The Gift that keeps on giving
What’s better than someone deciding to give to your church or ministry? When they decide that they want to do it over and over and over again. This is the focus of a ‘recurring’ or ‘monthly’ gifts program.
A ‘monthly donor’ is someone who has supplied their bank or credit card information so that a gift can be drafted automatically every month. Monthly recurring gifts multiply the impact of each donor because it allows them to spread their total giving over the course of the year. A $20 monthly gift is much easier on the budget than a $100 one time gift for most people, but the cumulative $240 annually is more than twice the larger gift. Also, once donors commit to giving regularly, they will often continue to do so for years. They only have to say ‘yes’ one time and their giving goes on and on. For this reason, monthly givers are a blessing to the budget… you can plan on the money being there when you need it.
Monthly giving is classed here under online giving, because it has become the focus of a lot of attention for online fundraisers. Often, just adding a check box with ‘Yes, make it a monthly gift’ can be enough to get your monthly giving program rolling. Don’t think that you’re limited to online giving for your monthly giving program, however. You can add a monthly giving option to your direct mail pieces or even do a special phone campaign seeking to upgrade regular donors to monthly donors.
Make the case
If you really want to grow your monthly giving program, you need to be intentional about asking people to make monthly donations. While simply providing the option on your website will get some donors to commit, you will have better success if you help people get excited about the bigger impact that a monthly commitment will have on the ministry.
Tie the gift to the impact that will come as a result. “Your monthly gift of $50 will provide 200 meals to hungry families… EVERY MONTH! That’s 2,400 meals in the next year!” You need to have a rational and true explanation of how you calculate the impact of your gift, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be on your donation page. Just make sure that the claims you make are accurate and defensible.
If you have a monthly giving program, you’re going to want to watch the expiration dates on your donor’s credit cards. When the card expires and they get a new one, you’ll want to have a communications plan in place that asks them to renew their monthly commitment. Your renewal messaging should start a couple of months before expiration, and continue for a couple of months afterwards. If you haven’t inspired them to sign up after several months have passed, you’ll need to transition them to your ‘lapsed donor’ list and start your process of trying to reactivate them. If you encourage people to do ACH bank drafts instead of credit cards, this isn’t a problem because bank accounts don’t expire.
Monthly donors are some of your most committed donors, so it is appropriate to come to them with additional ‘asks’ after a decent period of time has elapsed. This ask is usually called an upgrade because you’re asking them to increase their monthly gift. A perfect time to offer an upgrade is when you’re renewing their credit card information. When you offer an upgrade, pick a number 5-10% higher than their current gift. Tie the upgraded donation to increased impact. And don’t push it too hard. Monthly donors are some of your best donors, so you don’t want to alienate them. Make it easy for them to continue to give at their current level.
One way to incentivize a monthly giving program is to add a premium benefit for monthly givers. It could be a simple gift like a branded shirt or mug. Or it might be a special access to information or an exclusive event invitation. ‘Premiums,’ as they are called in the fundraising world, can be effective. One caution though, once you use a premium your donor will expect a premium. If you fail to meet their expectations, you run the risk of losing your donor. It’s always best if the primary reason for someone’s gift is your mission. They’ll be loyal as long as you stay true to that mission and they have the means to continue their support.
Fundraising got your head spinning? Don’t know quite where to start? Check out Key Concepts and learn the basic ideas that will help you build and maintain a strong and growing donor base.