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Top 3 Things You Must Have Before You Start Your Monthly Giving Program

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So you have the go-ahead to launch a Monthly Giving program. Excellent!

Starting from scratch can feel daunting. That’s why knowing the Must Haves for your new Monthly Giving program can help you prioritise your efforts and ensure the exciting times ahead are not fraught with “why is this not working?” or “what am I missing?”.

I’m assuming you already have a long-term budget and strategy in place. There’s no point starting without these. It’s a big mistake to turn monthly giving off and on – it simply will not provide positive returns for you. You also cannot leave Monthly Donors as a “set and forget” — whilst the giving is automated, these donors need and deserve your attention and care or you will lose more than you should. (For more on this, read Harvey McKinnon’s excellent post, The Surprisingly Effective Way to Up Your Fundraising Game and Find Your Most Devoted Donors).

Here are my top 3 must-haves for Monthly Giving.

#1 Must Have: Get your backend in order

I know admin is not sexy, but being able to efficiently process monthly gifts (via credit card and direct debit/EFT) is critical to your new program. And then being able to identify and respond to the inevitable declines (as in advice on which accounts have been closed, credit cards have expired, accounts that had insufficient funds and so on) you will receive back from your bank each month.

Check in with your bank on how they will advise and what the different categories will be so you can start planning to proactively follow up these donors (this is the number one way you will lose Monthly Givers, but you can recover a large proportion of them with a combination of reprocessing, calling, emailing, SMS … the mix will vary depending on your banking system, how you’ve recruited your Monthly Givers, and their communications preferences). You will need resources to manage the administration side and the donor interaction side.

Work out how you are going to process each month (and ideally this will be on multiple dates) and ensure you have adequate capacity to do so. It’s simply not an option to not process on the dates you’ve indicated to donors. Document all of this … it’s risk management to ensure others can pick this up should your usual resource not be available.

Keep your database coding clean for your Monthly Givers, ensure you can identify who a Monthly Giver is easily, what the status of their Monthly Gift is (e.g. active, cancelled, on hold), and keep the income clearly identifiable as being from Monthly Giving (easiest is to ensure your appeal / campaign / transaction codes for Monthly Giving have only Monthly Giving income going into them).

#2 Must Have: A Monthly Giving Proposition

It’s important to show donors why giving monthly is critical. Your Monthly Giving opportunity should not be the same as your ‘give now, urgent opportunity’, your ‘consider a gift in your Will for visionary future impact’ opportunity or your ‘stay the course’ membership opportunity.

Just as with any other fundraising, the thing that makes all the difference is the offer — also called the call to action or the proposition. Nail this, and your fundraising will always do better. And that includes Monthly Giving.

The original, and still one of the most powerful Monthly Giving propositions ever, was born from Child Sponsorship, which creates a personal connection between sponsor and child. Most of us don’t have this opportunity, but so many different causes have done a great job at developing Monthly Giving propositions that present a compelling need with a solution that requires commitment from donors to see impact. This could be the cumulative impact of:

  • Many people making small, ongoing gifts.
  • An individual committing to a solution that requires time and dedication.
  • Funds being available for a solution to inevitable crisis.

Your Monthly Giving proposition will need to express why the commitment is needed and what the reward for that is.

A note on reward: I often see Monthly Giving pitched as the benefits or incentives a donor will receive by joining. “Join our program and you will receive a special newsletter, event invitations, etc.” This is not your proposition. And I’d love to see fundraisers not do this – donors do not give to receive a newsletter or event invitation. They give to have an impact. They give to realise their own values. Benefits or incentives should never be part of your proposition or offer. In fact, you are better off letting your donors experience your Monthly Giving communications and deciding for themselves what is a benefit.

Related Post: Jeff Brooks and Lynne Boardman talk about what makes a great proposition in this short Vlog: How To Make Fundraising Work: Nail The Offer.

#3 Must Have: Dedicated Donor Service

In a world distracted by AI, chat bots and online service agents, real humans who are empowered to help your Monthly Givers will have a greater impact on your Monthly Giver satisfaction and retention than anything else. Yes, all the beautiful, well planned, and executed communications you create have less impact than the humans who interact with your Monthly Givers.

Having humans genuinely available for your Monthly Givers will allow you to:

  1. Manage inbound cancellations with a Donor Save program – and those doing well here in Australia are saving upwards of 20% of inbound cancellations.
  2. Respond to bank declines in the most effective manner.
  3. Deliver genuine donor love – both reactive and proactive.

Check out Jeff’s blog for one idea on how to help retain your Monthly Givers: The Easy Way to Make Your Monthly Giving Program Even Better.

Discover how you can connect more with your donors, grow your fundraising income, and master your career. Join The Fundraisingology Lab and you join the thousands of smart fundraisers who are becoming EXTRAORDINARY FUNDRAISERS. Check it out.


  • Fiona McPhee

    Fiona McPhee is a Fundraisingologist at Moceanic. She has over 20 years of experience developing fundraising programs and helping fundraisers, fundraising leadership and boards as a coach, consultant, and mentor. Fiona shares her extensive knowledge and tips with the Moceanic members and blog readers.

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