27 Keys to Monthly Giving Program Success, Part 3 (12-19)
[Editor's note: This is part 3 of a four-part series on the session "25 Proven Monthly Giving Tools & Ideas Packed in 50 Minutes" held at the 2012 Washington Nonprofit Conference. Click here for part 1 and here for part 2.]
At the Direct Marketing Association Nonprofit Federation's 2012 Washington Nonprofit Conference, five fundraising pros shared their secrets to implementing and running a monthly giving program in their session, "25 Proven Monthly Giving Tools & Ideas Packed in 50 Minutes." Here are tips12-19 of the 25 — actually, 27 (two bonus tips!) — provided by the presenters: Mary Arnold, president of Mary Arnold Enterprises; David Glass, director of online marketing at World Wildlife Fund; Karen Kennedy Downs, direct marketing manager of monthly giving at CARE USA; Nicole Weidokal, vice president of client services at DCCi; and moderator Erica Waasdorp, senior fundraising consultant at DMW Direct.
12. Plan your monthly program from start to finish
Planning is key when it comes to any fundraising activity, and your monthly giving program is no exception.
"Find your most compelling offer — the more specific the better," Arnold said. "[For example,] '$20 can feed and school a young student for a month.' Decide which groups to test — look for those who give multiples times per year. Determine what types of transactions you will offer: monthly credit card, checks, bank debit? Plan your communication stream to keep monthly givers informed and engaged. Think about how you will receipt without overwhelming them."
It's all about closing the loop: Make a compelling offer, donors give; tell donors what those gifts do, they'll give more. Repeat cycle.
13. Involve IT staff and other departments with monthly givers
Monthly giving programs have a demanding back end, Arnold said. You need your IT department and other staffers to help with sophisticated tools. For monthly donors, you must take into consideration:
- highly personalized monthly reminders for check-payers, quarterly for electronic and credit card payments
- differing monthly giving amounts and how you handle them
- differeing amounts for upgrades
- addressing lapsed donors: credit card vs. check-payers — what brings them current?
- Do you forgive past-due donations?
- What about when people change level of gift?
"You need to work with IT and answer these questions as marketing problems," Arnold said.
14. Make monthly donors internal VIPs
"They are your most loyal donors, and you are one of their top charities," Arnold said. "It's a an enviable position, and you don't want to relinquish that."
She suggested that you route their phone calls to your best and most experienced customer service reps. Don't over-ask with too frequent upgrades or by adding miscellaneous fees. However, do include them in other appeals, especially emergency appeals.
"Treat them like family — or better than family. Don't take advantage of them," she added. "Donors want a good reason to give. If you get to them first, they'll give to you."
15. Test DRTV to acquire monthly givers
If there's room in your budget, it's worth testing DRTV to acquire monthly donors. We've all seen the ASPCA ads and various other charities promoting monthly giving programs on the television.
In your tests, include a specific, compelling ask, and ask more than once. There's not one creative formula that works, but try leading with a problem, followed by a solution and then end with the problem again, Arnold said.
"Buy TV spots opportunistically," she added. "TV inventory is perishable, so daily unsold inventory is cheap. Use a call center with inbound experience. Test landing pages for viewers who go to your website. Not all viewers will call; many go online. Make sure landing pages have a seamless connection to what they saw on TV. Donors need to see the same thing online as they do on TV."
16. Beware of the double-edged sword
Like any program, monthly giving has its pros and cons:
- The good — steady stream of revenue month after month in many small gifts, which is wonderful.
- The bad: tendency for management to take it for granted, becoming complacent, thinking money just comes in. CFOs love monthly giving programs because they are not dependent on grants or portfolios.
- The solution: Regular and frequent internal communications on program progress and its value to the organization.
"The money never' just comes in,'" Arnold said. "It takes lots of resources and dedicated, talented staff. Once it starts spiraling downward, it's hard to bring it up again. People have choices on where they give, so you have to take care of them and invest in them."
17. Include telefundraising and test
Telemarketing is expensive, but response rates are typically three to five times higher than mail, Weidokal said.
The benefit of phone is that it provides immediate results and tracking — real-time testing from a real-time medium. However, Weidokal reminded attendees that there are "no sacred cows — anything can be measured and should be tested. Test everything. Seemingly small tweaks can have significant impact on results."
18. Use the phone to upgrade sustainers
An international child-relief organization Weidokal worked with incorporated telemarketing to upgrade current child sponsors and saw its metrics jump from a 17 percent upgrade rate historically to a 26.8 percent upgrade rate in 2011 due to personalized scripting (sponsor level, child name, age and country), which let donors know the organization knows them and that their gifts raised the boat.
19. Use voice broadcast to import fulfillment
A Native American boys and girls school tested a voice broadcast prior to a pledge letter, Weidokal said. Basically, it was a call announcing the appeal. It led to increase in response and average gift.
"The phone is worth a test," Weidokal said, "because it often translates to better response and results."