How to Keep Your Monthly Donors—Track. Act. Keep. Repeat.
A few years ago, I joined 20 organizations as a monthly donor with a credit card that was going to expire one month after joining. I purposely did this to see the actions nonprofits took and how long it would take them to do so.
The sad reality was that only two of the organizations called me. They did so within the first month of my card expiring, so that was good. They only tried calling me once, but they did leave a message.
I, of course, didn’t call them back to see what they’d do next. Another sad reality: a big nothing until 8 months later!
One organization’s new fundraiser looked at the organization’s monthly giving program and picked up the phone to see if she could bring back some of the lapsed monthly donors. Guess what? It worked! She was able to catch me live, and she asked me if I wanted to come back. And I did.
I hadn’t paid in seven months now. She didn’t ask me for the missing months, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend you do so. That would be a bit too “greedy” for my taste. If the donor offers, that’s a different story.
Rather, I recommend preventing the drop off to begin with. It starts by picking one day in the month to sit down and look at your monthly donors and see whose card is about to expire. If that’s not available to you, see whose card expired or declined. So track your monthly donors at least once a month and see what’s going on.
Then don’t wait. You must act right away for best results. The donor probably hasn’t realized yet that their gift wasn’t processed this month. Call and leave a message if you can’t reach the donor live. Send an email, and ask the donor to call you or have a link to an update page. Send a letter, and ask the donor to send in a reply form, call you or go online to update.
Then wait two weeks. Track who came back and who hasn’t. Then REPEAT the same at least once more for those monthly donors you still haven’t received updated information for.
If you can put credit card updater in place for your organization, run to do that. It will help lower the number of donors you have to follow up on. But it doesn’t find everybody, so repeat the credit card process next month as well.
Track your monthly donors at risk. Annualize their value, and track how many monthly donors you’re keeping with the actions above, so you can make tweaks to the process. You’ll also know how many monthly donors you’re bringing back with a second request, a third request and so on. I know organizations that stop at one month, some at two months, but several don’t stop for four or even six months.
So, make this your new mantra when it comes to monthly donors: TRACK. ACT. REPEAT. KEEP.
Just consider the amount you’ll be able to retain. Credit card updater, a call, an email and a letter are tiny investments compared to what these monthly donors are worth in the long run.
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.