When Is Not a Good Time to Upgrade a Monthly Donor?
I’ve been a monthly donor for many years. Two years ago, I did a little experiment: I joined 20 organizations to see what they would do (10 small and 10 large organizations).
I wanted to experience their “thank you” process, their subsequent communication stream, tax letters, emails, lapsed recapture (if any) and upgrade process.
One of those organizations is a huge national organization. I joined by giving $10 a month. I’m not going to put them on the spot, but they know who they are.
I received a “thank you” letter within a week—so far so good. The letter starts off nice, warm and fuzzy and has a nice quote—still all good. Then, bam, in paragraph 3, it asks me to upgrade to $19 a month and tells me I’ll get something as a special “thank you.”
Wait, I just joined your organization out of the blue with a monthly gift of $10 (that’s $120 a year!), and that’s not good enough for you?
My first inclination was to call them up right away and cancel. I bet that a lot of monthly donors to this organization have done that. As this was an experiment, I, of course, stuck it out. But boy, did I feel bad. Boy, did I feel totally not appreciated!
Asking a monthly donor to upgrade within the first six months is really too soon. I realize that its programs might be getting more expensive, and it wants to do more, but not in six months.
Remember, as a new monthly donor, I’m still in the “honeymoon” phase. Let me get settled in first, and let me see what else you’re sending me. Let me confirm first that I like how you treat me. Let me read about how my monthly gifts are making an impact to the children, clients or animals you serve. Then, and only then, is it time to ask me to upgrade my monthly gift.
Some organizations have successfully started asking within the first six to nine months. I’ve seen most success with the timeframe being between 10 and 12 months. You don’t have to wait a whole year; it’s not a renewal program.
And always, always, be appreciative of what the monthly donor is already doing. Build a case for asking him or her to upgrade. Tell a story of how the donor can help even more with a small upgrade. Use the one-third rule I recommend you use for asking for the first monthly gift for upgrades.
For example, if they give $10 a month, start with $2 or $3 a month for an upgrade. And be very mindful of any cancellations when you ask for upgrades. If you do it the right way (very respectfully and appreciatively), you’ll be successful. Then, send a confirmation letter thanking the donor for that upgrade.
Always, always, be truly grateful of what the monthly donor does—no matter what size gift.
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.