How Do You Manage Your Monthly Giving Program?
Good news! Monthly giving is one of the few groups of small donors that is (still) growing. Not surprisingly, because organizations have started focusing on it over the past few years.
That’s why now job postings for monthly donor or sustainer managers, and monthly donor retention specialist positions are starting to pop up, but they’re hard to fill.
Sadly, there are not that many training opportunities for this type of job yet. As someone who’d like to change that and who does a lot of training on monthly giving, I can see five big reasons why it’s still so hard to fill:
- Organizations used to think that monthly giving was not that important. They just added it as yet one more additional assignment for their annual giving manager or donor relations associate.
- Monthly donors cross all giving boundaries and touch, are often touched by or impact many parts of an organization. You cannot think in silos, but you must think about the donor. That’s a mindset change which typically takes time.
- People within the organization have (finally) started to see the importance and power of monthly giving and how it’s providing that ongoing sustainable revenue for the organization to keep going. But not everybody is on board with it yet, especially when it comes to opening up certain channels or approaches to allow sustainer asks. This, too, takes time.
- The amount the donor gives is less important than the fact that he/she is giving monthly, which impacts how he or she is being stewarded and communicated with, as well as how and where monthly gifts are recorded.
- This is the most important one: Monthly giving is about “systems” and “processes,” or as some put it, “operations.” It’s much less about how creative you can be, but all about tracking, coding, reporting, analyzing and making sure all the processes work right and work hand in hand.
Gifts are ongoing. It’s not just about tracking one transaction. It’s about tracking multiple transactions and other actions, like credit card expirations, EFT conversions, upgrades, extra gifts, opportunities within the organization to offer monthly donor asks, etc.
And then it’s about:
- You must recognize the monthly donor in the best way.
- You must communicate with the monthly donor in the best way that fits your organization.
- It’s always about the basics first. Sending out the thank-you letter. Making a thank-you call.
- It’s about donor focus.
- It’s about donor stewardship.
- It’s about knowing the systems and knowing the processes.
It takes someone who can get excited about those things. Not a pure systems person, but someone who can have a marketing/fundraising approach with a systems focus. It’s typically a somewhat unique combination.
I’ve always found that it’s important to become best buddies with your systems, donor base, operations people. If you don’t have those, make sure you know whom to call at your payment processor or your donor base. You must get their support, because things change. You want to KEEP your monthly donors, right?
If you don’t have your systems ready though, all your creative approaches are for not. I typically look at monthly donor positions as 95% operations, 5% creative.
So if you can get excited about that, you’re the perfect candidate. You have to be willing to be a problem solver and be a systems thinker—more than focused on creative. Most monthly donor managers have learned by doing, but it’s crucial for you to:
- Think long-term.
- Be detail-oriented.
- Be a doer, willing to be in the “weeds.”
- Believe in the power and value of monthly donors.
- Always tweak and improve little things, which can help steer the monthly donor powerboat in the right direction.
It’s not always easy, but it’s very rewarding!
If you’re serious about monthly donors and growing your program, there are other learning opportunities. If you’re coming to the Bridge Conference at National Harbor, Md., on July 10 through 12, and you want to learn more about sustainers, there’s a first-ever sustainer workshop on July 10 and several great sustainer sessions on July 11 and 12. I hope to see you there!
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.