A Monthly Giving How-To: Should You Ask for Monthly Gifts at Year-End?
A good friend asked me this question and, as good friends tend to do, I wanted to address this question right away before getting into the busy fundraising season.
While I would love to tell you yes — go all out and ask for monthly gifts — the answer really should be: “It depends!”
Let me explain with two approaches:
First, if you’re sending out email appeals around #GivingTuesday and the last few weeks in December, I recommend you do some testing first.
Ask for one-time gifts, test a monthly giving button in one or two emails, and see what happens first before going all out. Make sure you have a dedicated monthly-only donation form to make it very clear to the donor what they’re doing: Make a monthly gift.
You may have already done some testing during the summer or with your COVID-19 emails, so let those results guide you. If your organization has seen an uptick in monthly gifts, especially during the pandemic, then you may be more successful generating monthly donors at year-end as well, so it’s worth it to do more testing.
If your email list allows, do a 50/50 split or head-to-head test on part of your list (depending upon how large your email list is):
- One email has both options (one-time and monthly with separate buttons or links).
- One email only has the one-time giving option.
Then see how many people click the buttons and/or links; see how many people complete their monthly gift; see how many donors make one-time gifts and how much money was raised for each email.
If you find that adding the monthly option generates new monthly donors without depressing one-time results, you’ve found yourself a winner.
If you find that adding the monthly option generates new monthly donors, but it does depress one-time results — and overall revenue, if you annualize the monthly gifts, is still higher — you can keep going, and use this email.
However, if you find that you’re raising less money overall by doing this, I’d hold off focusing on monthly gifts at this time of the year. After all, now is when donors are (or should be) most likely to make a gift. And you want to maximize that, especially this year!
I’d look at doing a follow-up right away at the first of next year to anybody who has made a gift at year-end. What a way to start the year off right.
This next approach in appeals can be a bit different. If you’re considering a targeted, small appeal aimed at monthly gifts only, September is the time to do it.
I’d keep the November appeal for one-time gift focus, but consider a tick box on that appeal; it’s very low key, and it will generate some new monthly donors without impacting your one-time gifts too much. If you’re not sure, test it.
I’ve tested this a few times now for some of my clients, and it rarely depresses single gift response. It’s as simple as adding a line with a tick box below the one-time gift amount: “Make a monthly gift of $___. See reverse.” Then direct them to complete their credit card (and/or bank account information) on the back.
In one organization, it even improved the number of single gifts while adding monthly donors! Whoa, nice, right?
If your organization already has a substantial number of monthly donors, and you’re really committed to growing that number, then you can go all out, and make your year-end appeals focused on monthly gifts.
Most monthly giving success tends to come from asking for one-time gifts at year-end, and then implementing a follow-up strategy in the new year, using welcome emails, thank-you letters and targeted monthly donor invitations.
The more opportunities you give your donors to give monthly, the more monthly donors you’ll find. But if you need to make up lost revenue because of canceled events, a focus on one-time gifts at year-end is simply the prudent thing to do.
Of course, I welcome your inputs and experiences. You will not know until you try, and every organization is different!
Erica Waasdorp is one of the leading experts on monthly giving. 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 authored "Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant" and "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 a cat, Mientje.