Case Study: How a Small Charity Keeps Growing Its Monthly Donor Base
As you may know, I love hearing from nonprofits. That’s how I learn. And that’s how I believe we all learn together.
And I’m always amazed, especially at how small nonprofits keep growing and doing more — even with few resources. I think the biggest asset they have is the conviction, the belief that they can do it.
That’s so true when it comes to monthly giving. If you’re going into it with a “Let me try this and see what happens” attitude, then you may give up too soon. You may not try hard enough.
I recently interviewed Karen Cassidy. She’s the executive director and founder of Hildegard House, a comfort care home based in Louisville, Kentucky. Its mission is to provide a home and compassionate care for individuals who are at the end of life and with no home or loved ones to care for them so that they may die with dignity.
Cassidy became interested in monthly giving when one of her first donors decided to make a monthly gift on her own account. It was $100 a month, $1,200 a year — not too shabby.
So Cassidy became curious. She looked at what other organizations were doing. She started reading some blogs (including those by yours truly).
She delegated the process of coming up with a name for the monthly givers to her development committee, which settled on Compassionate Care Circle — certainly very fitting with the nonprofit’s mission.
Next, Cassidy created special messaging in her organization’s quarterly printed newsletter and added a tick box on the newsletter’s remit envelope. She also joined a number of other organizations as a monthly donor to see how they made her feel and how they communicated with her.
She tries to keep the communications with her monthly donors as personal as possible. She sends a special card to new monthly donors right away. She then sends them the quarterly newsletter as well as a card for the holidays. Monthly donors are included in invitations to events as well.
Karen’s organization is growing. It's in the process of buying another house. It has about 3,200 email addresses and 825 donors. Many of her donors start out as memorial givers and monthly giving has proven to be a fantastic way to convert them to give on an ongoing basis.
When I spoke to her, Cassidy was proud to announce that the nonprofit had 42 monthly donors, with the smallest monthly gift at $5 a month and largest at $200 a month. The annualized revenue is now just shy of $24,000, which really helps pay for much of the fundraising expansion as well as operating support.
Just a few days ago, she emailed me a quick update: “We just got our first corporate monthly donor for $100 a month. I gave one of the business owners in our neighborhood a tour.”
Cassidy looks at her monthly donors as those crucial “cheerleaders for our mission.” And who wouldn’t want more of those?
I’m grateful to Cassidy for sharing her story. While it’s still a small percentage (5%) of her overall number of donors, she is committed to growing it to the next level. With her drive, I’m sure she will do just that.
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.