup called monthly giving the “fastest-growing segment of digital fundraising,” and it’s easy to see why. This type of program has proven to be a reliable source of funds for many nonprofits and improve donor retention rates in the long run.
Monthly giving results in higher returns
According to one study, a donor who opts for recurring donations can end up giving up to 440% more compared to a donor who only gives one-time gifts.
Think about it this way: a little bit goes a long way. Most prospective donors would be hesitant to shell out massive amounts in one go, but small donations spread out per month or per quarter don’t feel as heavy. This results in a multiplier effect, with small contributions from different sources adding up as the months go by.
Organizations can expect higher retention rates from recurring donors
Monthly donors are said to have an 80 to 90% retention rate. On the other hand, non-monthly donors have a retention rate of less than 50%.
Monthly giving programs – especially online programs that just make automatic monthly deductions to one’s card – are so appealing to donors because they’re convenient. You fill out your information once and just expect a receipt and a thank you note each month.
It offers stability and predictability
Fundraising events may help you rake in significant funds in a short amount of time. Still, they don’t offer the kind of stability and predictability that consistent online donation programs can.
With a monthly giving program in force, you can forecast how much money will come into your organization each month. This makes it easier to budget, plan and allocate your funds for other projects throughout the year.
How members can benefit
Monthly giving programs don’t just make life easier for nonprofits. They also make giving a lot easier and more appealing to would-be donors.
It removes the hassle of donating
Remember what we said about high retention rates? There is a myriad of reasons why donors stop giving after the first or second time. For some, it boils down to convenience. From finding the right landing page to repeatedly filling out payment information to deciding how much to allocate, small hassles can all bar someone from following through on their donations.
Let’s borrow a retail concept to illustrate this point. Customer friction is anything that can cause a customer to hesitate in the conversion process. This could be anything – a website that loads too slowly, high transaction or delivery fees, poor customer service, etc. So, businesses try to reduce friction by making it easier for customers to make their purchases. For example, they employ methods such as contactless payments and automated monthly deductions on subscription services.
Monthly giving programs can do more or less the same for donors. Donors just have to sign up and provide their info once, and then their gifts are automatically deducted from their credit cards at a specified frequency.
It gives donors more flexibility
Donors like having choices. Not all donors can shell out $100 in one go, but they could probably allocate $10 a month. So not only does this allow for greater flexibility in terms of how much a donor can give, but it also increases donor giving. On top of this, monthly giving programs can be organized by levels or tiers. You can offer a range of payment options, each with its own set of unique benefits.
Is the Monthly Giving Program Model Right for Your Organization?
Nonprofits, youth groups, church organizations, charities, arts organizations, elderly services and animal sanctuaries – all of these groups can benefit from a well-executed monthly giving program. While some organizations use funds gained from recurring donations to cover operational costs like rent and utilities, others funnel their monthly revenues into big projects like mobile clinics, educational courses and down payments for year-end charity events.
How to Create a Successful Monthly Giving Program
Not sure how to start your monthly giving program? Here are eight tips for mounting a successful recurring donation campaign:
1. Offer multiple levels of giving
If you want to attract more donors (and more demographic diversity), it’s essential to offer multiple donation tiers or giving levels. That way, donors who might not have the financial capacity to give huge amounts month to month can still feel inclined to sign up for smaller amounts. And knowing that you have options can encourage you to make a more considerable donation when you’re more financially capable.
Here are some examples of tiering systems you can try:
Item-based donation tiers
With this system, you enumerate the kinds of items or services a donor can provide with the amount of money they give. The most affordable items will be in the lowest tiers, while the most expensive ones will be assigned to the highest tiers.
For example, a nonprofit that provides educational tools to rural communities in Southeast Asia can offer the following tiers:
- $20 = a box of pencils for a community classroom
- $50 = learning modules for one community classroom
- $150 = 20 books to start a community library
- $200 = armchairs for 5 students
There is a long-standing belief in the nonprofit realm that people give to people, not organizations. This means that people are more inclined to donate when they have a personal connection – a relationship, even – to their beneficiaries.
