Recurring Extra Gift and Upgrade Best Practices
I shared previously that I’m a very active monthly donor to 40-plus different organizations. Most of those, I joined via direct mail.
Since this is tax season, that means I received a ton of tax letters from organizations via mail in January, February and even March. Here’s what many nonprofits included in their letters:
- Story of how my recurring gifts made a difference in 2022.
- Request for extra gift.
- Request for a small upgrade.
- Both a request for an extra gift and/or upgrade.
- Switch to Electronic Bank Transfer.
- Short survey to provide updated information.
- Newsletter specifically for recurring donors.
- Request that I consider a gift from my will.
- Request for my birth date.
All of these are great approaches. They all aim to engage recurring donors and encourage them to either make an extra gift, upgrade to a higher level, switch to a higher retaining way of giving, or give the ultimate gift.
Disconnect Between the Ask and Upgrade or Extra Gift
With all of these, it’s extremely important to first express your tremendous gratitude to the donor for making recurring gifts. Then, it’s extremely important to check your materials and ensure everything looks as intended. This includes recognizing your recurring donors as such and confirming the extra gift or upgrade ask is portrayed accurately throughout.
I was shocked to see that out of the 40 or so tax letters I received, several big nonprofits with large recurring donor pools had a clear disconnect between the recognition and extra gift or upgrade part.
Yes, they all had recognition in the introduction, in the letter and sometimes even in the P.S. thanking me for my wonderful support as a monthly donor. However, on the reply form, there was a request to start a monthly gift.
What? I’m already giving monthly. Seriously?
I’m sure it was an honest mistake. Whoever created the appeal did not think to remove that start a monthly gift line. Or, for some reason, the nonprofit used the same template for all tax letters and didn’t think to change the version for monthly donors.
I get it. Stuff happens.
Recurring Donor Strategy
Please do me a favor and look at your tax letters from this year and see what you did differently for your recurring donors. In this day and age with laser printing, adding or removing a line is not hard and shouldn’t cost much extra at all.
If you haven’t already, do me a second favor and map out your stewardship plan for your recurring donors.
Extra Gift or Upgrade Request Plan
How often do you send your recurring donors an extra gift request? An upgrade request? By mail, email or both?
For mail, check that the reply form is asking for an extra gift or upgrade, not to start a recurring gift.
For email, version the introduction. Include gratitude for making recurring gifts and then ask for an extra gift or upgrade. Ideally you should send donors to a special payment page so the thank-you message reflects an extra gift or upgrade — not referring to a new recurring gift.
How often are you asking recurring donors for a legacy gift? By mail, email or both? What special things are you doing and what special things could you be doing? If you have the donor’s birthday, how about sending a birthday email and/or card?
For those nonprofits I referred to earlier, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt and I am not going to stop my monthly gifts. But other donors might cancel when they’re upset that you’re not treating them like the recurring donors they are.
You worked hard to get to the number of recurring donors you have. Will you take just a little bit of extra time to verify that you’re treating them as loyal donors throughout every message you send them in every channel?
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
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.