Fundraising 101: 10 Things You Need to Know About Creating a Monthly Giving Program

There’s the economy and the impact it’s having on fundraising revenue, but that’s not why monthly giving (or sustainer) programs should be an essential part of any successful fundraising plan.

Monthly giving programs meet donors where they live. Think about what you’ll do today in terms of regularity. You get a cup of coffee daily — or, for some of you, hourly. You take the trash to the curb weekly. You might pay a monthly bill.

And when you sit down to review your personal budget, do you look at the full year, or do you look at the month or even the paycheck cycle? In this fast-paced, Internet-driven world, about the only things we do annually are holidays and birthdays.

So then, if you were to venture down this path, what are some of the strategies needed for success?

1. Buy-in from leadership and staff. A monthly giving program requires attention. There are all the technical issues of payment methods and reminder mailings. More importantly, these are loyal donors who might give a smaller average gift but are committed to your mission. They deserve your regular attention.

2. A case worth supporting. “What are you going to do with my $20 or $25 every month that you couldn’t do without it?” A monthly giving case works best when it is a concrete outworking of your mission and also has an emotional impact on your donors.

Also, be sure to include images! Especially online, people want to see, not read. Choose images that support your message and demonstrate the need.
On the Médecins Sans Frontières Web site, there are several levels of giving mentioned that clearly demonstrate what type of work my gift will support without creating restricted gifts:

  • $15 provides a month of clean water for 40 refugees.
  • $60 provides a month of nursing care for refugees from war or natural disaster.

3. Focus on the need, not a name. Some organizations focus more on product names for monthly giving programs and forget that donors want to support the mission. Unless, of course, we’re talking about the San Francisco Zoo, which has done a beautiful job naming and explaining its monthly giving program: “You can help us pay our monthly grocery bill! Each month, it costs us nearly $22,000 to feed all the animals in the Zoo. By joining the San Francisco Zoo’s Meat and Potatoes Monthly Giving Program, you can help us offset these costs.”

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