Think about how World Vision runs its Sponsor a Child program. The charity has an online database of kids in need of sponsors, which includes their first-hand stories. In addition, the program puts a literal name to a face – making donating feel much more tangible. With this in mind, person-based tiers can look something like below.
For example, a nonprofit that aims to end hunger among low-income families can offer three tiers:
- $10 a month can feed one family of four for a week;
- $50 a month can feed a family of four for two weeks and provide them with hygiene and other household essentials;
- $100 can feed a family for a month, provide basic household and personal care items, as well as medicine, clean water and some clothing.
If the services you provide to your beneficiaries cannot be easily quantified, you can simply opt for a title-based level system. To get started, you can come up with clever but on-brand names for your giving levels. Try thinking about the theme of your campaign and try to build your names around it.
For example, an animal welfare organization can offer the following giving levels:
- Animal Advocate: $50 a month
- Pup Protector: $100 a month
- Companion’s Champion: $200 a month
- Hound Dog’s Hero: $500 a month
2. Utilize membership management software
Mounting a monthly donation program on your website seems like a lot of work, but thankfully, there is a lot of tech these days that can cut your work in half. Membership management software can automate parts of the process, leaving you more time to focus on other important tasks.
MembershipWorks makes it easy to collect online donations through your website. With this web-based software, you can instantly generate flexible web forms, provide donation amount options and even sell products. MembershipWorks can also automatically create a donation receipt via email and keep track of donation data – independent of membership and event data.
Aside from all this, you can also create a members-only website with multiple levels of access. With this option, you can limit access to your web content, announcements and events to only certain types of donors.
3. Offer rewards to recurring donors
Thanking donors is about more than just manners. Giving thanks to donors improves donor retention and even encourages them to donate again.
As mentioned, member management software like MembershipWorks can make it easier to control and limit access to certain web content. This is especially useful if you plan on offering content-based rewards to your recurring donors. Think exclusive access to early announcements and registration to big events, educational resources and learning materials, insider info, workshops, and the like.
Aside from offering exclusive content, there are many other ways you can express appreciation for your donors, physically or virtually. Here are some physical and virtual appreciation ideas that you might like to try:
- Send a heartfelt letter of appreciation – via snail mail.
- Send flowers or plants. This type of gift would be reserved for higher-end donors.
- Send exclusive, personalized brand merchandise.
- Recognize donors at events and galas.
- Offer gift cards to partner organizations or sponsors.
- Provide discount codes or free tickets to certain events. It is not a bad idea to entice your top donors to attend your fundraising event with free tickets; they may decide to give more through your silent or live auction. They could also bring a guest who is interested in becoming a donor.
4. Give special status to recurring donors
While for many, donating to charity is its own reward, others enjoy the recognition and appreciation that comes with it. It is common practice for nonprofits to lump their recurring donors together into an exclusive group.
Being part of a special group gives donors a sense of pride and accomplishment and thus feel more inclined to continue their service. After all, craving a sense of belonging is part of human nature. When you tap into this fundamental need, you’ll see positive results.
When creating a special group for recurring donors, it’s always good to come up with an exclusive name that is in line with your organization’s or campaign’s themes. For example, the American Red Cross calls their monthly donors the Red Cross Champions, describing them as a “special, dedicated group.” Some other group names include:
- Founder’s Circle
- President’s Circle
- Giving Circle
The historic Paramount Theatre in Texas has a Century Club which “Is a society of passionate major donors formed to preserve and maintain the Paramount Theatre for centuries to come.” Benefits include a private film screening for the donor plus 50 guests of their choosing. KUT Radio has both a Business Circle and Leadership Circle, each with their own set of perks including behind-the-scenes tours.
5. Create seasonal campaigns
While you can open registration for your giving program all year round, creating seasonal campaigns can heighten your program’s visibility and increase your sign-up rates. Here are some tips for mounting a successful seasonal campaign:
- Plan for three to four campaigns a year. Make sure to space them out evenly so that people don’t become overwhelmed by your messages. And align your biggest campaign with giving season, or the last quarter of the year when people are more inclined and more financially capable to donate.
