4 Important Steps to Improving Monthly Donor Retention
Last week, I wrote about the coverage ratio for monthly donors and how important it is to start tracking it. If you don’t have a process in place monthly donor retention, you may find that you are not growing at all, no matter how many new monthly donors you bring in. You may just be treading water.
In my many years of working in and with monthly donor programs, the first step is to realize that sustainers may drop out because of credit card problems, but you also commit to doing the best you can to keeping them.
The second step is that you think about this as doing your monthly donors a favor. It’s a courtesy to let the donor know his or her card couldn’t be processed. Remember, the donor didn’t call you to say he or she wanted to stop. You, as fundraiser, have to just help him or her by making the gifts continue to come in.
The third step is to help “motivate” your organization to allow you to follow up and spend some time and resources on this is by annualizing the value of sustainers at risk.
Say you have 500 sustainers who give $35 a month and, on average, some 5 percent of sustainers whose cards change every month. That’s 25 sustainers at risk. Their annual value is $10,500.
Worth a phone call, right? Worth an email? Perhaps a letter, if you don’t have an email
address? And better yet, implement credit card updater. Ask your donor base or online processing partner about it. More and more are adding it to the mix. It is literally “peanuts” compared to the value of your saved monthly donors.
The fourth step is that you map out the process of what happens with your sustainers now. This seems silly, I know, but believe me, it’s going to be so helpful. It’s always good to document processes so anybody can understand and see them, but it will also help you understand if and when there are “holes."
Here are just a few questions to get you started with writing down the sustainer process:
- How do you get the information that a card expires or declines?
- When do you get it?
- Could you get it before the card expires?
- Who gives it to you?
- How long does it take to get to you?
- How often do you get it?
- Does the report give you everything you need to do a follow up?
- What’s the annualized value of the monthly donors who are at risk?
- When does the credit card updater run if you have it?
- What is the best timing to do follow-ups?
- Who will do the follow-ups?
- How will you track the results of these?
- What options are available to do so within your organization?
- How many times will you follow up before you give up on the monthly donor?
A combination of follow-ups may be necessary to best reach the donor. Don’t give up too soon. Just like you, donors are busy.
If you take just these four steps, you will make a big difference for the health of your program and you’ll be well ahead of the 47 percent of organizations that don’t follow up on lapsing sustainers at all. (See here for a great study Brady Josephson did a while back.)
Erica Waasdorp is one of the leading experts on monthly giving. She is author of the book "Monthly Giving. The Sleeping Giant." She is the president of A Direct Solution, a company serving nonprofit organizations with fundraising and direct marketing needs, with a focus on monthly giving and appeals.
She just co-authored the "Monthly Giving Starter and Marketing Kit" with Donor Perfect, and she’s working on her next book called "Monthly Giving Made Easy." She regularly blogs and presents on fundraising, appeals and monthly giving—in person and through webinars. She is happy to answer any questions you may have about this great way of improving retention rates for your donors.
Erica has over 30 years of experience in nonprofits and direct response. She helped the nonprofits she works with raise millions of dollars through monthly giving programs. She is also very actively supports organizations with annual fund planning and execution, ranging from copywriting, creative, lists, print and mail execution.
When she’s not working or writing, Erica can be found on the golf course (she’s a straight shooter) or quietly reading a book. And if there’s an event with a live band, she and her husband, Patrick, can be found on the dance floor. She also loves watching British drama on PBS. Erica and Patrick have two step sons and cat, Mientje.
You can reach Erica at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (508) 776-1224.