Can You Upgrade Your Monthly Donors to Higher Levels?
“The smallest deed is better than the grandest intention.”
This anonymous quote is yet another example of my theme of the last few weeks: It’s not about the size of the monthly gift amount. It’s about the fact that you’re giving your donors the opportunity to make a difference in an amount they can afford.
You might say, aren’t you worried that donors will only give those tiny amounts and you’ll never be able to move the needle? In other words, can you upgrade your monthly donors to higher levels?
The answer is yes, you will be able to upgrade them, but you’re going to have to reach out to make that happen.
I’m a monthly donor to some 40-plus charities, and I may get about five upgrade requests a year. I may get a few more extra gift requests, too, but there’s a huge gap between what organizations do and what they could be doing more of.
Now, granted, the sustainer upgrade process can be a bit cumbersome with some systems. In most of them, you’ll have to stop the old monthly gift and start a new one, which sometimes is a manual process.
And yes, that can be a bit of a pain, but it’s not unsurmountable. These sustainers are worth it, especially because you should really be thanking them for their upgrade.
In fact, the upgrade may also provide you with updated credit card information. The upgrade may give the donor the opportunity to go from a credit card payment to an electronic bank transfer. These not only help with upgrades, but they improve retention as well.
In my more than 30 years of experience with monthly giving systems, starting a new sustainer will help you know what triggered the upgrade. It’s a good best practice. Was it an email? Was it an appeal? Was it a phone call? It will help you in creating special reports. And in some systems, those reports may not yet exist.
If you’ve sent out your tax letters already this year, why not do a small test in the next month or so to ask for an upgrade from those sustainers who joined more than six months ago?
Everything has become more expensive, especially food and gas, so donors will understand why you’re asking for a small upgrade, especially if you’ve been stewarding them well. If you’ve provided updates on how their gifts have made a difference, they’ll understand how a dollar, or a few dollars can make a difference. It’s a small deed once again, but they all add up!
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.