- Create deadlines. People respond well to deadlines. For example, you can create social posts and website banners that state that you’re trying to raise 100 new monthly donors by the end of summer so that you can deliver X amount of school supplies to elementary school kids in need.
6. Be strategic about donor segmentation
Donor segmentation is the strategic grouping of members, past donors and potential donors based on common behaviors. Doing so makes it easier to target specific demographics with meaningful and relevant messaging. After all, generic messages will only get you so far.
Here are some ways you can segment your donors:
- By age: This is especially useful when you’re reaching out to donors over social media. When tailoring messages by age, always keep in mind the financial capabilities of each age range. For example, people in their early 20s will likely not have as much of a capacity to give as people in their 50s and 60s.
- By communication channel: This is one of the easiest ways to segment donors and probably one of the most effective. When members sign up, ask them which channel they prefer to receive news and updates in, then follow through on their requests. Examples include via email, phone call or snail mail.
- By recency, frequency, and monetary value: Recency describes when a donor last contributed (i.e., within the last 12 months vs. the previous 24 months). Frequency describes how often a donor contributed to the organization. Finally, monetary value is the total amount the person has donated.
Pro tip: When making direct appeals for one-time donations, leave your monthly donors out of your solicitations. As mentioned, you want to keep your recurring donors in an exclusive group where they feel a special status and level of appreciation.
7. Promote your program on your website and socials
Promoting your monthly giving program is about so much more than just making it known. On your website, you have to make it easy for people to donate. This means adding a big, visible “donate” button on your website and making the monthly donation form easy to spot and access from your main navigation menu.
It’s also a good idea to remind site visitors of the importance of making monthly donations. Some websites will have a message near the donation form that states that monthly giving is the most powerful and effective way to contribute to the cause. You can also show concrete examples of where donations go and how they make positive changes in the communities you seek to help.
When it comes to social media marketing, our best advice is to learn the strengths and weaknesses of each platform and familiarize yourself with how users behave on these sites. Here are some quick tips for some of the most popular social channels:
- Facebook is arguably the most popular social networking site globally, with close to 3 billion active users. So if you’re not on Facebook, you’re missing a ton of opportunities.
- Most Facebook users respond to visuals over text. So invest in an excellent graphic designer and a copywriter that can pair eye-catching visuals with short but compelling copy.
- Facebook ads help target specific users.
- Instagram’s user base is relatively young, with most users in the 18 to 34 bracket.
- Instagram Stories are an excellent way to interact with and getting to know followers, especially with the poll and questions features.
- In 2021 Stories became more popular than Posts, gaining more views and thus more influence over users.
- Don’t forget to use hashtags and tags wisely.
- If you’re struggling to get more followers, reach out to influencers who align with your brand and can help boost your messages to a broader audience.
- Tiktok is highly popular among Gen Z users.
- The short-form video platform is quite versatile and can be used in various ways, from educational content to viral challenges to storytelling series.
- You could post short videos showing how funds are being used or interviewing recipients who have benefitted from donations.
8. Take advantage of email marketing to recruit donors
Finally, when mounting a monthly giving program, take advantage of email marketing campaigns to get ahold of donors. For every new member you enroll, send a welcome email that links to your donation program. And again, make sure to segment your donors before firing off your emails. Tailor your messages for each segment so that people don’t feel like they’ve just received a generic group email. Make your emails personal, concise and relatable.
Who should you be emailing about monthly donations, you might ask? Some of the key people to reach out to include:
- Members with a track record of donating more than once,
- Members who have made at least one donation in the last year,
- People who have attended your fundraising events in the past,
- Donors who contribute small amounts rather than big one-off donations.
These are the types of people who are most likely to join a monthly giving program.
The Bottom Line
Monthly giving programs are great because they provide non-profits a consistent source of revenue while allowing donors to help out in the fastest, most hassle-free way possible. With these tips, we hope that you can feel confident in mounting your first campaign.
If you’re looking to start your own recurring donation program, look into how MembershipWorks can help you set up a donation page on your website.