Can Transactional Donors Become Monthly Donors?
First of all, let me add my thoughts and prayers to those who lost their home and everything else after Hurricane Harvey. And I know we’re not out of the woods yet, with other storms coming near.
Fortunately, there are many wonderful experienced organizations on the ground to help the victims. And, of course, fundraising activities have ramped up. People are literally walking in the door with donations.
I’ve seen that first-hand when I worked and volunteered at our local American Red Cross Chapter—the phone wouldn’t stop ringing.
If past disasters and special campaigns, such as the Ice Bucket Challenge, are any indication, organizations typically end up with a large number of one-time donors, or as they’re often referred to as “transactional donors.”
The problem is that it’s difficult to get that crucial second gift from them and generate longer lasting giving relationships. As you know, that’s not easy in “normal” situations, let alone now.
So, here’s my take on it: What do you have to lose by trying to get transactional donors to give monthly?
If you don’t do it, you’ve definitely lost them, and then you’d have to wait until the next disaster happens to receive another gift. That’s not great for your cash flow now, is it? So, let’s do something while the iron is hot!
Here’s what I recommend:
Step 1: Send a “thank you” letter for the gift and include a request for a gift, as well as a request to become a monthly donor.
In this case, you could use a message to the effect of this: We must be ready to help right away. But for the next disaster, we’d rather not have to send out any requests to you for money, because we’ll know the funds are there to jump into action right away. Would you consider giving a small monthly gift?
In essence, it becomes that “insurance policy” to be ready. It’ll cost you a little bit of money, but you’re sending out the “thank you” letter, anyways. Make use of it. Take a look at your typical monthly donor messaging and adapt it for emergency donors.
“Yes but …” I’m hearing you say, “Aren’t we going to make these donors upset by asking right away?”
Remember, if you don’t ask now, you’ve already lost them. These are disaster donors, who are very much giving in the moment when the emergency is in the news. These donors typically give less than $100.
Step 2: Get on the phone with these donors. Thank them for their recent emergency gift, but ask if would they consider providing that ongoing support with a small monthly gift today. We know that “thank you” calls work, but now we can make them work even better!
Step 3: Support the above with email messaging. Be consistent and extremely grateful for their emergency gift, but also focus on converting as many people as possible to ongoing donors.
I realize, if your organization is on the ground helping victims, you’re probably extremely busy just managing the day-to-day fundraising. So, if not now, I recommend that when things calm down, you think of putting together a “What if” plan, including an immediate emergency donor to monthly donor conversion approach, so it’s on there to deploy when you need it. The reality is that you don’t know what type of disaster might be next.
Just think back at what we saw right after the elections last year, when organizations reached out to donors immediately and how many monthly donors were generated, because the iron truly was very hot!
So, what do you have to lose by trying your best to convert transactional donors to monthly donors? You’ll be in a much better position than before
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.