Is There Room for Monthly Giving in Your Fundraising Appeals?
Earlier this week, a copywriter friend of mine asked a great question. And I’m sure many of you are struggling with this same predicament.
Here's her question:
“Often a strategy calls for including so many offers in one direct mail fundraising appeal — the basic ask, maybe a matching gift, sometimes a push for monthly donors, a planned giving mention, and others, like give via your [donor advised fund] or check out our will planning site, etc.
“As you know, due to paper and postage, packages have gotten even smaller — fewer inserts, smaller pieces, less real estate to include all these offers. I've been asked to include printed boxes at the bottom of the letter, as a P.S., a P.P.S. even faux writing messaging at the end of both. Reply forms are getting crowded as well.
“My question is how to position sustainer recruitment within these other offers? Do you have any tips?”
Well, it depends.
It depends on the goal, your nonprofit’s motivation to generate new monthly donors and the time of year. It also depends on how many appeals you send a year. It’s that fine line of balancing your appeals, the short-term revenue and long-term focus. It also depends on the target audience.
For example, I would not include a monthly giving offer in your major gift packages. I would not send a monthly gift offer to those donors who have already written $250 checks or higher and you’re trying to upgrade them to write even bigger checks. Save that room for donor advised fund and stock gift information.
I would not include a specific monthly giving offer in your acquisition or lapsed donor packages, but you can consider a small tick box on the back where they can indicate this is a one-time or monthly gift. It’s a really soft ask and will certainly not hurt your response.
If your organization has a sustainer-first or sustainer-almost-everywhere focus, definitely have a request for a monthly gift on the front of the reply form.
Below the request for the one-time gift, add one single line with a general amount: “I’ll make a monthly gift of $______.”
Better yet (and I’m pleased to say I am seeing this more and more) test the following (with each ask being a specific amount, taking one quarter or one third of the one-time gift amount above it):
“I’ll make a monthly gift of $ask 1, $ask 2, $ask 3, Other $____.”
Then, depending if you can offer this, ask the donor for credit card or EFT/ACH information on the back of the reply form.
Depending upon how your nonprofit is processing gifts, you can ask for a voided check or the first month’s check for the necessary information to start an electronic bank transfer monthly donor. Of course, you must get the donor to always sign that commitment, so, yes, it also requires a signature line.
As I’ve said before, monthly giving is all about planting the seeds wherever you possibly can. So, if you can spare one extra line on the front and a few lines on the back, you’ll be able to do exactly that.
Take a look at your other communications and see where you can include planting those monthly-giving seeds some more. If you have a print newsletter, include a short message and make sure you have that tick box on your reply form so donors can choose to give monthly. If you’re sending out thank-you letters, include monthly giving there for sure. That method is especially helpful for those reactivated lapsed donors and new donors.
P.S. and P.P.S. are great spots to put a little nudge for donors to consider a monthly gift and you can, of course, direct them to go online to a specific page as well.
The options are endless. Yes, adding monthly giving will make forms look busier, but good designers can most likely find a way around that. Your nonprofit will benefit from this in the long run.
Of course, if you can test it, that’s ideal. I’ve tested the single line addition a few times now and it did not hurt one-time gifts, but every organization is different. Additional options may have an impact on your one-time gifts, but as long as you annualize the value of your monthly donors, you’ll typically come out ahead. Do look at it with a long-term focus.
I am an avid mail piece scanner. I have seen organizations putting monthly giving totally front and center with that same approach, so I know it works.
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.