In times of great political and economic upheaval, we need to look at multiple streams of income that can help us weather the storm. Some of our income streams from the government are going away, from healthcare to environmental funding, from arts funding to education funding. Even Meals on Wheels is facing decreased funding. Monthly giving works to help replace government income streams because it’s money you can count on every month. Plus, unlike major gifts, which take a long time to cultivate, and might be subject to fluctuations in the market, monthly sustainer gifts generally stay stable, and you can get more of them without much friction, if you have the right processes and tools in your toolbox.
If you’d like to get more monthly donors, how do you start? What tools do you need in your toolbox?
Luckily, Erica Waasdorp has the answer.
She’s the author of Monthly Giving, the Sleeping Giant, and the forthcoming “Monthly Giving Made Easy” coming out in 2017. And she will be speaking at our Nonprofit Leadership Summit in September 2017.
Mazarine Treyz: Erica Waasdorp, For those of us who are thinking of launching our first monthly giving campaign, what tools should we have in our toolbox? Or what people should they have on board before beginning?
EW: Well, what I find is that – and it depends. A lot of small to mid-sized organizations, they might mail two to four times a year, reach out to their donors. So anybody who has made a gift of even $5 or $10 to an appeal, and you know that they have given by credit card. That’s a really good target group to look at first. Again, it’s kind of low hanging fruit. You’ve already sort of offset maybe one of the biggest hurdles. Like if you don’t know if somebody has a credit card. Some kind of older donors don’t necessarily have a credit card anymore, or they never had one, right? They were check people.
So look at that, and start there. Again, if you have an email list, make sure that you have that in place and then again, start working with that online monthly donor only page. That’s the number one tool, and again, reaching out to your donors. Again, the more targeted, the more segmented you can be in your database, that makes a difference as well. But if you have a small donor base and you just can start with anybody who has given less than $100. Start there, because your over $100 check writers, anybody who can write a check for over $100, you may be able to get them to write a check for $250 or $500 or $1,000. So use that in your major donor stream, if you will. But anybody who’s given less than $100, try to convince them to go for $10 or $15 a month. Then you’ve just doubled or tripled their revenue.
So the segmentation piece is really important to look at. Again, every organization is different. But look at what you can do with your donor base and segment them out. If you have a recency frequency monetary value segmentation in your donor base, well, anybody who’s made one or two gifts in the last year, or those who have made two or more gifts in the last two years, they’re great prospects for monthly giving.
MT: What do you wish more people would ask about monthly giving?
EW: I wish people would ask how monthly giving integrates with your annual fund more. So that’s a question that I get very rarely, and then I know one of the questions that does come up, and that’s one of the things that may be just a different way of looking at things. Membership organizations often say, well, this monthly donor program, that doesn’t work for me because I don’t have donors, right?
Because what you could do is you can ask your members to pay their membership on a monthly basis, and you might actually be able to upgrade them at that point because – say you have a $70 membership. Well, if you get them to make it $10 a month, if that’s possible then, they’re going to actually give you more money. But what you have to do – and this is what public television and public radio does. That’s why they’re so successful, because they say, look. $5 a month, $10 a month is a great way to join as a member.
Then they are able to get more money and reach those donors that are on a fixed income as well. Again, it’s really a win win. But what you must do then is you recognize those members at the time of joining as a monthly donor.
So it’s just a more convenient way for their budget. Don’t worry too much if they’re not going to fulfill their commitment and things like that, because if somebody gives you their credit card and they sign online or they sign a form, they are committed. If you have somebody who bails out on you after four or five months, that’s not typical. But if that happens, it’s one or two people. It’s not a big deal.
What I’m finding is that people are just not jumping on board as quickly as they should, and I don’t know why.
If you see the tremendous power of that, then you really have no reason not to go. Again, if it’s one person in a smaller organization and other people don’t necessarily understand the tremendous power of that, that’s why I always recommend that you annualize the revenue. This group that I work with, they just broke through their 100 monthly donors. So that’s like $22,000 a year. If you annualize it, it becomes clearer to other people that it’s worth it and that it’s worth a little bit of time and effort. Because there really is not a lot of money involved anymore.
You don’t have to do major money investments like what we used to have to do in the past. So you can start by just offering it online and growing that way.
MT: I really appreciate you saying that. I’m wondering, so Erica, you’re going to be speaking at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit. What are you teaching there?
EW: Well, I’m going to teach there how you can take your monthly donor program to the next level. Because I do see that many organizations have at least a few monthly donors. So how do you then get them to the next level? Then if you have a program, say you’ve been running it for one or two years. Well, it now becomes time to upgrade those monthly donors. You can totally ask monthly donors to upgrade within the first year.
So you don’t want to do it right away, but if you wait the nine months to 12 months, people know that things become more expensive. They’ve gotten used to your ongoing communications. So they know that it’s important to ask for an upgrade, and they are very much willing to do that because they get it. They understand it. So that’s one thing that I’m going to be talking about.
Then the other thing that nonprofits so often get wrong is they stop communicating with monthly donors.
They say, “Should I stop all communication with these monthly donors?”
The answer is absolutely not. They care about your organization. Keep communicating with them, and guess what? Keep asking them in your appeals as well. But segment them out and recognize them as a special group. Send them a personal note.
But don’t stop communicating with them, unless of course they ask you to. But typically, they love hearing from you, and guess what? They’re going to give you more money.
MT: So who should come to this presentation that you’re doing?
EW: Pretty much anybody who has at least a few monthly donors could come to this presentation and learn new ways to acquire monthly donors, upgrade, and retain their monthly donors. That’s a very important piece. So we’re looking at that as well, and again, overall grow your monthly donor program to that amazing next level.
MT: Wow. Thank you so much. Erica, how can people get in touch with you and how can they buy your book?
EW: Well, if you go to my website http://www.adirectsolution.com, there’s a blog. There’s a monthly giving starter kit. There is some book information. So definitely check that out. Then you can also send me an email, Erica@adirectsolution.com.
MT: Thank you. Thank you so much, Erica. This has been really interesting. I really have learned a lot today.
EW: Great. So I hope to see you at the Nonprofit Leadership Summit.