A Monthly Giving How-To: Upgrading Donors
One of the most successful approaches to generate new monthly donors is to start with the lowest ask possible. For most, this means starting at $5 or $10 a month, typically dependent on the payment processor being used. I’ve even seen it as low as $2 or $3 a month.
“Wait a minute,” you may say. “That’s way too low!”
So here are three important things to remember:
- Monthly donors give what they can right now. They want to help, and a small monthly gift may be all they can afford. Remember, even if it’s $3 a month, that’s $36 a year. Even if it’s $10 a month, that’s $120 a year.
- You generate more new monthly donors by starting low, and donors will self-identify with amounts they’re comfortable with. (A quick refresher, the average monthly gift currently is $24 a month). The goal is to get donors to give monthly. Just like we see typically with acquiring new donors, low asks generate higher responses than high gift asks.
- Never snub a donor for giving a lower amount. Always recognize monthly donors at any level, even if it's $1 a month.
Then once donors give monthly, find ways to upgrade to higher levels.
I would not recommend asking them to upgrade their monthly gift too soon, but you can do so comfortably after they’ve been giving monthly for six months. Most organizations find that nine to 10 months is the sweet spot, but you must find what works best for your donors.
What you can start doing earlier is to include your monthly donors in a few strong donor appeals and to include them in your emails, always recognizing them as special.
Especially at a time of disaster, for example, absolutely include your monthly donors in your appeals!
A lasered or handwritten note or special intro in your email is really all it takes, not a lot of heavy lifting.
Finally, start planting the idea that the donor can make a gift from his or her will — the ultimate gift. It may take a while, but it doesn’t have to take a huge investment of time or money. An insert in a tax letter, a tick box on reply forms in donor appeals, a testimonial in a newsletter or e-news update.
Finally, if you take monthly giving seriously, you’ll soon find some who distinguish themselves. They may start at $5 a month, but they’ll give an extra gift every time you ask them. They may leave you in their will, they may very well upgrade to $6 or $7 a month next year. They’ll be with you for the long haul, and they will go from small to larger, to possibly really large.
Will you allow them to be with you for the long haul by treating them as very special donors, no matter what their monthly amount is right now?
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.