Can You Have Multiple Monthly Donor Programs?
A colleague of mine recently asked me, “Can you have multiple monthly donor programs?” She and I both work with an organization that has multiple monthly donor programs, with the total revenue making up about 60% of all giving.
This question is especially relevant when it comes to unrestricted versus restricted gifts. As may you know, monthly giving is ideally suited to provide unrestricted revenue to support operating budgets, to keep the lights on, to keep your mission going.
Let me backtrack and give a warning: Do not even think about a second monthly donor program if you don’t have your first program on track.
Your first program must have all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. Your thank you messaging, welcome package, your ongoing stewardship, your upgrades (if you’ve not yet asked to upgrade your monthly donors, I’d start there first). And most importantly, your retention processes must be in place. Everything must be working, and someone must be monitoring and be accountable for the many moving parts, growth and retention.
You want to make sure your first program is increasing consistently because you and everybody else in your organization believe in growing it.
Next, you need to evaluate the numbers. How much does it cost to generate a new sustainer? Which channels and messages are working best? What do you have for donors and email names to work with? What can you do digitally? What can you do by mail and phone? In other words, what would the new potential be?
If you can honestly say “yes” to all of these, then and only then may it be time to consider offering a second monthly giving program to your donors.
- Your first program is running smoothly.
- Your first program is growing.
- You have the staff and volunteers to support it and grow it.
- You have needs in your organization that require ongoing funding and you expect those needs to last for a very long time.
- You have the staff and volunteers to support a second program.
- You have at least 10,000 monthly donors in your first program.
There are two different ways you can then start a second program.
- Reach out to your existing monthly donors, asking them to join a second program. You can even ask them to vote for the name of that second program. In some cases, your request may prompt a donor to say that they’d rather increase their current monthly gift and, of course, that’s totally fine.
- Offer it to all other donors and engaged prospects first. Perhaps start online only, optimize your messaging and, again, dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s. Then introduce it to your current monthly donors as a second option.
For example, if you generate online leads for a particular purpose, like advocacy or protests, you can offer the monthly gift as a second call to action. Or, if you have an extensive housing and food program and you really must raise millions of dollars every year for these efforts, that could be a good option, too. But you must know those programs will always be part of your mission.
What does not work is starting a program and seeing how it goes. What also does not work is winging it with messaging and reporting.
It’s important to make sure whoever answers the phone or emails knows about the additional programs and can look up the donor’s information instantly in order to address them in the appropriate way.
You must recognize the donors for their monthly gifts in every opportunity, so you need to make sure your segmentation works. It’s important to know the overlap between the first and second program monthly donors. Is your second program cannibalizing the first?
Adding additional monthly donor programs is possible, but it’s not for the faint at heart. It requires even more commitment but more importantly, people who can be expected to run the program for quite a while. I’ve seen multiple programs be especially successful with religious organizations that have committed staff and volunteers.
Adding additional monthly donor programs can help you raise even more money, especially for specific large-need programs that will be part of your mission for many years to come.
But I recommend treading very lightly and making sure that you first focus completely on getting your current program up and running smoothly before you even think about adding more. Keep that unrestricted funding flowing and growing!
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.